What does geography have to do with beer?
Everything, according to Nancy Hoalst-Pullen and Mark W. Patterson, authors of “National Geographic Atlas of Beer” (National Geographic, $40), out this week in a deluxe hardcover edition that’s sure to be a beer nerd best-seller for the holiday season.
The book is subtitled “A Globe-Trotting Journey Through the World of Beer.” And Hoalst-Pullen and Patterson are aided by Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver, who wrote the forward and offers notes and tasting tips throughout the chapters.
Both Ph.D. geography professors at Kennesaw State University, Hoalst-Pullen and Patterson are self-proclaimed “beer doctors” and avid homebrewers, who logged some 160,000 miles and traveled to six continents and 28 countries to research how beer and geography interact.
The result is a lavishly illustrated worldwide guide with maps, photos, travel tips, a mix of history and culture, and the input of brewers and bar owners from Europe and North America to Australia and Africa.
In a conversation with Hoalst-Pullen and Patterson last week, they were quick to point out that while they had to make editorial choices about the countries, regions, breweries and beers included in the book, they were careful about offering personal opinions.
“One thing we were not willing to do was to endorse any beer or any brewery,” Patterson said, “so when you look at the places to visit, those are all places that the brewers we interviewed recommended.”
“We didn’t want the book to be about us, so we wanted to keep our opinions out of it, as much as possible,” Hoalst-Pullen said. “We traveled to 28 countries, and we searched for the most unique, most historic, most delicious beer we could find. But when it came to the best, we left that to the experts, which is why we traveled so much to get so many opinions and came up with a consensus.”
Of course, unbiased academic rigors aside, it seemed crazy not to ask Hoalst-Pullen and Patterson about the beer scene closer to home.
As it turns out, Scott Hedeen of Burnt Hickory Brewery in Kennesaw and Roger Davis of Red Hare Brewing in Marietta were instrumental in facilitating the research for “Atlas of Beer.”
“We would go to their breweries, and they would say, ‘What do you need?’” Patterson said. “They would load us up with beer, and we would take it with us when we traveled. It was part of our ‘beer-it-forward’ program. Beers from Cobb County made it to every continent except Antarctica.”
“One of the ways to convince people to do an interview was to share beers from Georgia,” Hoalst-Pullen said. “And many times, they would share their beers, and we would take those to the next place. It was basically part of that communal sharing that’s so common with homebrewing and beer clubs.”
Among the places the duo likes to visit locally, there’s the Nest in Kennesaw for tastings, or Schoolhouse Beer and Brewing in Marietta for beer and supplies. And a trip to the Brick Store Pub in Decatur is always in order, they said.
As far as their academic pursuits, the beer doctors regularly involve KSU students in their travels and research.
“We’ve had students publish with us, and publish their own research,” Hoalst-Pullen said. “We’ve taken students to Europe. We’ve had students make maps for us. Almost every aspect from the teaching to the research has involved our students.”
Summing up the research that culminated in the publication of “Atlas of Beer,” Patterson pointed to the diversity of brewing found around the world.
“Not withstanding the adjuncts, beer is only made up of four ingredients, and the ingredients are relatively simple,” he said. “Yet we have hundreds of different styles from these four ingredients. And the way we can explain how beer is so different and delicious and magical is geography.”
“I think you can really see how you can look at beer at various scales,” Hoalst-Pullen said. “How beer is looked at, at the continental scale, and the country scale, and the local scale. And you can view how much this drink influences culture and communities and history.”
“National Geographic Atlas of Beer” book signing
6-9 p.m. Sept. 30. Tickets $54.99 (includes autographed copy of the book, commemorative pint glass, two pints of beer and special edition T-shirt). Schoolhouse Beer and Brewing, 800 Whitlock Ave., Suite 137, Marietta. 770-361-5247, schoolhousebeer.com.