The history of beer-making and a guide to the best-brewed beers in America are topics of a new CD-ROM called the Beer Hunter.
Published by the Discovery Channel, the $40 CD-ROM lists the top 24 premium beers surveyed by British beer connoisseur and author Michael Jackson. The CD-ROM is available now for PCs and soon for Macintosh computers.
The CD-ROM is a manifestation of a resurgence in beer-making as a business and a hobby.
"There has been a virtual renaissance of small brewers nationwide, and California and the Pacific Northwest are leading the trend," said Andreas Heller, brew master at Tied House Cafe and Brew Pub in Mountain View, Calif.
Mr. Heller said before Prohibition, there were 3,000 breweries in the United States. After the drinking ban was repealed, big brewers dominated the market. But in recent years, small breweries have blossomed.
"We have now reached over 600 microbreweries and pubs," said Mr. Heller. "This industry has had a 50 percent annual growth rate. Last year, over 100 new brew pubs and microbreweries opened."
Mr. Jackson, a world-renowned expert on beer, surveyed 180 of the best-known American microbreweries for the Beer Hunter and profiled the 24 best brews.
San Francisco's Anchor Brewing Co. placed three brews on Jackson's top 24 list. They are Anchor Steam Beer, Old Foghorn Barley Wine Style Ale and Anchor Wheat Beer.
Craig Tasley of the Marin Brewing Co. in Larkspur, Calif., made the list for the Blueberry Ale created by brew master Grant Johnston.
"We're converting more and more Bud and Coors drinkers every day," said Mr. Tasley, whose brewery is visible from the adjoining restaurant and pub.
"We're even converting non-beer drinkers," he said. "The public response is astounding."
Besides profiling the best premium brews, the Beer Hunter CD-ROM covers the early history of beer-making, tracing the art back to ancient Mesopotamia, and covering modern beer-making techniques pioneered in Europe in the 1700s.
The CD-ROM also contains a section that explains how hobbyists can set up their own home-brewing operations, a spokesman for the Discovery Channel said.