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Microbrewed Adventures, by Charlie Papazian
The phrase "this man needs no introduction" is normally a cliche, but not when referring to Charlie Papazian. Chances are, you've either homebrewed or know someone who has, so you're no stranger to his work.
Papazian's 2005 book, Microbrewed Adventures, is a change of pace from his beloved homebrewing guides. Yes, it contains beer recipes, but the emphasis is on the adventures. They begins in his backyard, which happens to be the entire United States. He declares, "nowhere on the planet can you travel 100 miles and encounter so many different beers of such exquisite quality." Since beer is best drunk locally, Papazian hits the homebrew club, beer bar, and brewery circuit--and, of course, writes about it.
Just my luck. I spent my college days in Indiana just as the state's brewing industry entered its final death spiral. The local brand, Drewry's, marked my 21st birthday by turning off the taps for good. How times have changed. Today, Indiana breweries turn out beer styles my classmates and I never imagined existing, let alone tasting.
Indiana isn't known for being beer-friendly (until last year, you couldn't even order one on Election Day), but its brewing industry has quite a story to tell. And it's well told by Douglas Wissing in his book Indiana, One Pint at a Time. Wissing, an award-winning foreign correspondent, describes his book as "Indiana history seen through the bottom of a beer glass, a little distorted but easily recognizable."
Nowadays, it isn't politically correct to celebrate drinking, let alone intoxication. But in Three Sheets to the Wind, Pete Brown does just that. He argues that alcohol performs a valuable social function, and insists you can learn more about a country by drinking beer with the locals than by reading guidebooks.
Brown's book, a first-person look at national drinking cultures, didn't start out that way. The author, who once worked on beer advertising "at the agency across the road," had intended to write about how the beverage was marketed. But what started as a beer writers' trip to the Czech Republic to hear Pilsner Urquell's side of the story–the new owners weren't going to dumb the beer down–turned into "a 45,000 mile pub crawl."
Guinness, The 250-Year Quest for the Perfect Pint, by Bill Yenne
Bill Yenne sums it up perfectly: technically, Guinness Stout is a "stout porter"; but culturally, it is an icon. After all, what other beer goes through such a ritual before it's served? Yenne's book, Guinness, does justice to both the beer and its history.
That history begins at St. James's Gate in Dublin, which boasted a colorful cast of characters even before Arthur Guinness built his brewery there. The old medieval gate, through which pilgrims passed, was the site of an annual festival where the main item on offer was ale. Yes, a beer festival.
When I was touring the state gathering material for Michigan Breweries, one of the livelier debates involved brewing: was it an art, or was it a science? After sampling the brewers' wares, I concluded there was no clear answer, but told them I'd be happy to keep investigating.
From the science side of the debate comes Mark Denny, who earned a doctorate in physics at Edinburgh University and now makes his home in Canada. He calls himself "a physicist by training and a homebrewer by inclination." Both come together in his book Froth! The Science of Beer which, he ways, "unites brewing with accessible physics." Quite successfully, I might add.
Admit it. You've dreamt of quitting your job, packing up the jalopy, and going on a one-lap-of-America brewery tour. Brian Yaeger not only did that, but lived to write about it. His book, Red, White, and Brew, is a worthy contribution to the literature of beer traveling.
Earlier this year, Alan Eames passed away. I never got to met him; the closest I came was drinking pints at the pub he founded, Three Dollar Dewey's in Portland, Maine. He's best known as "The Indiana Jones of Beer," an adventurer who traveled to remote parts of the world and gave us a glimpse at brewing methods older than recorded history. Read more.
Travels with Barley, by Ken Wells
Last weekend, I went on a trip down the River of Beer. It only took an afternoon, and cost me just $7.99, the price of a six-pack of New Holland Mad Hatter IPA. That's because the tour was virtual: the River of Beer is a figment of Ken Wells's imagination. It's a metaphor for America's beer culture, which he explores in Travels With Barley. Read more.
Brewing Up A Business, by Sam Calagione
To put it bluntly, I have no use for management books. Some are filled with stale platitudes. Others are exercises in self-congratulation. And the very worst are both. But Sam Calagione's book, Brewing Up a Business, breaks that mold. What other businessman cites Miles Davis, Andy Warhol, and Ralph Waldo Emerson as influences?
Beer in America: The Early Years, 1587-1840, by Gregg Smith
This year, I celebrated the Fourth of July by re-reading the Declaration of Independence, a document as inspiring today as it was in 1776; and by hoisting a pint of ale--American, of course--to Thomas Jefferson and his friends. Had the Founders been around, I'm sure they'd have approved. And so, I suspect, would Gregg Smith. Read more.
Citizen Coors, by Dan Baum
Not very long ago, Coors was a cult beer, a product that turned otherwise law-abiding citizens into petty smugglers and black marketeers. Today, it's available everywhere in America. Sad to say, it has become just another mass-produced lager. Read more.
Beer Blast, by Philip Van Munching
Does the name Van Munching ring a bell? If you've been around a while, it probably does. From the repeal of Prohibition until 1990, the Van Munching family owned the exclusive American rights to import Heineken beer. Their name was mentioned in every ad for the brand. Read more.
The Great Canadian Beer Guide, Second Edition, by Stephen Beaumont
When I attended the University of Michigan, my studies included Canadian Culture 101: watching Hockey Night in Canada; and drinking Molson Golden, which has just arrived in the local bars. This was during the Seventies, when most beers were either overpriced imports or watery domestic lagers. Given those sorry choices, drinking Molson wasn't just a novelty; it was a form of protest. Read more.
Great American Beers, by Peter Hernon and Terry Gainey
When I was an freshman in college, I'd hand over my beer money to one of the upperclassmen who brought back whatever was on special at the liquor store that week. Some of those beers were quite awful, but beggars can't be choosers. Especially when they're too young to buy their own. Read more.
Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers, by Stephen Harrod Buhner
People from all walks of life find their way into beer writing. But Stephen Harrod Buhner's path might be the strangest of all. A contemplative who's an expert in sacred plants, Buhner questions most of what we know, not just about brewing but civilization as well. Read more.
The Beer Lover's Guide to the USA, by Stan Hieronymus and Daria Labinsky
Has this happened to you on the road? You think you've found a great bar, only to discover it's out of half the beers on the menu, and the bar staff don't know Scotch ale from Scotch whiskey. Then, to make matters worse, you later find out that the place down the street had 15 local micros on tap and made the best pizza in town. Read more.
Prost!: The Story of German Beer, by Horst Dornbusch
If you find yourself in a German beer hall, take a good look around: you'll see vestiges of tribal revelry described by Roman historians two thousand years ago.
So says Horst Dornbusch, a Düsseldorf-born brewer and beer writer. It's one of the many fascinating insights he offers in his book, Prost! The Story of German Beer. It's a story as big as Germany itself, and Dornbusch tells it with style. Read more.
The Beer Drinker's Guide to Munich, by Larry Hawthorne
They've sung the last Ein Prosit and put the bungs back in the barrels: Oktoberfest 2001 is history. If you missed this year's edition of the world's biggest beer party, don't despair: you can find a bit of Oktoberfest all year round.
In Munich, beer is more than a beverage; it's a way of life. Year after year, its residents finish near the top in beer consumption per capita. Most of that beer is brewed locally and served fresh. Munich is the capital of Bavaria, which gave the world the Beer Purity Law of 1516. It's the gold standard of beer, and German brewers still swear by it. Read more.
Ambitious Brew, by Maureen Ogle
Telling the story of American brewing is a daunting task, but historian Maureen Ogle is up to it. Her book, Ambitious Brew, is a well-crafted and yes, ambitious, chronicle of the industry's ups and downs. As she aptly noted, "like beer itself, the business of brewing is a living creature." Read more.
Brew Like a Monk, by Stan Hieronymus
I finally got to meet Stan Hieronymus at the Great American Beer Festival. He was dressed in full monastic regalia to promote his newest book, Brew Like a Monk. Tongue planted firmly in check, I asked him whether he'd hear my confession. He politely declined. Read more.
Brewed in Detroit: Breweries and Beers Since 1830, by Peter H. Blum
In my travels around Michigan, quite a few members of the brewing community asked me, "Have you read Brewed in Detroit, by Peter Blum?" Yes I have, and I recommend it to anyone who's a fan of Michigan beer.
Blum, who passed away in 2002, was a bridge between last century's old-guard breweries and today's craft brewers. He worked for Stroh Brewery Company, a Michigan icon, and served as the Stroh family archivist. Much of his book focuses on Stroh, of course, but it also tells a story that reaches back to the days before Michigan entered the Union. Read more.