This month we travel to New York and a community filled with nicknames in Deacon King Kong by James McBride.
This is a bold and brash book filled to the brim with characters. Real 3-D characters. The plot follows he aftermath of a shooting. Sportcoat, the Deacon, possibly a bit addled from too much King Kong homemade hooch shoots a drug dealer in broad daylight. From there we learn about all of the people in this community. Cops, parishioners and the mob. This book just blazes. Not a dull moment even when the action shifts to gardening. Even the narrative digressions are larger than life.
The first choice of beer would be Boomtown Brewing’s Graffiti series of IPAs. Bright 16oz cans that resemble spray paint cans. Next up is a detour to where Sportcoat came from and Fonta Flora and their inspired beers made with ingredient sounds like Paw Paw. Lastly, I would suggest a big barleywine something with an ABV that would match the Kong.
Back at the start of craft, you had a fairly rigid selection. A pale, a red, an amber and a stout. Nowadays when a brewery opens, you will almost always see a few IPA’s, something dark and a Witbier. That the style still exists has been attributed to Pierre Celis. His beer journey which has extended to his family is the subject of a new beer book by Jeremy Banas simply titled Celis Beer.
Readers of the blog will know that I dabble in spirits and wine in addition to my favorite beer. They will also know that I am an avid reader. So, when I saw that a book has been written about the history of that fancy dressed speed walker by the name of Johnnie. I knew that I had to post about it right after I looked to purchase it.
One day, there will be histories written of long lived beer brands and I hope they get handsome books detailing their histories.
Using a script format might seem gimmicky but Charles Yu has made an affecting novel with Interior Chinatown using it. This award winning book is labeled as satire but I preferred the parts in betweenness the broader aspects of the narrative. Using a cop show as a target is fine but it was throwaway lines between the actors / characters that held the most zing. The same was the case for the lead Willis Wu. His backstory and his relationships were quite touching though a little maudlin near the end.
I also found the romance a little much which is saying something when the novel is so big everywhere. It had a pat ness to it that didn’t jibe with the rest of the book. In the end, I want to read Yu’s other books though.
The beverage choice for Interior Chinatown revolves around karaoke which is where some scenes are set. For karaoke, you want people to sing but not well so you want lighter beers, session beers. Something to build a buzz but not wreck someone two songs in. Luckily, you can find all sorts of pilsners. Green Cheek in Anaheim has a passel of them as does Highland Park Brewing. But you can find many in your local bottle shoppe.
The more you open your eyes and see how race has impacted people and communities, the more you see the long and horrible history of how it has been baked into every nook and cranny of life. And craft beer is no exception. That is the focus of Beer and Racism: How Beer Became White, Why It Matters, and the Movements To Change It by Nathaniel Chapman and David Brunsma.
First off, this is a sociology text. There are citations everywhere and it has a distinct scholarly rhythm to it. I cannot review the book based on readability or pace. How I review books like this is to see how many revealing bits of information are found. Below are a few:
- Craft beer was revolting against homogenization of beer and yet only 15% of our community is black or Latinx
- many of the steps in becoming brewer are not really open to minorities because of education, bank loans, networking
- appropriation of black culture by white breweries is basically sanctioned where IP theft is not
The most interesting section of the book is the dip into talking about malt liquor and how’s it was one of the first cases of beer being actually marketed to black people. It is troubling to see the insensitivity from the larger regional breweries that made this style of beer towards their customer base in not only the packaging but the pricing and the way it was brewed. I could see a whole book that delves into this history.
The weakest part of the book is the concluding section about the movements to change. Granted, this book was primarily researched and written before 2020 and any crystal ball gazing would have been undercut a bit but there was not a lot of discussion about the role of education in creating a new class of minority brewers and I firmly believe that is where we need to start.
Overall, this book adds to the discussion and should be read, if only, to ground yourself in the idea that racism has hurt, is hurting and will continue to hurt the brewing industry until we truly leave it behind.
Regret. It is powerful and can make you choose unwisely. There is regret and bad choices aplenty in this modern age Bedford Falls like locale where Nora Seed finds herself at The loosest of ends before finding herself back with her grade school librarian looking for just the right life.
Of course, you may know where that journey ends but author Matt Haig in The Midnight Library. has created some realistic scenarios that Nora has to work herself through before coming to the ultimate realization at the end.
This book is probably on the cusp of teen lit but it is good for anybody who has honestly asked the question What If?
To pair with this novel, I would suggest going to your local bottle shop and randomly picking beers. That way you can see how a throw at the dartboard of life changes how you enjoy the book. Or, find a dark as midnight stout and curl up next to a New Years fireplace.
There are a lot of moments in beer history that most of us beer fans don’t know about because either they happened to one of the giants or was before craft beer took off.
Allyson Brantley has found one such moment and written about it in, Brewing a Boycott: How a Grassroots Coalition Fought Coors & Remade American Consumer Activism.
I had never heard of the Coors Boycott and it sounds fascinating as tensions between a big company vs. Latinx, labor, gay and lesbian, Black, feminist, environmentalist, indigenous, and student activists who joined forces to oppose the Colorado company.
Side note, Brantley is LA based so you would be supporting a local by buying the book!
Sadly, this one comes out from University of North Carolina Press in spring 2021.
Want to get a historical and business look at a famous beer city? Well, the Irish expat writer Eoghan Walsh deep dives into the full Brussels scene in his new book, Brussels Beer City.
Here is the elevator pitch, “For the first time in English, award-winning writer Eoghan Walsh brings to life in this collection of stories the family dynasties, the brewers, the activists – and the stories behind them – that have made Brussels a world capital of beer and brewing.“
There has been a surge in beer books focused on pilsners and lager this year and writer Melissa Cole adds to the bounty with a book that covers the span of the beer style in The Little Book of Lager
Might be a touch late for this Christmas but you can always go the route of wrapping a photo instead, maybe along with a bottle of lager.
One of the good things to come of 2020 is that Pete Brown wrote two books! The second is all about branding. Beer by Design talks about design from the marketing and appreciation angle. That last part is key because you can have an effective design but it I should just a literal flash in the pan. The examples shown in the announcement post alone are really cool to look at. Put this on your Christmas list.