For the Defense

This is a very thorough dismantling of a word through the lens of marketing, economics, history, philosophy and even social media. And I dug every moment because it did not play favorites or set- up straw men to easily knock down. This is rigorous and since I recently watched Hamilton, it made me think of the Federalist papers a bit.

Brown starts with using a (5) part definition of a craft brewery written by Dan Shelton of Shelton Brothers. Those qualifications were ingredients, methods and equipment, spirit, control and ownership structure. Which is probably too much to have to apply to each and every brewery. By the end, Brown has whittled and refined it into (4) comprised of skill/creativity, quality, autonomy and motivation. Bigger ideas but also simpler to understand in my opinion. With only motivation being somewhat opaque.

Some other cool ideas that I ran across:

Skilled craftspeople are considered less than a typical pencil pusher.

Workers should also spend time thinking and thinkers spend more time working.

Craft is a moving target

The concept of under erasure. Where a word is inaccurate in explaining or describing an idea but is also necessary so it is shown but crossed out.

If you haven’t noticed, I highly recommend buying this. Worth every penny.

Bohemian Forest

With LABW11 in the rear view, time to re-broaden our horizons and look all around the beer world and I have a book choice for you that will help with that, The Brewery in the Bohemian Forest by Evan Rail.

When the ancient brewery in the Czech forest town of Kout na Šumavě reopens, rumors start to circulate about a mysterious brewing book found hidden in the crumbling brewhouse walls. The beer from Kout is so strangely delicious that many who taste it think that it has to be made using secrets — or even magic — from the old brewing log. Enchanted by the taste of Kout lager, Evan Rail makes several journeys out to the brewery, even bringing Anthony Bourdain to film a segment on Kout for the TV show “No Reservations.” But the world of Czech beer is full of secrets… and some secrets definitely do not want to be revealed.

Locavore

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The latest release from the Brewers Publications imprint is Brewing Local: American-Grown Beer. Written by long-time beer writer Stan Hieronymus, “introduces brewers and drinkers to the ways herbs, flowers, plants, trees, nuts and shrubs flavor distinctive beers.”
This latest book seems a perfect companion to his 2005 book, Brew Like a Monk. Part history of locally sourced brewing ingredients and part technical brewing book this book could be slotted into the history shelf of your beer book collection or in the brewing technique section.

Plus you will probably get an in depth education on agriculture as well if his last book on hops is any indication.

Brewing Local is certainly going on my Christmas book list.

Book Review – The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer by Ashley Routson

I guess that I was expecting more. More of the distinctive voice of the Beer Wench (aka Ashley Routson) in her Guide to Beer.
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As it stands, her book certainly is fine. Interesting recipes for using beer with food. Interesting ideas for beer and food pairings and a thankfully not overlong section on beer styles.
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But the verve and wit and yes, attitude that I was waiting for never showed up on the page. Which is sad because that is what would have propelled this book. I could get all the information in Routson’s guide elsewhere. Be it Tasting Beer or The Brewmaster’s Table most specifically. Those two books went into much more detail without having the slow pace of this book. A more polarizing tone would have worked for me because it would have added to the pacing and anticipation.

What I was hoping to get was more on the female side of the beer world. Maybe a little backstory on her journey into the world of beer. More on blogging and social media and her thoughts on how they work or don’t work when it comes to the business of craft beer.

Sidebars that chart her favorite beers or mini-biographies of female brewers active now would have been great too. In fact I would have been happier if her book wasn’t aimed at me, the white American male at all.

For example, instead of yet another author tackling the very well covered topic on how beer is made, how about using her nom de beer, Saison de Wench as an example of how that particular beer was made by organic brewer Bison to elucidate the process instead. Use her experience to shine light from a new direction. Another tack that could have been taken would be to explore the world of beer cocktails in more depth. I have to believe that Routson has the ideas to have made that chapter much bigger.
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Ultimately, the book is OK. A reader learns about beer for sure. But The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer won’t supplant earlier efforts by other authors on the core subjects and doesn’t add measurably to more specific craft beer subjects because her personality has only lightly touched on the pages.

Book Review – So You Want to Start a Brewery?

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Hope you like books!  ‘Cause there will be few more coming down the pike due to the Christmas, what to get Sean rush.  I will hold back and not review any non-related beer books though.  No, The Martian or Midnight in Siberia or Beautiful Chaos for you lot.

Next up is the story of how Lagunitas Brewing came to be in So You Want to Start a Brewery? by Tony Magee.  This story meanders a bit.  But once you are a few pages in, you realize that is by design.  The Lagunitas Story is a winding digression of a brewery story.  And akin to the Sierra Nevada history, the fact that they are alive and brewing is a near miracle.

I was seriously amazed by the shoestring budget and the financial hurdles that Magee endured to bring the brewery to Petaluma and Chicago.  You learn the backstory on how Brown Shugga’ came to be in a late night mistake fix.  The Undercover Weed investigation proceedings.  And more importantly you learn a bit about the culture that is imbued into the brand.  From the design of the labels to the taste of the beers.

This book is a bit on the tell-all side which I expected form an outsized figure like Magee who has been known to call out people on social media.  But as the book goes along, you can’t help but side with him.  I expect someone could write a companion volume that focuses on the negative aspects which would be just as truthful.

What surprised me was the ending of the book.  Not the Chicago brewery epilogue but Magee’s take on where he has been and what he has learned.  In particular, this chunk has still stuck with me:

So, after all the time and all the histrionics, what is the net result? What are we, where are we going, and what do we mean? Those are the questions every twenty- one- year- old asks himself. Twenty- one happens to be the brewery’s current age— a time of necessary choices and uncertain paths. For my part, I hold this question as central to the reeling in and rolling forward of this company. We don’t want to be just “whatever we are” in the future, because I think we have become something interesting now and are worthy of a good life as a brand among brands in a world that we helped to create. The answers to these questions are important for us to know going forward, so that we can play out our strengths. It’s a delicate thing to write about, the future.

Hop in the Saddle – book review

Over the holidays, I got my copy of Hop in the Saddle. I was one of the Kickstarters for this beery guide and was anxious to see how it turned out.
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And the answer is…. great!

This is handy for both bikers who drink (or don’t) and for drinkers who bike (or won’t). It splits Portland into manageable chunks while also finding spots that I had never even heard of.

The biking instructions are complete and the notes really show that the authors have been to these places. And they have picked solid locations to hit the bike brakes. The graphic design is a skosh cluttered in spots but is cute and consistent.
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This guide may be more useful for a year-round Beervana resident but still holds surprises for those planning a visit.

Gueze & Kriek – book review

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I was quite excited to get this book for Christmas because this is a style that I don’t know the history of so I dove right into reading it (after finishing up the 2nd book in the Song of Ice and Fire).

First off, this is a translation and it shows in parts. Lot’s of exclamation points and some odd transitions from sentence to sentence. But it excels in two spots that are most important to me.

One, it delves into the history of this beer briefly before expanding to the history of each of the brewers and blenders. It is a treat to learn about where Cantillon started and where it is now. Literally it is a history if who started it and where it is now You even get a bit of travel guidance as well with some notations of where to go to order a glass.

Second, the photographs are great. For someone who has not been inside one of these breweries, or the country of Belgium for that matter, these shots really take you in front of and behind the scenes. Some captions for the photographs would have been helpful though. But that doesn’t detract from seeing a well used coolship filled with beer.
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One jarring note is how often male inheritance of breweries is mentioned. As if a woman couldn’t brew these specific styles! It is a bit great-grandfatherly for my taste.

Overall an interesting look into a very historic and specific style. I felt bad not drinking that style exclusively while reading it.

Teachings from the Tap


The craft beer books show no sign of abating. Which is good because I need something to read while I am drinking!

Here is one that focuses more on the journey than travel tips or brewing how-to….
“After several years of hard work, we are so pleased to announce the release of Merideth’s first book, Teachings from the Tap: Life Lessons from our Year in Beer.

In 2008, after nearly 20 years of visiting breweries as a hobby, Merideth Canham-Nelson and her husband Chris embarked on their most ambitious adventure yet: a year-long journey discovering the world through beer culture.

Aiming to fulfill their fantasy of becoming professional beer travelers, the couple spent a year visiting a major beer event or destination each month. What started out as a lofty escapade turned into a year of Canham-Nelson’s self-discovery, conquering insecurities and coming into her own.

Narrated in the first person, Teachings from the Tap explores the journeys of each month and pairs those beer travel tales with a corresponding life lesson. The result is a detailed account with one-of-a-kind stories that cover the range of emotions created by interesting encounters and new experiences.”

Brewed Awakening


I know. Another craft beer book! There can never be too many, in my opinion.

I have been reading articles in Imbibe magazine by Joshua Bernstein and now he has taken the knowledge gained in talking to brewers to create Brewed Awakening. Best to let him explain the book (in words and video)

“Why Brewed Awakening? Concerning beer, the last decade has witnessed more seismic changes than any time since Prohibition. There are more than 1,700 craft breweries in America, from community-based nanobreweries to the new breed of national brands such as Dogfish Head and Stone. Untethered from stodgy tradition, and driven by unbridled creativity, American and international brewers are leading a boundary-less charge into the global future of beer.

The bitter India pale ale has birthed the burly, super-aromatic double IPA. Alcohol percentages have climbed above ten percent, on par with wine—and now join Pinot noir at dinner tables and on tony restaurants’ drink lists. Wild yeasts have been harnessed and are used to inoculate beers that, in the best way possible, taste like a barnyard. Naturally carbonated cask ales have now achieved cult status. And brewmasters have begun aging their creations in wooden casks that once contained bourbon, brandy, chardonnay, and even tequila, reviving techniques last seen more than a century earlier.

I’ve spent the last six years covering the craft beer industry, traveling from Asheville to Austin, San Francisco to Chicago, Portland to Portland. I’ve hit breweries. Interviewed brewers. And spelunked deep into the people and the trends driving the craft beer revolution. There’s a story in every pint glass. I give voice to them.”

You can order the book HERE and on December 7th there will be a Brewed Awakening event at Eagle Rock Brewery.