Book Review – Yooper Ale Trail

Time to head East for the U.P. to find some beer on the Yooper Ale Trail.

This handy guide by Jon Stott and Mikel Classen covers the Upper Peninsula in Michigan and the first thing that I thought was smart was how each of the eight trails had no more than four stops listed and many were less than. (There was one with five but one brewery on it had not opened at time of writing). It makes for achievable adventures.

The second smart thing was that for many breweries, the author visited twice and could show the evolution of the brewery from new brewers to new beers. It is something that I haven’t seen employed in guidebooks before and I liked it.

Other fun facts are that blueberry beers are pretty much a required beer menu item. The style can change, though most were wheat beer based. If that berry is your favorite, I would say head up because blueberry ain’t seen much outside muffin pastry beers.

Also, because outdoor activities are the main tourist draw, the beers skew to the lower ABV since folks are hiking and biking and paddling and can’t be downing Quad IPAs.

On the new book cover, the book lists two authors but the book doesn’t really differentiate who wrote what which is fine in fiction but here, I would like to get a bead on who wrote what. I think that Stott wrote the majority and I like his folksy writing style but I can’t know for sure.

Another dent is the fact that after reading the really informative brewery summaries, there is a whole appendix listing contact info, beer lists and whether they had food or not. Format wise, that could have been folded into the main book fairly easily instead. There was also an appendix of beer styles and I would have preferred more about favorite Michigan beer styles.

I would say though, I usually hate the capsule brewing process chapter and I inwardly groaned when I saw it in the book, but it was much better here. It was more like having a friend explaining brewing than a manual.

Overall, a guide should help beer fans find new breweries and Stott and/or Classen do that really well. This book will help.

A Book & A Beer – Dr. No by Percival Everett

The book for April is not by Ian Fleming, it is by Percival Everett, and it is a clever modern day re-imagining of the old take over the world plot.

Dr. No introduces us to three main characters, Wala Kitu, Eigen Vector and villain John Sill) plus a very important dog named Trigo. And it is a rollicking read about nothing. More specifically, finding nothing and the power of nothing.

Now I am no philosopher nor do I like math but Everett makes both really interesting and thought provoking. And his dive into the character of Wala is fascinating because you don’t get a lead who is on the spectrum get to be both broad but also deep.

The elevator pitch for this book would be Bond meets Dr. Strangelove with a hearty dose of metaphysics. And I highly recommend it.

This would be the perfect time to break out the N/A beers since they are both beer and not beer at the same time. I would suggest finding the weirdest beer you could like a glitter N/A beer.

Bonus Book Review – Drunk

Drunk – How we sipped, danced, and stumbled our way to civilization by Edward Slingerland is of interest because of one simple thesis, we use alcohol as an intoxicant as a way to recover fun in our lives or as the author states in a much more sociological way, alcohol gives us the 3 C’s – communal, culture and creative.

Otherwise genetics or evolution would have made alcohol as needed as an appendix is now.

The other fun bit of knowledge is based on “dosing”.  Other drugs or highs achieved from say, running, achieve sone of the same ends as alcohol but but either are way more addictive, drugs or are too unwieldy in time like running.  Alcohol is quicker, more effective and though it is addictive, no getting around that, it is not as rapidly destructive as harder drugs.

Past that, this book tends to cover the same ground over much.  Especially when dispelling other ideas regarding why alcohol is still ingrained in humans.  I am much better writing in summary than in minute detail so when a writer tells me the same thing over and over, I quickly suss it out.

But the writing style of Slingerland’s is jovial and not bogged down in terminology so the read is still fun.

Back in Print

Beer Paper LA has made a triumphant print return and I have a beer book review tucked inside…

Read up without adding more glare to your eyes! Lots of other good reads so grab a copy!

Beer Book Review – The Brewery in the Bohemian Forest

This was a fun ride of a book. I certainly wish that it were longer but as a fan of novellas, this story was complete. It ends sad and there is a never solved mystery of a recipe never seen and in between is Czech beer history a plenty to make you want to visit both Prague and Pilsen.

Basically an old defunct brewery is brought back to life and starts producing excellently reviewed beer but too soon it falls apart with the brewmaster retiring and the owner dying.

I heartily recommend this book. You will probably read it in one sitting.

Book Review – Pilsner by Tom Acitelli

Pilsner by Tom Acitelli roams all over the world. Fitting since the style has too.

This book is formatted with bite size chapters that are super easy to blitz through which is both good and bad. The good is that you are quickly propelled through history. The bad is that each chapter seems to be missing an opportunity to deep dive into a historical character or a moment in time.

I wanted more of the Anheuser-Busch saga and the marketing. I wanted more of Freddy Heineken. I wanted more because the history of pilsner is everywhere in modern history especially here in the US.

I guess that I wanted a book three times the size because Acitelli is a really good writer and I wanted the book to keep going but it arrived at the finish line too soon.

Book Review – Wine Girl

Every industry has a dark side. Something that happens with a falling regularity that only occasionally bubbles to the surface. It can be bribes, unequal pay, sexism but all seem to have a wellspring of people taking advantage of other people.

Wine Girl by Victoria James shows how wine and high-end restaurants has its own “grease trap” as it were that could have and should have broken the author but by the end of the book, you will be amazed at her strength and resilience in life and in wine.

I cannot imagine being verbally belittled with the nickname Wine Girl or to be not believed as a professional by men who seem to only be able to allow other men to have and hold power. But James has been physically assaulted in ways that made my blood boil and forced me to put the book down because I was so angry. If I had seen a male wine distributor at these points, I would have kicked them in the nuts and called them a little baby boy. And I cannot print what some of these privileged male wine drinkers would get from me.

In spite of the workplace toxicity she has endured, she has created joy in her life and has kept her love of wine intact and has been able to mend a past that was brutal in its own right. And by books end, she has turned to educating and empowering other women in the sommelier and buyer game to learn and help each other.

Book Review – It’s the Beer Talking by Ian Clayton

Timing is a bit off. Reading a book about pub culture in a time of isolation. But It’s the Beer Talking has been on my list for awhile now. Author Ian Clayton is the type of person that is the exact opposite of me. Outgoing, quick to make friends and even quicker with a story.

So, at first, I was a little put off, to be honest. But once I re-dove into the book, it made sense. The beer is center here, as are the buildings and cities they are in, frankly, as the people are. But Clayton is talking about the underlying spirit that animates all of those things. What makes people care for the beer, buildings and people and by the end of the book, even a jaded introvert like me could see it.

Clayton, to me, would be one of those people who would be perfect for a podcast. You can tell that he is most at home around a table with some mates talking about “that time, when so-and-so and I….”. That gathering of friends has been captured in the book. Along with a wild cast of characters that novelists would have a hard time dreaming up.

I think you will have a wistful smile on your face as you turn to the last page.

Book Review – Uncultivated by Andy Brennan

Been on a bit of a kick of books by food people with pretty uncompromising views and Uncultivated is the tip of that particular spear.

Author Brennan walks his path and when it comes to apples and cider, it is a specific path. He grudgingly accepts that others have their way but as you read his book about his journey from NYC to a Cidery named after Aaron Burr, well you have to just go with it. Part philosophy, part natural agriculture, and all learning, this book really takes you into the mind and that explains why Brennan does what he does and why he does it in his own way.

I can sense that many readers of this book are either of this group or not but I would recommend setting aside what you know and add this information to your brain. I did not like Brennan early in this book, but as I turned the pages, I found a lot of practical information. And by the end, I really wanted to taste his cider.

A Book & A Beer – The Department of Sensitive Crimes

My mom reads Alexander McCall Smith, so I knew going in that The Department of Sensitive Crimes is not going to be hard-nosed noir or sensitive but boy, this book makes Jessica Fletcher seem like Dirty Harry.

Set in Scandanavia we are set into a police group that has little to do and what little they do is so gentle and caring that even if you have a jaundiced view of police as I do, makes you think these people are way soft on crime. There are two crimes in this book as well as a depressed dog. An inter-office love affair that never happens and a guy who likes fishing. There is more violence and intrigue in a normal cubicle farm.

To pair with this pallid book, I would zip in the opposite direction. Try to find a local gruit. There is almost always one on tap somewhere. Yeah, not easy to find but it would tie you back to Europe and would have the spice needed to make this bland book more palatable. Or you could set up some Kveik yeasted IPA’s which are in larger supply and let the soft hop bitterness match that of this Department.