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.

Featured Review – Spencer Premium Pilsner

Now my third (of four) American Trappist ale from  Spencer Brewery. This time around is…

…which I could tell as the aromas from this pilsner reached my nose that it was going to be steps above just good. Big Germanic Noble hops and grain mix flooded in.  Super crisp. Big wet mouthfeel to it.  Contrary but it works Mineral notes take over from there with no sweetness at all.

Book Review – The Microbrewery Handbook

I received a press copy of the Microbrewery Handbook amidst a flurry of library books so I set it aside for a quieter time since this is not a book that you can gloss over quickly.

Author D.C. Reeves has achieved the rare feat of writing a book that is full of actual, helpful information. And most of the book does not talk about beer at all.

Want to write a business plan? Tips inside. Social media strategy? Tips inside. How to engage with the community? You guessed it. Tips inside. But the section that most impressed me was how to keep employees engaged and how to hire them. I have worked now for a few different companies and managers and I can say that if I had one that followed what Reeves instructs, I would probably never leave that job.

Any brewery that is in the starting gate should read this book. Or if your brewery is at an inflection point, it should be read. I do not normally read or like “business” books but this one was an eye-opener.

Book Review – Lager by Mark Dredge

I have already posted about my excitement for this new book about Lager from Mark Dredge and I finally got my package from Powell’s in the mail and dug into it quickly.

And there is a lot to like about the book. Dredge starts with a bang, in Germany with the Reinheitsgebot. But that tone of beer fan then cuts to lager history and that playfulness goes with it to an extent. It is clear there are some aspects of lager that really excite him, like the dive bars of Vietnam where gas tanks hold the beer and other areas where it seems he had to include to complete the story but leaves quickly like China.

This split personality structure stopped me from enjoying the book especially in the latter half which becomes a chapter by chapter tour of various countries and their part in the lager legacy.

I would have liked to have seen a more novella approach. Part 1 being German lagers and the foursome of brewers who started it. Part 2 being the American side of the story. Part 3 Asian influence and then Part 4 could slide into talk of the future. Then Dredge could have really dove in and the anecdotes would have packed more punch.

Overall, there are a lot of golden nuggets of lager knowledge to be found within the pages but the book’s momentum stalls out too many times.

Book Review -The Lager Queen of Minnesota

The Lager Queen of Minnesota is has shout-outs to several SoCal beer people in the acknowledgment section in the back  and it is clear from this book by J. Ryan Stradal that he listened and took notes.  There are so many books out there where the minutia of other workplaces have been discussed from detectives to doctors and back again.  But this is the first book that talks about hops and malts and cleaning and beer culture inside the novel form.

The book takes three strands of women sisters Helen and Edith and Edith’s granddaughter Diana and covers their journeys to the present in a brewhouse through the lens of ambition, pie and the upper MidWest.  It is cool to see that all three characters are driven in different ways and strong in different ways and human in different ways and that men are mere side players in this interwoven story.

The tone is refreshingly nice and honest at the same time and doesn’t hammer points across but instead just glides from focusing on Helen to Edith and to Diana.  Each chapter name is a dollar amount that plays a part in that chapter and it is money that is a central focus of this book as much as the beer. 

The beer and brewing portions might seem a bit caricature but when you think about, beer people do resemble the people in this book and I loved the beer recipes that the Grandma’s make toward the latter stages.  It was clear that the author was having fun with it.

The Lager Queen might be too Midwest nice for some people but this book earns and sticks its landing at the end.  You will want to have a cold Blotz light when you finish.