Beer History & Writing

I kinda prefer to-do vs resolution. I think the latter though stronger is more often lost by the second week of January. That is prelude to the fact that one of my to-do’s this year is to listen to more of the programming from the Beer Writers Guild (NAGBW). Last week writers/ historians Maureen Ogle and Liz Garibay spoke about writing about alcohol through the lens of history.

Here are some nuggets of wisdom that I picked up….

  • Ogle is working on a book about August Schell and his brewery
  • keep historians in mind when writing about beer but not the usual suspects
  • you can tie current events to the past because what may seem new probably happened before
  • I will be interested in the 2021 Beer Culture Summit from all the praise heaped on the 2020 version
  • there is a book about Hawaii beer history coming from Paul Kan and another writer Isco working on something about Oklahoma brewing history

Ambitious Brew


I devoured this book over the course of three days. That is usually a good sign. In this case, only partially so. If you want a book that timelines the big industrial brewers and promotes big capitalism then this will suit you just fine. For me, this was a slice of history. No where in the same league as Last Call by Daniel Okrent.

Here are my quibbles:
1. It starts with the Anheuser and Schlitz gang. Why not start at the beginning with Washington and the founding of beer in America. How can that not be interesting.
2. Regional breweries between 1776 and 1860 get no mention. Why?
3. Trying to praise the Budweiser, Miller and Pabst beers even in their classy heydays is really pushing it at best. I never drank it and it was better in the past but that is surely damning by faint praise.
4. Short shrift to great beer meccas. Portland barely gets talked about. Neither does Seattle or Brooklyn or name a pioneering city.
5. Marketing and business savvy are not the prime directive here. It’s the beer.

On the plus side, there is good history facts in here and she is spot on with how trends in eating and culture affected the buying patterns of beer consumers. I give this a barely recommend. Choose a Pete Brown book first.