16 January 2015

The Brewers Tale: A History of the World According to Beer

I am notoriously hard to buy gifts for, so many people buy me beer. My aunt Ann knows that I like to read, so to thank me for driving my dad from Fredericksburg, Texas to Fredericksburg, Virginia, she bought me a copy of The Brewers Tale: A History of the World According to Beer by William Bostwick and gave it to me when we arrived.

I, of course, was horribly rude and informed her that I already owned a copy. I should have graciously accepted the gift and given it to Satan. So, Ann, I apologize. I'm a jerk.

On the other hand, I did gush excitedly about the book to her. Bostwick's leads you on a journey of beer's history through several stages: The Babylonian (where he explores how beer came to be), The Shaman (which explores mystical and healing side), The Monk (where he traces the history of monastic brewing), The Farmer (brewing in Belgium), The Industrialist (the rise of Porter and the big brewing companies of England), The Patriot (early brewing in America), The Immigrant (the German influence on brewing in America), and The Advertiser (the dominance of big breweries).

The Babylonian chapter is a light, humorous history of brewing. Other books have tried to tell that story, but it always gets boring. Bostwick makes the story compelling. Several times I had to go back just to reread a nice twist of phrase. I got the most out of this chapter.

Don't get me wrong! The rest of the chapters were good, but for some reason, The Babylonian was more educational for me.

I had recently completed Hops and Glory by Pete Brown, wherein I learned of the rise of India Pale Ale as the driving force of England's economy.  Large companies made beer for the market, and got filthy rich selling beer to the East India Trading Company (which got even richer when their ships were emptied of beer and filled with Indian imports bound for the English Market). The Industrialist chapter started a bit earlier. Porter beer originated in London, and it was made by large corporations that quickly took brewing away from the home. The chapter wonderfully dovetails with Brown's history of the same companies.

The Patriot chapter explores some of the ways the early settlers of this country made beer from local ingredients, which reminded me of a story I ran across last month about a persimmon beer made from a 300 year old recipe recently released by Ardent Craft Ales.

I haven't finished the book yet, so I can't mention any more about it. I do know, however, you need to read this book. Buy it at the link below.




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posted by Jeff Holt at 08:00

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