Session #115: Beer Bookish

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The 115th Session, is hosted this month by Joan Villar-i-Martí, who writes Blog Birraire. For his topic, he’s chosen The Role of Beer Books, to sum up the topic says. “I believe the importance of books for the beer culture makes them worthy of another Session.”

Here’s his full description of the topic:

The discussion at hand is “The Role of Beer Books”. Participants can talk about that first book that caught their attention, which brought them to get interested in beer; or maybe about books that helped developing their local beer scene. There’s also the bad role of books that regrettably misinform readers because their authors did not do their work properly. There are many different ways to tackle this topic.

The Session has been about books before just once, and it was about those that hadn’t already been written. I believe that their importance for the beer culture makes books worthy for another Session.

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My two primary beer bookshelves today.

For me, I have to go back before I thought about beer books, and thought about just books. I loved books for as long as I can remember. I read voraciously as a child. They were a great escape from issues I had with my home life, and particularly a psychotic, alcoholic stepfather. I loved classic adventure stories — like the Howard Pyle Robin Hood, the Swiss Family Robinson and Around the World in 80 Days — but really would read just about anything. My favorite aunt (a great aunt, actually) was very encouraging about reading. She was an unusual woman, and had a degree in chemistry from Syracuse University, which was not common in the late 1910s or early 20s. She sadly never really put it too good use, but she read constantly, and usually had several books she would be reading simultaneously. She would leave them bookmarked in each room, and would read the book left in whatever room she happened to be in. I don’t know how she did it, but it was her pattern my whole life, so she had obviously worked it out so it was easy for her. About once a month, our school handed out a flier from the Scholastic Book Club, and she had graciously agreed to buy any books I wanted. To be fair they were almost always under a buck, but it was an amazing gift.

One of the last things my biological father gave me before he was out of the picture was a multivolume children’s illustrated encyclopedia. That was my introduction to the world of reference books. And I’m still obsessed with them to this day. As much as I love stories, I love non-fiction even more. There was a quote I always loved, by Desiderius Erasmus. “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” When I joined the military, and was on my own for the first time as a young adult, that was how I lived my life. After basic training and then my MOS school in Virginia, my permanent duty station was in New York City, where I played in an Army Band from 1978 through the fall of 1980. We got paid on the 1st and 15th of each month. Since I had no rent, no utilities to pay, no insurance premiums and my used car was paid for, my paycheck was almost all disposable. After setting some aside for college each month, the rest went to books, music and video games. Every paycheck, we’d pick a new Atari 2600 cartridge and then the rest was spent on interesting books and albums (remember this was before the age of the CD or digital music).

It was during this period of time I bought a bartender’s book of cocktails. In the back of the book there was an appendix that included four reasons to drink for each day of the year. It was that book that piqued my interest in collecting dates. It’s what led to there being a Brookston Almanac (http://brookstonalmanac.tumblr.com/), though it was actually first online as The Daily Globe around 1995. And until recently, I had more books on calendar systems, almanacs, timelines and collections of dates than I did beer books.

But the first true beer book I bought was detailed in an earlier Session, Session #46: An Unexpected Discovery, and it was Michael Jackson’s World Guide to Beer. I first arrived in New York City in the spring of that year, and began exploring the city, especially jazz clubs, museums and the theater. There was a great USO office in Times Square, and we could usually pick up leftover theater or movie tickets there for free.

We also visited bars, lots of them. Somebody told us to go to McSorley’s, and it was certainly fun. But what emerged as a favorite was a bar in the East Village, Brewsky’s Beer Bar. It was a little hole-in-the-wall on 7th Avenue, but it had, for its day, a great selection of imported beers. I think the owner was Ukranian, or something like that, and there were a lot of beers from central and eastern Europe. There were dozens of similar-tasting lagers and pilsners with enchanting labels I couldn’t read. But it was the darker beers that really stood out, simply because they were so different from what I’d grown up drinking. For example, I recall Dortmunder Union vividly as a beer with distinct flavors unlike any other I’d ever tried.

I liked most of what I tried, though at the time I was drawn to the few English ales I tried, I think because they tasted so much different to me than what I was used to drinking. I was certainly hooked. I already had a somewhat obsessive love affair going with beer, but to find out that it was so much richer and more varied than I’d realized was something of an epiphany.

I longed to know more about what I was tasting, but there was scant little information available. Happily, that changed one day during one of my post-payday trips to a bookstore, I happened upon Michael Jackson’s World Guide to Beer, which had been recently published. I almost didn’t pick it up, because the garish gold and green cover had a large Miller ad in the center. But then I spied the red triangle from Bass and flipped through it. Needless to say, I bought it on the spot. Finally, I had some context to what I’d been drinking lately and was able to organize my head around the various tastes I’d been trying so chaotically.

Looking back, it seems odd that there was so little available information on beer and, compared with today, how truly ignorant I was. And it wasn’t just me. Practically everybody I knew had little or no idea about beer. The regional and national breweries at the time made no effort to educate consumers. The other beer books I was able to find at the time made little attempt to codify or explain anything. There were plenty of breweriana books, books on collecting cans, things like that. Or trivia-themed, Abel’s Book of Beer (which has been mentioned online recently), a few by Will Anderson, etc. But Jackson’s book talked about the beer itself, what was in the bottle rather than what was on the label. That was pretty cool at the time.

Since then, of course, I’ve amassed quite a few more beer books, which I started picking up while working on my first book in 1991. Below is the original shelf I set aside for beer books.

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And outgrew that one and added another next to it, but that’s now too full and place for a third will have to be found soon.

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And here’s some stragglers, and a few often-consulted books, piling up until a third shelf can be found.

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Crack A Book For The Next Session

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For our 115th Session, our host will be Joan Villar-i-Martí, who writes Blog Birraire. For his topic, he’s chosen The Role of Beer Books, to sum up the topic says. “I believe the importance of books for the beer culture makes them worthy of another Session.”

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Here’s his full description of the topic:

The discussion at hand is “The Role of Beer Books”. Participants can talk about that first book that caught their attention, which brought them to get interested in beer; or maybe about books that helped developing their local beer scene. There’s also the bad role of books that regrettably misinform readers because their authors did not do their work properly. There are many different ways to tackle this topic.

The Session has been about books before just once, and it was about those that hadn’t already been written. I believe that their importance for the beer culture makes books worthy for another Session.

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So before Friday, September 2, crack open some beer books, and some beer, and write about the intersection between the two. Prose seems to be the preferred vehicle, but I don’t see why you couldn’t resort to iambic pentameter or some other poetic form. Rhyming optional. Publish your findings, and then post a comment with a link to your post at the original announcement. Happy reading.

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Session #95: Beer Books Yet To Be Written

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Our 95th Session is hosted is Alan McLeod — his third time at the reins — who writes A Good Beer Blog. He’s chosen a very simple topic, but one with as many possibilities as their are books in the Library of Congress. The January topic can be expressed in one simple sentence. “What beer book which has yet to be written would you like to see published?” But for a bit more about what he’s looking for, read through his explanatory I Answer The Call! Again I Host!!!

What is the book you would want to write about good beer? What book would you want to read? Is there a dream team of authors your would want to see gathered to make that “World Encyclopedia of Beer and Brewing”? Or is there one person you would like to see on a life long generous pension to assure that the volumes flow from his or her pen? Let us know.

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For me, what’s missing in the world of beer books, are craft beers intruding into fiction. Brands of all kinds help define characters, perhaps more so in fiction than in reality, because they can be a code for the kind of person an author has created that we all understand. It goes back, in my mind, to something that Michael Jackson used to say when explaining why beer deserved more respect. He’d use the analogy that no one goes into a restaurant and asks the waiter to bring him some food the way that people are so often portrayed in books, television and movies as sidling up to a bar and saying “gimme a beer.”

Whenever I saw Michael, one of the topics that inevitably came up was books. One of the first I remember him recommending to me was The Last Fine Time, a novel by Verlyn Klinkenborg published in 1990. It tells the tale of a family in Buffalo, New York who own a bar and how it changes over several generations. It was years ago that I read it, but I recall enjoying it a great deal.

But it reminds me that most books in which beer appears are either older and use old brands or generic beer. I have seen a few book that have beer in them, but not really as much more than an afterthought, unless they’re a memoir. That always seemed strange since beer is so popular and is the most popular adult beverage. You’d think it would figure more highly in literature, and yet it seems curiously absent. To be fair, I don’t read nearly as much fiction as I did when I was younger, so maybe I’m just missing it.

Several times over the years I’ve suggested to various beer magazine publishers that they start including short stories involving beer and have even suggested an annual contest, similar to Playboy’s annual college fiction contest, for the best short story involving beer as a central feature of the tale. Sadly, none have ever agreed, though I don’t know why. It always seemed like a natural to me.

I’ve also thought a Granta-like book/magazine, perhaps annually, that collected beer fiction could work, too, but I’m not sure I’m up to the task of taking on another project. Still, I’d really love to see more beer-fueled fiction. Somebody needs to write the Great American Beer Novel.

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But failing fictive folios, what beer books would I like to see? I certainly like Alan’s suggestion for a “World Encyclopedia of Beer and Brewing,” but otherwise I’m at a loss, beyond my own list of book ideas I want to pitch.

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I have at least a dozen book ideas in various stages of development, but personally I can’t wait to do my coffee table book featuring all of my photographs of brewery hoses that I’ve taking at breweries around the world for more than ten years. I expect to sell maybe twenty copies, but I still want to do it as a labor of love. I may have to self-publish that one. I’m fairly certain there aren’t a great number of people waiting for that one.

The Next Session Looks For The Next Great Beer Book

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For our 95th Session, our original host has gone missing, so happily Alan McLeod of A Good Beer Blog offered to come to the recuse and host the January Session, his third time hosting. For his topic, he’s asking one simple question. “What beer book which has yet to be written would you like to see published?” You can read Alan’s thought process and more about what he’s looking for in his post “I Answer The Call! Again I Host!!!,” but these are the important bits.

What is the book you would want to write about good beer? What book would you want to read? Is there a dream team of authors your would want to see gathered to make that “World Encyclopedia of Beer and Brewing”? Or is there one person you would like to see on a life long generous pension to assure that the volumes flow from his or her pen? Let us know.

Books&Beer

So put on your thinkin’ caps, let the synapses fire on an open flame. To participate in January’s Session, just come up with the next great beer book. Then on the second day of 2015 — see you’ve got until next year to work on this, plenty of time — post your idea in the comments section to Alan’s announcement. Then get writing. We’ll all want to see that book written by the following year at the latest.

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Goodnight Brew

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Oh, how I wish I had this book when my kids were younger. I read the classic Goodnight Moon so many times that I had it memorized and didn’t even need the book to read it to them. But if I strayed from the text — which, I confess, I enjoyed doing just to mess with them — they’d invariably correct me, as they knew the story inside and out, as well. But now author Ann E. Briated (not her real name; it’s actually Aldo Zelnick) has written a beer-soaked parody of the children’s classic and re-tapped it as Goodnight Brew. It’s written for adults, with tongues firmly in cheeks, as part of their “pitcher book for grown-ups” series. The publisher’s website describes it with this introduction:

It’s closing time at the brewery. While the moon rises, the happy brewery crew—including three little otters (in charge of the water), a wort hog, and a hops wildebeest— sing and dance as they wind down for the day. Join them in saying goodnight to the brew kettle, barley and yeast, hops and mash, saison, porter, IPA, and much more.

Befuddled about beer ingredients? Puzzled about the brew process? Can’t remember the difference between an ale and a lager? Don’t miss the brew infographics that follow the story!

This humorous parody of a children’s literature classic is a “pitcher book” for grown-ups. It’s a besotted bedtime story for beer lovers everywhere!

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Even though my kids are too old for it now, I ordered one anyway. I am hoping someday to have grandchildren, and I should be prepared.

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It’s wonderfully illustrated by Allie Ogg. and here are a few pages from the book.

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Beer In Film #83: Microbrewers 1981-1996: A Photo History

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Today’s beer film is really just a slideshow to music, but it’s such a great collection of photographs that it’s worthwhile anyway. The book, MICROBREWERS: 1981-1996: A Photo History, features a wealth of historic photographs of many of the pioneers of the craft beer industry taken by David Bjorkman, who co-founded New Brewer magazine in 1983 with Victoria Thomas and Charlie Papazian, and documented the nascent beer industry from 1981 to 1996 before moving to Mexico. The handmade book includes “over 300 photos of the first microbrewers in the United States” and can be purchased from Blurb. I bought it when it first came out in 2009, and despite its high price tag, it’s an awesome collection of photos. The song, by the way, is the traditional Irish song “Beer, Beer, Beer” performed by The Clancy Brothers.

Dinner In The Beer Garden: A New Cookbook Needs Your Support

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My good friend Lucy Saunders, the beer cook, has a new cookbook on beer and food, Dinner In The Beer Garden, that’s she hoping to publish through Kickstarter. Like everything she does, it looks awesome. For as little as $15, you can get a copy of it as an e-book, and for a mere $25, you can be one of the very first on planet beer to put her recipes to the test with your favorite beers, using your own paperback copy of the book. For higher pledges, there’s even more cool stuff you can get, like t-shirts, signed copies, hoodies, and for the Pièce de résistance pledge, she’ll come and cook five of the recipes in the book for you and 12 guests.

[The book itself is] about pairing craft beer with plant-based recipes, enjoyed outdoors in gardens and other social spaces. This isn’t about traditional biergarten food like ham hocks and bratwurst. It’s a cookbook for people who like carrots and kale — as well as butter, fish, cheese and chocolate! Profiles of gorgeous brewery gardens, a chapter on the history and design of beer gardens, and juicy color photographs of recipes turn the book into a tasty read. Recipes are both original and contributed by home cooks and chefs in the craft brewing community.

Most of the hard work is already done; most of the recipes have been created and tested, photographs taken, and discussions with the printer — one she’s used for previous projects — have begun. All she needs is a little help from her friends to make her new cookbook appear in all of our hands, and the recipes inside filling our stomachs with deliciousness. If you love great food and beer, please consider pledging to become a backer of Lucy’s book at whatever level you feel comfortable.

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Lucy showing off one of her other cookbooks, “The Best of American Beer & Food” during GABF in 2007.

The Audacity Of Hops In California

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This week was a fun one, in part because Tom Acitelli was in town on his book tour, promoting his new paperback The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution. He started Tuesday evening at the Anchor Brewery, where he spoke briefly, signed some books and all of us enjoyed a few beers.

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Tom Acitelli reading from the “Audacity of Hops” at Anchor Brewing.

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Dave Suurballe, Judy Ashworth, Julie Nickels and Bruce Paton at Tom’s book event.

The next day, Tom drove up to my house, and from there we had lunch at Russian River, and then we whisked over to the production brewery for a quick tour before doing a Bottom of the Bottle podcast at Beercraft in Rohnert Park. Then that evening Tom did an event at Lagunitas hosted by my local book store chain, Copperfield’s Books, before heading back home to Boston the following morning.

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Tom with Vinnie Cilurzo at Russian River’s production brewery.

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On the Bottom of the Bottle podcast (photo by Greg Coll).

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Joe Tucker, stealing a drink, Jeremy Marshall, me Tom and Ken Weaver at Lagunitas.

It was great fun hanging out for a longer period of time with Tom, as we’d only met briefly a couple of times before. His new book, The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution, seems very, very good. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of the parts I’ve managed to find the time to read so far, and many people whose opinions I respect are all saying the same thing: that Tom has managed to write a comprehensive, thorough and enjoyable history of the craft beer since 1965. I heartily recommend his book to anyone new to the beer world, or anyone who wants to get some context to how we got to where we are today. It’s been a great journey.

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Craft Beerds On Tour Beginning Tonight

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My neighbor, friend and colleague Fred Abercrombie, is debuting his new book, Craft Beerds, tonight at Taps in Petaluma. The book is a raucous look at nearly 200 beer labels involving beards, or beerds, and it’s just in time to kick off SF Beerd Week.

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Pick up your own copy of the book, signed by the author.

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I’ll be there at least the first hour, too, but if you can’t make it tonight at Taps, consider one of the other book signing events taking place during SF Beer Week. First, there will be an event at 21st Amendment on Tuesday, February 12 (Lincoln’s birthday) starting at 6:30 p.m.

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The next night, Wednesday, February 13, beginning at 9 p.m. they’ll be a book signing at Zeitgeist in San Francisco. They’ll also be featuring LagunitasSoCo ‘Stache Stout.”

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UPDATE: Author Fred Abercrombie with his bearded fans from last night’s book release party:

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Don’t Fear The Beerd

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My friend and new neighbor Fred Abercrombie is even more of a graphics nerd than I am, but then he does it for a living. For his day job, he runs his own ad agency, while at night — after donning cape and cowl — writes at his beer blog Ünnecessary Ümlaut. He noticed one day that no one has really taken a look at all the beards, mustaches and facial hair that grace so many of the beer labels we see dotting the craft beer landscape. Sensing a hole in our deeper understanding of the world, he decided to do something about it. And so began Craft Beerds, subtitled “a well-groomed collection of craft beer labels.” Fred researched, photographed and laid out his hirsute book, but after it ballooned to 300 pages with over 175 breweries represented, he realized that he could no longer afford to publish it on his own. Undaunted, he turned to Kickstater (I love Kickstarter!) for a little help from his friends — or at least other like-minded whackadoodles.
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With 19 days to go, he’s raised over half of the $8,000 he needs to print the book. The minimum to get a hardback copy of the book is a mere $25. For higher pledges, there are cooler rewards, such as getting your name in the book, t-shirts, prints and a signed copy of another book, The Facial Hair Handbook by two-time World Beard Champion, Jack Passion.

Below are some sample pages from the book:

Shmaltz Brewing’s Coney Island Human Blockhead.
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And FullSteam’s Certificate of Awesome and their Liborius Gollhardt Southern-Style Sour Rhubarb Ale.
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So I would encourage every lover of beer and every lover of beerds to help ensure this book gets printed and published. Check out the Kickstarter page and see if you can help. Here’s more reasons why you should:

WHERE YOUR FUNDS ARE GOING:

Printing. Every single cent. The project grew from something cool that we could afford to self-publish, to something really cool we really need your help on. Really. Turns out, printing an almost 300-page hairy book is kinda expensive.

We’ve already collected, photographed and laid everything out. It looks beautiful — and handsome — but it needs your help to live the printed dream.

WHY DOES THIS NEED TO EXIST?

  • Because no one’s paid a tangible tribute to all the killer art and packaging from the recent craft beer explosion. (There’s enough to fill a book)
  • Because it’ll give exposure to many breweries you already love and want to succeed further.
  • Because it’ll give exposure to many local, regional breweries you may not even know you love. Yet.
  • Because we’ve broken the book into themed chapters that keep it fresh, every time you pick it up—Devilish Beerds, Royal Beerds, Side-Beerds and of course, Red Beerds, to name a few.
  • Because craft beer and facial hair are a natural combo. Ever been to a beer fest? You can’t swing a growler without grazing a beard.

Go ahead, pledge. You know you want to. Even if you don’t want to, you really do. You just don’t know it yet. Check out the Kickstarter page and see all the potential rewards and good karma you could receive. Then try to resist. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

And finally, here’s two pirate-themed bearded beers.
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