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Book Review: Mountain Brew

A High-Spirited Guide to Country-Style Beer Making (Issue 20)
Mountain Brew Book Review Beer Connoisseur
Mountain Brew Book Review Beer Connoisseur

Mountain Brew:
A High Spirited Guide to Country-Style Beer Making
by Tim Matson and Lee Anne Dorr
The Countryman Press, Softcover, $10.95, 123 pp.


Whether it’s a decade-old cellared Bigfoot or a freshly bottled homebrew, the thrill of a long-awaited brew fulfilled is what keeps many coming back to quality beer.

With its rustic, homespun charm, Mountain Brew is closer to the latter, but reflects both in a successful bottling, aging and uncorking of the timeless joy of beer. Originally cobbled together in the seventies by a duo of Vermonters, it is part folklore and part beer-from-scratch cookbook.

At the time of Mountain Brew's conception homebrewing was still outlawed, and though it didn’t take an Odyssey to gather ingredients for an ale, the retail homebrewing environment was a far cry from today’s explosion of suppliers. Hops came mixed into Blue Ribbon liquid malt extract (yes, that Blue Ribbon), which was sold as a “cooking ingredient” at local groceries. That, or you could gather hops wild, as one of the locals maintained was ideal. Some cleaned their equipment with bleach, some with standard sanitizer, and others used hot soap and water. One of the authors still does. 

Mirroring the movement it helped inspire, the book has come a long way. No longer a hodgepodge of recipes stapled together with cover art by a nine year old, Mountain Brew has added new recipes, binding, and a lengthy foreword from Tim Matson, taking a poignant look back at the original text, which remains preserved within. And deservedly so.

Even after a polish, the book is still a tad rough, but that makes it better. It’s not written with the glamour that Michael Jackson could give to beer, but the fresh air, clean water and unadulterated joy of pure creation bubbling off the pages makes for a very visceral read. 

These were people living in a different time, but doing the exact things that make us glad to be alive. They were able to package it up and share it with others, and though it may not always be technically sound, Mountain Brew is perfectly human.


 

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