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Book Review Roundup: Summertime Brews

Whether you're on a sandy beach somewhere or in your favorite chair at home, crack open a cold one and cozy up to these recent beer book releases.
Beer Wench's Guide to Beer Cover

The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer

by Ashley Routson

Voyageur Press, Softcover, 256 pp.

Ashley Routson, also known as The Beer Wench, has taken her flair for visual presentation and applied it to the printed page.

The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer is a comprehensive guide to the glorious world of suds, presented in a conversational tone and illustrated with thirst-inducing photography. You can practically hear the fizz in the glossy pour shots.

There is a balance between the photography and text, which is thorough without getting overly technical. There are in-depth guides to styles, food pairings, tasting, history, beer mixology, and even a compilation of poems on esters from brewers – a level of dedication no one could deny.

There are also anecdotal entries, which help add color to the text and diversify the flow.

Diversification has been, and will continue to be a hot button item on the American agenda, and it is just as relevant in the realm of beer as any other field. As the beer-drinking community and its collective palate diversifies, so too will its prominent figures.

At times, Routson has been a polarizing figure in craft beer – perhaps due to her authority in what is generally a male-dominated industry. The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer is as legitimate of an entry into craft beer writing as any, and far better presented than most. 

-- Jim Dykstra

Modern Homebrew Recipes

by Gordon Strong

Brewers Publications, Softcover, 322 pp.

Modern Homebrew Recipes starts off with two illuminating lines from fabled beer scribe Randy Mosher in its introduction: “Brewing beer is a thrilling pursuit, but can be intimidating,” and “As long as there has been beer, there have been beer recipes.”

These phrases expertly encapsulate the entire premise of this homebrewer’s bible.

The author, Gordon Strong, lays out some incredibly detailed and highly engaging recipes throughout the book’s 322 pages. Strong knows a thing or two about his subject as he is the president and highest-ranking judge in the Beer Judge Certification Program and the primary author of that organization’s style guidelines (which we employ here at BC for our blind reviews).

Before each of the book’s sections, which are divided by beer style, Strong provides an anecdotal introduction that draws readers in with easy-reading style and homespun charm. Though the main audience of this book is ardent homebrewers who are already well-equipped to understand the book’s recipes, Strong attempts to outline every brewing step beforehand and help his readers make the highest-quality beers they possibly can – helping to soften the impact of such an “intimidating” hobby.

Each recipe is introduced with a swift and pithy anecdote (some personal, some ruminative, some technical). All of the recipes use Strong’s own measurements that he employed on his own brewing system, with little thought given to scaling the recipes to match standard batch sizes, so some thought and caution is required of brewers who wish to use these recipes verbatim.

In the end, this is a thorough homebrewing tome from an eminent source and an excellent index of recipes for advanced homebrewers.

-- Chris Guest


Prohibition in Atlanta

By Ron Smith and Mary O. Boyle

Arcadia Publishing & The History Press, Softcover, 174 pp

For those interested to know why Georgia remains one of the five states where brewers cannot sell a pint of beer directly to visitors in their taprooms, the history of the state’s prohibition movement is informative, a conflict which centered around Atlanta, “the South’s wettest city.”

The city’s status as home to illegal whisky and “near beer” withstood efforts to introduce local options, then a statewide prohibition in 1907 that fell short of outlawing private use. By 1917, Georgia’s stricter controls against alcohol brought in from neighboring states and the abolishment of the possession of alcohol foreshadowed the 18th Amendment -- and quite naturally, goosed the illegal whiskey trade to new and sometimes violent heights.

The book covers the temperance movement and the inevitable countervailing efforts in fine, well researched and colorful detail.The movement produced “Tiger Kings,” as in big bootleggers, as well as Women’s Christian Temperance Union heroines like Mary Harris Armor. Anti-immigration and anti-black movements figured in the anti-saloon campaigns in Atlanta as well.

The temperance movement that empowered women eventually lost the battle but won the war when it came to women’s suffrage, the most significant social repercussion of the movement and certainly outside the scope of the book. Within its tale, however, is another historical trend that continues to this day.

Rural counties in Georgia continue to have no interest in anything that promotes the sale and consumption of alcohol – despite the taxes collected on it. This year, the rural vote and lobbyists who represented wholesale distributors combined at the statehouse to defeat once again advocates for the license to sell alcohol at breweries (instead of charging for brewery tours with free samples). Souvenir growler sales, won, however, which mirrors precisely the ebb and flow of the years between 1907 and 1939 during which some form of prohibition influenced the sale of alcohol beverages in Atlanta and the state of Georgia.

Alas, the consumption continued.

-- Jonathan Ingram