Author: Horst D. Dornbusch
This book is a wonderful primer on the rich history of German beer and brewing. Dornbusch takes us on an adventure spanning 3000 years, from the brewers of the fertile crescent all the way to modern German brew masters. It is a great book for anyone who loves both interesting history and well crafted beer. History truly comes alive as you flip through the pages of this outstanding history book.
In the beginning, Dornbusch describes the origins of brewing, starting with the first accidental batch of homebrew. He then explains the progression of brewing in the ancient world, explaining the socioeconomic impact that beer has had throughout time. We learn how inseparably tied the bakery and the brewery were and what a huge impact beer played in the lives of every day people. He then marches forward, discussing the role of the church and the state as they battled for supremacy over what could reasonably be described as the most important beverage of their existence. The book weaves through time, highlighting various landmarks in German brewing history.
Towards the end of the book, Dornbusch tells us about the evolution of modern German beer styles. We learn about the rivalry between the Cologne Kölsch and the Dortmunder Alt beer, along with many other fun and unique facts about the beers we know and love today. It gives the drinker a whole new perspective when they discover the history inside of their beer stein. Some of the beers covered include: Hefeweisse, Dunkel, Alt, Kölsch, Pilsner, Helles, and many others.
As a huge beer nerd and a general lover of history, I could not put this book down. Not only is the information interesting, but the writing style is very entertaining with a definite element of the author’s pleasant personality coming through in every page. The only flaw to this book is the flow of information, which seems to skip around through various points in time. To the author’s credit, he does an excellent job making a cohesive tale out of a chaotic history. Overall it is an excellent read and I would recommend it to anyone who loves brewing history.
Brewing Up a Business
Author: Sam Calagione
This is a very unique book, combining beer, business, and biography. Sam takes us through his life, highlighting important milestones on his journey; demonstrating how his experiences led to the creation of the Dogfish Head empire. The book begins with Sam as a wayward high school student, where we see his rebellious spirit starting to form. The reader then travels with Sam during his budding career as a brewer; from his first beer, a cherry pale ale, through the founding of his brew pub, and all the way up to today’s Dogfish Head production factory.
First and foremost this is a business book, spotlighting the various marketing techniques and business practices Sam used to grow his business. That being said, the book looks at business through beer tinted goggles, giving it a much more approachable format. It also has a very personal touch, and one can see how much Dogfish Head has intertwined with Sam’s own life. Although some of the opinions presented in this book may seem idealistic, the heartfelt intentions of the writer come through.
I enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it. I’ve only met Sam once, very briefly, but his energy and caring spirit can be felt as soon as you meet him. I found that this book gave me the same vibe as meeting the man in person. At times this book can become a bit too business focused for the average drinker, but overall it makes an informative and interesting read.
Beyond the Pale: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Author: Ken Grossman
This book takes the reader along the road to the founding of Sierra Nevada Brewery. It follows the tale of Ken Grossman, founder of the Sierra Nevada Brewery. Starting from humble origins as a home brewer, he eventually became a home-brew shop owner, and finally became a professional brewer. Ken’s journey took him on a winding path, showing us that a great brewer can come from any background.
The book also goes into the birth of the craft beer industry. Sierra Nevada was one of the founding breweries that sparked the craft beer movement. We are also given Ken’s memories of other notable breweries including Anchor and the now closed New Albion Brewery. The book does an excellent job showing the struggle these pioneer brewers went through to build up beer in this country.
I enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys Sierra Nevada and appreciates a bit of history. The book really shines in its overview of the founding of craft beer in this country through the eyes of Ken and his brewery. One definite downside to this book is that it starts to lose focus towards the end. It goes from a cohesive story to Ken discussing various aspects of his brewery and business practices in general. Unfortunately this takes away from the overall appeal of this book.
The Brewer’s Tale: A History of the World According to Beer
Author: William Bostwick
This is an extraordinary book written from a totally unique perspective. The author takes the reader through a fantastic journey both through time and space, bringing us closer to the beer that we love. The book is divided into different sections, each one a time capsule, profiling both a beer style and a historical period. Not only does the author take us on an adventure, he also becomes entangled in his own tale by brewing a batch of the beer he discusses. Sometimes his experiments work, but more often than not his disasters typify how far modern brewing has taken us.
The book goes through 8 different time periods, showing us history from the perspective of cultures as diverse as ancient Egypt to 18th century London. We get a fantastic history lesson on how the beer style was created, and the culture around the time it was brewed. The author interviews modern brewers who embody the principles of these various historical brewers.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book from the first page to the last. As a lover of good beer, its always interesting to learn the history of the beers I love to drink. Additionally, as a brewer its fun to learn about brewing from the people who came before me, and current masters in the field. I recommend this book to anyone who loves to both drink and brew beer.