REDHOOK by Peter Krebs


Beer Pioneer
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A diverting history of the makers of Redhook—merry pranksters of the brewing business—mildly tainted by Seattleite Krebs’s idolatrous tone. From a tumbledown converted transmission shop in Ballard, Wash., came Redhook Ale, an offbeat craft beer that was to the brewing business what Starbucks was to coffee: a blast of fresh air, loaded with character and flavor. And little wonder, as both were the brainchild of Gordon Bowker—in Redhook’s case, along with Paul Shipman and the whole brew house cast. Redhook cultivated an eccentric image as the maker of an eccentric product, an ale that reviewers at first described as tasting “like bananas.” The wild northwest yeast gave it distinction, claimed Redhook’s makers; it was the Belgian style they were really after, they claimed. Actually, the yeast was contaminated, but by then they had a following, so why announce their continuous tinkering? Still, tinker they did, finally getting the yeast right with a chemist’s help, and also going public, the first microbrewer to do so, with a stock offering that shot skyward. The microbrew market has since bottomed out, and Redhook’s bohemian image has been tarnished by expansion that robbed it of its handcrafted cachet. Krebs complements the Redhook story with lots of entertaining craft brew tidbits (what puts the steam in Anchor, when is a bottom-fermenting beer an ale), but he also creates a godlike aura around both Bowker and Shipman, as if no one else ever had a good idea when it came to fashioning authentic local products that educated the American palate. The early years make the story here—a time when food and drink were in as much ferment as Redhook’s bitter—and Krebs does tell the story with flair. (20 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-56858-106-8
Page count: 208pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1998


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