The often dry topic of world history becomes a jovial and well-lubricated trek through time and place in this narrative detailing the origins of beer.
When not tending his bees, at home brewing beer or occasionally working as a bartender, Bostwick (co-author: Beer Craft: A Simple Guide to Making Great Beer, 2011) writes about his favorite subject for such publications as the Wall Street Journal and GQ. Seeking to do more than just describe the sensory experience of a hoppy IPA, an acidic lambic or a smooth golden pilsner, the author constructs his account around the human story of beer: the brewers. Bostwick’s storytelling style resembles that of a favorite college professor whose delivery is erudite but fun and easy to digest. The author travels through time relating the stories of servants in Babylonia, medieval monks, Nordic shamans, early American settlers, German immigrants in America’s heartland, contemporary microbrewers and bottom-line corporate advertisers, weaving a lively rendition of the evolving creation story of beer. Bostwick combines historical research with on-the-ground reporting of the current state of affairs in brewing, which means trips to a farmhouse in Newport, Oregon, a brewery outside Portland, Maine, and Boston for a visit with the CEO of the biggest craft brewery in America. Wanting to “taste the richness of history,” the author recounts how hops, corn, molasses, pumpkins, maple sap, spices and yeast create different tastes in the finished product. Bostwick also recounts his attempts at several home brews of past favorites, including a bread beer whose recipe he found in a 3,800-year-old poem dedicated to the goddess of beer and a Thanksgiving tribute to George Washington’s home brew.
Bostwick’s beercentric account of the world will delight beer lovers, food historians and home brewers.