Teaser Tuesdays: We Make Beer: Inside the Spirit and Artistry of America’s Craft Brewers by Sean Lewis

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.


I was all over this title, as you can imagine. (Husband would like to point out that “we” don’t make beer. He does. I am quality control.) Sure enough, it only took a few pages to find a few memorable and evocative lines to tease you with:

As the glass is set gently back on the table, the beer drinker’s tongue pokes out to get one more taste off the lips before they open to reveal a quick smile. The stresses of the day’s work are slowly washed away, with layers of lacing on the glass standing as tombstones memorializing each of the annoyances from the previous eight hours.

Anybody else ready to knock off for the day already?

This quotation comes from an uncorrected advance proof and is subject to change.

beer and books

Well. This is about as easy as it gets: 13 of the Best Literary Quotes About Beer were clearly compiled with me specifically in mind. From beer brewed by “noble twins… in their divine alevats, cunning as the sons of deathless Leda,” to “a great pot, filled with some very fragrant compound, which sent forth a grateful steam,” these lines will make you… thirsty.

I can’t quite decide about Ray Bradbury’s statement that “Beer’s intellectual. What a shame so many idiots drink it.” (Maybe I’m afraid he’s talking about me?) And I rather disagree, respectfully, with Haruki Murakami’s preferences as to temperature, although I concur with his feelings about the progression of temperature as one drinks.

Edgar Allen Poe’s lines are among my very favorite:

Fill with mingled cream and amber,
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chambers of my brain.
Quaintest thoughts — queerest fancies,
Come to life and fade away:
What care I how time advances?
I am drinking ale today.

I am a little saddened by Hemingway’s lines. On the one hand they are a fine example of what I love about his writing: Papa’s descriptions of food and drink are in fact some of the best things he does, and I can’t read those passages without watering mouth. But that this example comes from an ad cheapens it.

And as for the best final line… it had to be the Bard: “a quart of Ale is a dish for a king.” Indeed, sir.

Here’s a tip: ale will make a fine accompaniment to your reading pleasure, too.

great beer quotations in literature: Boule de Suif by Guy de Maupassant

Friends, I proudly come from a family of beer lovers, and have my eyes peeled not only for bicycle quotations in the books I read, but for those concerned with beer as well. I dipped into my very first de Maupassant the other day, and he satisfied.

He had his own fashion of uncorking the bottle and making the beer foam, gazing at it as he inclined his glass and then raised it to a position between the lamp and his eye that he might judge of its color. When he drank, his great beard, which matched the color of his favorite beverage, seemed to tremble with affection; his eyes positively squinted in the endeavor not to lose sight of the beloved glass, and he looked for all the world as if he were fulfilling the only function for which he was born. He seemed to have established in his mind an affinity between the two great passions of his life–pale ale and revolution–and assuredly he could not taste the one without dreaming of the other.

This evocation of trembling beer appreciation captivated me entirely. I am easily charmed.

It’s a great short story, too. Review to come.

Houston Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Bayou City by Ronnie Crocker

If you know anything about me, you should realize that Houston + beer = I will read your book. I am so enthused about my hometown, and about beer, and about my hometown beer (that is experiencing a huge boom as we speak – more on that to come, obviously), that all you would have to do to gain my undivided attention is write a book about Houston + beer. Even poorly written and sloppy. Luckily, I can say that this book goes a step further and does it properly.

Ronnie Crocker writes for the Houston Chronicle, and blogs for same under the name Beer, TX. His book is slim – under 150 pages – but not lightweight; he did his research, and uncovers new details about the history of beer in Houston. This is a surprisingly undersung (and under-researched) topic, apparently.

Beginning with the beginnings of the city (see my earlier teaser), Crocker studies us as a drinking city, and those who have served our thirst. Like many cities in this country, we had something of a boom going before Prohibition, and struggled to make a comeback after that failed experiment. We were a Bud town for a while, and Anheuser-Busch (in its new InBev-conglomerate form) still brews in Houston today, to the tune of …so many millions of barrels that it boggles the mind, and I can’t hold numbers that big in my head. [For more on the AB-InBev merger, check out my review of the excellent Dethroning the King.] Fast forward still more, and we’re seeing a veritable, and delightful, renaissance: the long-standing Saint Arnold Brewing Company (hey, seriously, 18 years is a long time in this business in these parts) joined by a promising handful of new brewers. My favorite is Karbach, of course, but I give a head-nod to Southern Star, No Label, and Buffalo Bayou, too. And I’m still anxiously awaiting the announcement that Yard Sale is in business!

Crocker’s book is admittedly reluctant to criticize; it leans towards the positive, even approaching boosterism. And it ends strangely, with an exhortation to support (i.e. buy from) your locals. But I’m with him! I, too, am excited about Houston beer. So, perhaps Houston Beer isn’t impartial journalism – but it’s an invaluable, unique history. I found it enjoyable, just what I wanted and no, never poorly written or relying on my devotion to the subject to keep me engaged. And it was great fun to see a number of people I know pictured, as a bonus!

Rating: 5 pints.

Teaser Tuesdays: Houston Beer by Ronnie Crocker

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just open your current read to a random page and share a few sentences. Be careful not to include spoilers!

What? A book about beer in Houston? I’m sold. Here’s a teaser for you that provides a quick sketch of my hometown:

By 1838, a deputy constable could count forty-seven establishments selling alcoholic drinks in a city of probably fewer than two thousand residents; the first church wasn’t built until two years later. Despite the city’s first Abstinence Society meetings in February 1839 and what has been described as a “wave of temperance” activity three years later, Houstonians never lost their thirst for strong drink.

Yep, that’s us. I’m excited about the subject of this one.

quick miscellany


I discovered a tumblr the other day that I fell in love with. Check it out: Awesome People Reading. My favorites include Sid Vicious, Kurt Cobain, and Steve McQueen just for their incongruity; and of course I take all the Hemingway I can get (there are several of him).

Fun news item:

I just want to say I’m excited about the intersection of two things I love: the best of beer, and the best of books. The Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award has just been awarded to Lee Child’s 61 Hours. I love this beer and I love this book (and author). Great fun. Perhaps I should begin taking more book advice from beer companies! I didn’t know Theakstons Old Peculier gave a book award. Quick quiz item: which mystery series features a likeable detective’s sidekick who drinks Old Peculier?

Dethroning the King: the hostile takeover of Anheuser-Busch, an American icon, by Julie Macintosh

Wow. Where to begin? I found this book riveting, cover to cover. I took my time, and I took breaks, and I read other books – all this is true. But my interest in this one never waned. I have been raving a bit manically to anyone who will listen ever since I finished it last Friday night. I’ve taken my time writing about it here because I was trying to be less hysterical in my praise.

I’ll give you a quick synopsis if the subject area is unfamiliar to you:

Anheuser-Busch was the last U.S.-owned big beer company in 2008, and was also still family-controlled, by the Busches. (Coors was already part of Canadian-owned Molson-Coors, and Miller was part of South-African-owned SAB-Miller.) A few Brazilian bankers had started, years earlier, by buying out Brazilian Brahma beer, but they quickly grew into a large brewing concern known as AmBev who then joined with Belgian brewers Interbrew to become InBev, which ended up Belgian-based, but mostly Brazilian-controlled. In 2008, AB was suffering, and InBev made their play by offering an impressive bid. AB made a rather half-hearted effort to defend itself by merging with Mexican brewing powerhouse Modelo, but ended up selling to InBev to create Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI).

Macintosh is the journalist who covered the takeover of Anheuser-Busch by InBev, for the Financial Times. She had me right from the start, when she described (in the Author’s Note) her experience as a woman – and a visibly pregnant one, at that – in the doubly male-dominated worlds of finance and beer. This resonated with me, as I’ve worked in beer and in bicycles in the past and am also familiar with the concept of male-dominated industries. This personal relationship to her work foreshadowed to me that she was going to handle her subject from a human perspective, and she did. I like my nonfiction full of narrative and personalities – human characters. This was a fascinating treatment of a story I was already prepared to be interested in. My ties to beer, and the beer industry, originally drew me to this book. But I stayed for the human element.

This story is full of characters. (Forgive me for broadly generalizing, but people in Big Beer and finance are wealthy, and wealthy people tend to be eccentric, yes?) Macintosh kindly includes a “Cast of Characters” (and I also referred to the index to flip back to the earliest mention of a character here and there) to help us keep them straight; but really I had minimal trouble. They’re all so quirky and real (notice I didn’t necessarily say likeable! but interesting, yes). Like I said, the beer got me in the door; but the people and the plot twists kept me in my seat.

The world of finance is thoroughly new and mysterious to me. (I have been harassing my finance-friends to help me understand certain concepts. They have been mostly helpful; or, unavailable. Probably on purpose. That’s you Will.) But it speaks to my engagement in this book, that I am now hyper-motivated to learn all about mergers & acquisitions (independent v. dependent board members… fiduciary duty… private equity firms…) JUST so I can better follow the action in this plot. For me to have found a book of finance this unputdownable seems rather a feat. I can’t recommend it enough.

The more I try and explain my appreciation, the more I think this story wears several hats. It’s actually suspenseful and full of intrigue, like a lot of the novels I enjoy – like a murder/mystery/international intrigue. It also has certain elements of classic tragedy – ambition and hubris being (among) the tragic flaws of the Busch players. And the fate of Anheuser, in mid- and late-2008, is also an allegory for what the United States went through simultaneously. Our national hubris and feeling of this-can’t-happen-to-us led to a shocking (to varying degrees I suppose) downfall. Of course I’m just paraphrasing Macintosh in this; she says on page 22,

Anheuser’s hubris and naivete had led to its fall from grace, and it provided an apt comparison to the broader state of American at the time.

Or again, page 341, in the words of an (unnamed) advisor to AB,

The way this played out was Shakespearean in nature. I haven’t decided which play. The dynamic between father and son was just Shakespearean and tragic.

(The father and son referred to here are August Busch III and IV.)

My notes at the end of reading this book say, “I <3 gray areas." It's always easy to love and hate characters in books when they're all good or all bad; but isn't it more satisfying to feel conflict? Aren’t they more human and thereby more evocative of complex emotions, when they have redeeming characteristics, or confuse us a little bit? These are, of course, real humans; but it’s Macintosh’s journalistic thoroughness that rounds them out. I didn’t find it easy, in the end, to see any of these characters in black and white. Instead, the complexities and gray areas make it echo for me.

If you’re interested in big business, or finance, or the beer industry, or the consolidation of the world market into very few giant conglomerates, or U.S. businesses’ place in an international world, or if you enjoy readable nonfiction… I really can’t overestimate my recommendation of this book.

Teaser Tuesdays: Dethroning the King

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

You got the book beginning(s) on Friday; today you get a teaser from the middle. I did a fair amount of reading this weekend and am halfway through. I promise this one won’t take me weeks like Mr. Playboy did! I hope to be done by the weekend, because The Paris Wife is here teasing me, along with so many other good ones stacked all around…

“Randomly” selected from page 191, where I am reading today:

When she inherited her father’s Modelo ownership, Maria had been unemployed and raising two children, and had almost no business experience. She decided to throw herself into the family business rather than letting others control her fate, and from an office the size of a broom closet, she made two of Modelo’s bankrupt yeast companies profitable within a year of taking them over.

I liked this quotation because it highlights two things: one, author Macintosh’s attractive ability to treat the players in this nonfiction tale as interesting, engaging characters, painting them as complete people who we learn to care about (one way or the other); and two, the rare female character in this extraordinarily (but not surprisingly) male-dominated story.

I raved about this book last Friday upon beginning it, and I’m no less enthusiastic today. This is a story that fascinates me, both personally because of my relationship with beer and the beer industry, and as an important story in our national history. Macintosh writes in an accessible, narrative style that draws me in and just sneaks all the learning about economics, business, and politics right past without me noticing. I can’t over-recommend this book, really.

book beginnings on Friday: Dethroning the King

Thanks to Katy at A Few More Pages for hosting this meme. To participate: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments. Include the title and the author so we know what you’re reading. Then, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line, and let us know if you liked or did not like the sentence. (You might also consider visiting the original post where you can link to your own book beginning.)

I am so very excited about the book I’ve just started! Dethroning the King is my favorite kind of nonfiction: narrative nonfiction, written by an author (in this case, a journalist) who gets personally involved in her story and becomes a real voice in it. I’m only 30-ish pages in, but I’m really enjoying the style in which Macintosh tells the story, as well as the story itself.

You get three beginnings today, oh joy! First, from the Author’s Note:

The summer of 2008 is one many people wish they could forget. In the immediate aftermath of the collapse of Bear Stearns in March, the global financial markets briefly looked as though they might stabilize.

And from the Prologue:

Some men golf when they’re looking to unwind. Others take their sports cars out for a drive or toss a few steaks on the grill. August A. Busch III liked to shoot things – ducks in the fall and quail in the winter.

And from Chapter 1:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008, was forecast to be hot and sticky in St. Louis, with afternoon temperatures rising well above 80 degrees. None of the Anheuser-Busch executives who pulled into the parking lot of the soccer park in Fenton that morning expected to see much sunlight for the next 48 hours, however.

Now, if you think three book beginnings is overkill, please bear with me. I think all three beginnings illustrate my point: that Macintosh writes in an accessible, narrative style. Don’t all three sort of grab you and make you wonder what comes next? As opposed to a nonfiction book that starts off, “X was born on Monday, November 3, 1942. His parents were X and X.”

I’m very excited about reading this book because I am especially interested in the beer industry, used to work in it, and have a friend who worked for A-B for years and has (at least a little bit) an insider’s view. I think this story is fascinating. While I don’t actually like the product A-B makes, I have respect for the business and, more so, find the lifespan of it relevant and interesting. Macintosh makes a fair case that the fate of A-B is a metaphor for our country’s economic and political well-being in a changing world, and that both entities fell victim to hubris in a class Greek tragic sense.

What are you reading today? I have my eye on Heather Gudenkauf’s These Things Hidden next, but I also have to admit that the moment Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife shows up, I’m all over it! Happy Friday!

trip recap

I’ll try and keep this as brief as possible. I had a blast! I just want to give a few highlights and let you know where we diverged from the “potential vacation” posts you saw. (Not much.)

Friday night we were in Austin with Bart & Emily, who have hosted us for similar outrageous fun in the past. They’re great hosts! By the time we got into town they had a great dinner all ready for us… I think there was barbecued chicken, leftover brisket, dirty rice, and cornbread with Lil Smokey sausages in it. (Don’t ask.) Bart homebrews, so we had some awesome beer to drink on draft off the back porch, too. There was a caramel pecan porter that was like a dessert, and also a lighter one, I guess it was a wit? We went out late to see two bands play: Smoke and Feathers, followed by the Mother Hips, at the Hole in the Wall. Smoke and Feathers reminded me of a male-vocal Portishead, which was creepy but cool. They ALL had pretty impressive beards, too. There was a theramin! It was great. Mother Hips apparently have a Grateful Dead connection, and the lead guy kind of looked like my Pops. That was cool, too. Then we went back to the house and watched part of a Led Zepplin documentary. Great night.

Saturday we ate some Mexican food and hit the road. The Eola School was really cool! Just this one guy runs four businesses at once. He brews beer (was pouring a German blonde and a smoked porter – I don’t like smoke on my beer so we stuck with the blonde which was fine); he cooks burgers & fried foods; he offers hostel-style lodging (bunk beds, BYO bedding); and he’s renovating a historic schoolhouse building from the 1930’s, if I remember correctly. I give him full credit on all counts! It was well worth our detour.

Sunday we headed out into nowhere to visit the Chinati Hot Springs. It was a beautiful location several hours down a dirt road, with several clean, built-out tubs fed by natural hot springs, and rustic cabins with a community kitchen where we made our dinner and breakfast.

on the drive into Chinati

Feeling refreshed, we got up Monday morning and drove through Ruidoso and Presidio, through Big Bend Ranch State Park, into the towns of Lajitas, Terlingua, and Study Butte (one largish area) for the rest of our week’s activities.

Tuesday we hiked Lost Mines. It was a really great, scenic, steep hike of about 3 hours, out and back, to a peak with an outstanding panorama. It was moderately challenging and beautiful and well worth it. The Husband’s new gadget gave us altitude readings (not something we use in Houston! our local bike rides have elevation changes of 15-20 feet if we take the freeway overpasses) that explained why I was a touch out of breath.

Wednesday we rode some of the Lajitas trail system, which is a lot of the race course that we’re familiar with. That was nice to see; it was a casual ride (before people started showing up for the mountain bike festival), just the two of us, on familiar trails.

A few of our friends showed up Wednesday night, and the rest on Thursday. Thursday morning we got up early to do some logistics: we caravaned with some friends to leave a car at one end of our point-to-point ride in Big Bend National Park. We rode from the north end of an old jeep road down to a (different) hot springs right on the Rio Grande. This was our hottest day, in the upper 90’s, in the blazing sun with no shelter, and it was a rough and climby ride, and I ran out of water, so it was a doozy! But we had outstanding views, good company, and burning legs – it was a great day. And Tobin makes a mean margarita. The hot springs were less appealing than we had expected after such a long, hot day, but it turned out lovely all the same – these hot springs backed right up to the cold Rio Grande, so you could just hop the little wall (like a swimming pool and hot tub, but muddier) to change from hot to cold. It was a nice, relaxing day.

Friday we rode some more Lajitas trails, this time in a group, and then went back into the national park for a night hike to a waterfall. I banged my head on a rock :( but I survived and it was otherwise a beautiful evening with breathtaking sunset, as always out there.

omg sunset! Big Bend National Park

We went back to the cabin for a big community dinner involving burgers, chicken, sausages, bratwurst, mac’n’cheese, and beer. Ahem! Heavy. This was in preparation for Saturday’s epic.

We decidedly not to do the capital-E Epic ride on Saturday. We had been beaten by such hot temperatures, and were hearing such frightening tales of what the Epic involved, that we bailed in favor of what I’m calling the mini-epic. It was still a great, long, hot, challenging, FUN ride at just under 6 hours – the Epic would have put us well over 8 hours, I think. What a day! I was definitely weak out there at some points (like on the climbs! did I say we don’t have those in Houston?), but I really enjoyed the creekbeds, strangely enough, and actually had a real burst of energy at the end, and rode the last couple miles fast, hard, and happy. THIS is what we drive to the desert for.

Saturday night ended with all the necessary ingredients. We drank Real Ale Fireman #4 (thank you Real Ale for sponsoring the festival!), hung out with all our friends, saw some live music, danced, and hula hooped. The Husband grilled some delicious chicken and we collapsed in exhaustion.

Sunday, sadly, saw us making the Epic (capital-E), slightly hungover drive back into Houston. I think we made it just under 12 hours including stops. Sigh. For once I was not ready for our trip to end, even missing the little dogs. But! There’s always next year. See you in the desert!

(all photo credits to the Husband. good job Husband!)


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