Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer

January 20, 2015 - Comment

In the first-ever history of American beer, Maureen Ogle tells its epic story, from the immigrants who invented it to the upstart microbrewers who revived it.   Beer might seem as American as baseball, but that has not always been true: Rum and whiskey were the drinks of choice in the 1840s, with only a

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In the first-ever history of American beer, Maureen Ogle tells its epic story, from the immigrants who invented it to the upstart microbrewers who revived it.   Beer might seem as American as baseball, but that has not always been true: Rum and whiskey were the drinks of choice in the 1840s, with only a few breweries making heavy, yeasty English ale. When a wave of German immigrants arrived in the middle of the nineteenth century, they promptly set about re-creating the pleasures of the biergartens they had left behind.

 Just fifty years later, the American-style lager beer they invented was the nation’s most popular beverage—and brewing was the nation’s fifth-largest industry, ruled over by fabulously wealthy titans Frederick Pabst and Adolphus Busch. But when anti-German sentiments aroused by World War I fed the flames of the temperance movement (one activist even declared that “the worst of all our German enemies are Pabst, Schlitz, Blatz, and Miller”), Prohibition was the result. In the wake of its repeal, brewers replaced flavor with innovations like marketing and lite beer, setting the stage for a generation of microbrewers whose ambitions reshaped the drink.

 Grab a glass and settle in for the surprising story behind your favorite pint.

Comments

Brett A. Saffell says:

A story for beer aficionado’s, history buffs, or brewing insiders Once I had penetrated the first three chapters of this book, I found it a fascinating and quick read. However, those first three chapters took about two weeks, despite a persistent interest in beer and brewing. I covered the remaining five chapters in two days.The first several chapters (and 40 or so years of chronology) cover the beginnings of American brewing by explaining the origins of the Best brewery (which would become Pabst), the Uihlein’s (Schlitz), and Adolphus Busch. These chapters passed slowly, and didn’t entertain the way that popular history can (like Winchester’s A Crack in the Edge of the World or Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, Stephen Ambrose, etc).However, I was extremely engaged by everything that followed. I thought the explanation of the causes and context of Prohibition was excellent. The narrative of changes in brewing in post-World War II America (consolidation, the dawn of modern marketing) was also very…

Puck Mendelssohn says:

Interesting survey of American lager-brewing history This is a great book if you’re looking to learn something about the history of American lager brewing, and in particular about the giants (and now-deceased giants) of the industry. It covers quite a bit of ground I have never seen covered in any other book on the subject.The author does have some biases which I think do color the book a bit. She has a contrarian tilt which seems to lead her to the view that big “industrial beer” from the giant lager-brewers is a better product than it really is. She does not seem to be as familiar as might be hoped with brewing itself, and consequently does not appreciate the extent to which the American brewing industry compromised product quality by relying on highly tannic, six-row malts and the notoriously bad-smelling Cluster hop, for example. And her interest in American brewing does not extend to ale (apart from the ales of the microbrew era); she seems to accept all too readily the notion that American ale-brewing in the…

Gatch says:

A fantastic read and resource for anyone interested in history, beer, America, or a combination of the three. 0

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