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Book Review: Red, White and Brew

Submitted by on July 28, 2009 – 7:23 AMNo Comment
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redwhitebrewBOOKRed, White, and Brew follows author Brian Yaeger’s journey to various breweries across the United States.  Starting off at the D.G. Yuengling Brewery in Pottsville, PA, Yaeger’s travels wrap around the United States, and end at Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton & Rehoboth Beach, DE.  Visiting with the brewers themselves, Yaeger creates a very personal account of his brewery visits.  Opening each chapter with a history of a brewery presents the reader with a fascinating glimpse into the various breweries.  While it doesn’t concern us now, Prohibition was a hot topic in the history of many breweries, and Yaeger focused well on how the breweries dealt with it.

The variety of breweries Yaeger visited is quite interesting.  From generations of family owned breweries to recently purchased, he covers them all.  Some of the breweries, such as Yuengling, Sierra Nevada, and Dogfish Head are familiar names to beer drinkers.  Others, particularly the breweries Yaeger covered in the south, were completely unheard of due to their lack of distribution.  The meetings with the brewers remained the same throughout his trip, however, the same questions were asked, and the visits were very routine.  The first few brewers interviewed were all divorced due to the strain the brewery put on their marriages, but that spell was soon broken once Yaeger headed further west.

The brewers are a cast of interesting characters, ranging from a scientist with an immense interest in the properties of yeast to Electric Dave, a compulsive liar from Bisbee, AZ whose beer has yet to take off because he and his assistant are too lazy to distribute their product.  Many of the brewers have kept the brewery in their family for generations.  The familial aspect of the breweries generates the warmth in this dry road trip, sparking a desire within the reader to follow the map in the front of the book and visit the various breweries.

Though the book is apt to whet your appetite for beer, it is a confusing jungle of words.  While Yaeger did attempt to separate the breweries into their own chapters, at times he would combine multiple trips into one chapter without any rhyme or reason.  He also felt the need to outline his entire trip, including meals he ate, the irrelevant people he stayed with throughout his trip, and a variety of things he encountered, including a one-balled dog he met.  While those would be appropriate in a personal journal, in a book focusing entirely on breweries it was unnecessary.  The book would be better written by a beer expert, rather than a 30-year-old who is still mourning his lost college years.

About the Author (taken from the back cover of the book):

Brian Yaeger earned a master’s in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California with a thesis on beer.  He holds a double bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies and Russian from the University of California at Santa Barbara, a college renowned for its beer consumption.  He lives in San Francisco, California.  Visit his Web site at www.beerodyssey.com.