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The Brewer's Tale

A History of the World According to Beer

William Bostwick (Author)

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Winner of 2014 U.S. Gourmand Drinks Award • Taste 5,000 years of brewing history as a time-traveling homebrewer rediscovers and re-creates the great beers of the past.

The Brewer’s Tale is a beer-filled journey into the past: the story of brewers gone by and one brave writer’s quest to bring them—and their ancient, forgotten beers—back to life, one taste at a time. This is the story of the world according to beer, a toast to flavors born of necessity and place—in Belgian monasteries, rundown farmhouses, and the basement nanobrewery next door. So pull up a barstool and raise a glass to 5,000 years of fermented magic.

Fueled by date-and-honey gruel, sour pediococcus-laced lambics, and all manner of beers between, William Bostwick’s rollicking quest for the drink’s origins takes him into the redwood forests of Sonoma County, to bullet-riddled South Boston brewpubs, and across the Atlantic, from Mesopotamian sands to medieval monasteries to British brewing factories. Bostwick compares notes with the Mt. Vernon historian in charge of preserving George Washington’s molasses-based home brew, and he finds the ancestor of today’s macrobrewed lagers in a nineteenth-century spy’s hollowed-out walking stick.

Wrapped around this modern reportage are deeply informed tales of history’s archetypal brewers: Babylonian temple workers, Nordic shamans, patriots, rebels, and monks. The Brewer’s Tale unfurls from the ancient goddess Ninkasi, ruler of intoxication, to the cryptic beer hymns of the Rig Veda and down into the clove-scented treasure holds of India-bound sailing ships.

With each discovery comes Bostwick’s own turn at the brew pot, an exercise that honors the audacity and experimentation of the craft. A sticky English porter, a pricelessly rare Belgian, and a sacred, shamanic wormwood-tinged gruit each offer humble communion with the brewers of yore. From sickly sweet Nordic grogs to industrially fine-tuned fizzy lager, Bostwick’s journey into brewing history ultimately arrives at the head of the modern craft beer movement and gazes eagerly if a bit blurry-eyed toward the future of beer.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • October 2015
  • ISBN 978-0-393-35199-6
  • 5.5 × 8.3 in / 304 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverThe Brewer's Tale: A History of the World According to Beer

    Hardcover

Endorsements & Reviews

“Bostwick brings the requisite levels of geeky erudition and enthusiasm to that once most mundane of beverages, beer.” — Lisa Abend, New York Times Book Review

“An amiable writer and the very best sort of literary drinking buddy. Bostwick will explain why you like Cascade hops (it’s the “spritzy grapefruit blossom nose”) and why you should never pass up an opportunity to sample a beer made with Maris Otter barley. We can’t all go drinking with the beer critic for the Wall Street Journal, but reading The Brewer’s Tale is the next best thing.” — Amy Stewart, Washington Post

The Brewer’s Tale is a well-written and well-researched papyrus-based time-travel machine that takes readers through the history of mankind’s most impressive creation: BEER!” — Sam Calagione, founder and president, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

The Brewer’s Tale will teach you more about beer than you ever thought possible, but it is much more than that. Erudite, curious, and witty, Bostwick ranges effortlessly back and forth across the centuries, spinning an epic that stretches from the temples of Mesopotamia to the beer halls of St. Louis, from cattle cults to Dogfish cults, with countless fascinating detours, digressions, and illuminations in between. By the end, he’ll have you convinced that raising a bottle, can, or pint may be the most deeply human thing you have ever done.” — Brett Martin, author of Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution

“A cultural history that reads like the collaborative work of a garrulous raconteur, pith-helmeted anthropologist, experimental chef, white-coated scientist, and your favorite drunk uncle. Witty, carefully observed, and deeply reported, The Brewer’s Tale is as much about social rituals and the ordering of our worlds as it is about the pint or six we all like to down on occasion.” — Gideon Lewis-Kraus, author of A Sense of Direction

“A do-it-yourself journey across the storied life of beer.” — San Francisco Chronicle

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