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The United States of Beer: A Freewheeling History of the All-American Drink

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From the author of Bourbon, “the definitive history” (Sacramento Bee), comes the rollicking and revealing story of beer in America, in the spirit of Salt or Cod. In The United States of Beer, Dane Huckelbridge, the author of Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit—a Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance bestseller—charts the surprisingly fascinating history of America From the author of Bourbon, “the definitive history” (Sacramento Bee), comes the rollicking and revealing story of beer in America, in the spirit of Salt or Cod. In The United States of Beer, Dane Huckelbridge, the author of Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit—a Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance bestseller—charts the surprisingly fascinating history of Americans’ relationship with their most popular alcoholic beverage. Huckelbridge shows how beer has evolved along with the country—from a local and regional product (once upon a time every American city has its own brewery and iconic beer brand) to the rise of global mega-brands like Budweiser and Miller that are synonymous with U.S. capitalism. We learn of George Washington’s failed attempt to brew beer at Mount Vernon with molasses instead of barley, of the 19th century “Beer Barons” like Captain Frederick Pabst, Adolphus Busch, and Joseph Schlitz who revolutionized commercial brewing and built lucrative empires—and the American immigrant experience—and of the advances in brewing and bottling technology that allowed beer to flow in the saloons of the Wild West. Throughout, Huckelbridge draws connections between seemingly remote fragments of the American past, and shares his reports from the frontlines of today’s craft-brewing revolution.


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From the author of Bourbon, “the definitive history” (Sacramento Bee), comes the rollicking and revealing story of beer in America, in the spirit of Salt or Cod. In The United States of Beer, Dane Huckelbridge, the author of Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit—a Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance bestseller—charts the surprisingly fascinating history of America From the author of Bourbon, “the definitive history” (Sacramento Bee), comes the rollicking and revealing story of beer in America, in the spirit of Salt or Cod. In The United States of Beer, Dane Huckelbridge, the author of Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit—a Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance bestseller—charts the surprisingly fascinating history of Americans’ relationship with their most popular alcoholic beverage. Huckelbridge shows how beer has evolved along with the country—from a local and regional product (once upon a time every American city has its own brewery and iconic beer brand) to the rise of global mega-brands like Budweiser and Miller that are synonymous with U.S. capitalism. We learn of George Washington’s failed attempt to brew beer at Mount Vernon with molasses instead of barley, of the 19th century “Beer Barons” like Captain Frederick Pabst, Adolphus Busch, and Joseph Schlitz who revolutionized commercial brewing and built lucrative empires—and the American immigrant experience—and of the advances in brewing and bottling technology that allowed beer to flow in the saloons of the Wild West. Throughout, Huckelbridge draws connections between seemingly remote fragments of the American past, and shares his reports from the frontlines of today’s craft-brewing revolution.

30 review for The United States of Beer: A Freewheeling History of the All-American Drink

  1. 5 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    This is an enjoyable book. It is sprightly, well written, and the author does not take the subject too seriously. The book is organized around different regions of the country and their predilections and contributions to the evolution of beer. Among regions considered: New England, New York and the Mod-Atlantic, the South, the Midwest, the West, and--finally--the West Coast. Along the way, we get a history of beer, from early origins thousands of years ago. It is fascinating to see the different This is an enjoyable book. It is sprightly, well written, and the author does not take the subject too seriously. The book is organized around different regions of the country and their predilections and contributions to the evolution of beer. Among regions considered: New England, New York and the Mod-Atlantic, the South, the Midwest, the West, and--finally--the West Coast. Along the way, we get a history of beer, from early origins thousands of years ago. It is fascinating to see the different substances that were used to make beer. Some things that stand out: The story of Boston Beer Company (producer of Sam Adams as a counterweight to the macrobreweries with their bland product; the story of Anchor Steam in San Francisco and why normal cooling techniques were not used; the Midwest and the dominance of German brewers and their companies--Miller, Busch, Pabst, and Schlitz. And why their beers were so generic--even more so after the end of Prohibition; the decline in competition among breweries in the 20th century--and the increase in competition with microbreweries and more interesting and tasty beers. Anyhow, an easy and enjoyable read. . . .

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    This was a light, short and fun book that, I think, just scrapes the surface of most of the events described. For a book that seems like it was pitched as an excuse for the author to drive around the country drinking different beers, this book is actually fairly well-researched, but it does not seem to rise all the way to the level of a serious work of scholarship. This seems like a great book to read on a vacation or right when you start getting into homebrew. I'd be very interested to see a muc This was a light, short and fun book that, I think, just scrapes the surface of most of the events described. For a book that seems like it was pitched as an excuse for the author to drive around the country drinking different beers, this book is actually fairly well-researched, but it does not seem to rise all the way to the level of a serious work of scholarship. This seems like a great book to read on a vacation or right when you start getting into homebrew. I'd be very interested to see a much more in-depth version of this book, though, as almost every chapter left me wanting more information. The one major disappointment in this book is that it stops just short of the explosion of microbrewing and especially homebrewing that has taken place in the past 30-40 years, after changes in the law that made it legal to brew beer locally and deregulated a lot of beer brewing. It seems like a perfect final chapter for the next edition. 3.5 of 5 stars

  3. 4 out of 5

    Larry

    I tend to drink what I’m reading. If characters in a book are whiskey drinkers, out comes the Jameson’s. In this book our writer takes us on a marvelously enjoyable, well researched, and thirst-inducing geographic tour of beer in the USA. Should anyone need me, I’ll be working my way through the half finished 6 or 12 packs of assorted styles of American brews from basically all over.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    What a pleasant surprise this book turned out to be. I stumbled across this title on BookBub and it cost me a whole $1.99 of my husband’s money. You see, my husband, and his father, are both avid beer enthusiasts. Me, not so much. While they can taste supple notes of caramel and my husband can recall which hops were used, I am limited to stating, “Yep. That’s beer alright.” It’s not that I dislike beer, I just don’t have the true appreciation for it like them. Enter “United States of Beer” I was h What a pleasant surprise this book turned out to be. I stumbled across this title on BookBub and it cost me a whole $1.99 of my husband’s money. You see, my husband, and his father, are both avid beer enthusiasts. Me, not so much. While they can taste supple notes of caramel and my husband can recall which hops were used, I am limited to stating, “Yep. That’s beer alright.” It’s not that I dislike beer, I just don’t have the true appreciation for it like them. Enter “United States of Beer” I was hooked within the first few digital pages and pleasantly surprised at all of the wonderful history. Never did I think I would learn so much about the birth of America in a book about beer. To be honest, saying this book is just about the history of beer is doing it a disservice. The author goes on to discuss women’s roles in beer brewing, how religion played a part in recipes, and the change in the language used to describe the drink. At times, it was a bit difficult to follow because you’d start out in the 1840s and then jump back to the 1700s and then push forward to the 1900s, which is where the 1 Star was subtracted. But it helped to picture the time line jumps in the Wayne’s World fashion. You know, the doodlee doo doodlee doo thing they did at the end of the first movie. Other than that, this book offers a great overview of pinnacle moments in history and the slow starts of some of today’s big breweries. Along the way, I discovered events in history that I want to read further into such as the prohibition era and the great earthquake of 1906 in San Fransisco. 10/10 would recommend for beer and history buffs alike.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ron S

    A light, frothy and fairly satisfying look at the history of beer in America. Don't expect a definitive encyclopedia, or much coverage of the craft beer explosion of the last decade though. Author Dane Hucklebridge is also the author of Bourbon: the Definitive History. A light, frothy and fairly satisfying look at the history of beer in America. Don't expect a definitive encyclopedia, or much coverage of the craft beer explosion of the last decade though. Author Dane Hucklebridge is also the author of Bourbon: the Definitive History.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mo Coghlan

    This books gives a fantastic overview of the history of Beer in America and the economic and political causes of its evolution. This book has the most clear, evidenced explanation for the growth of American Lagers that I have ever read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jon Tyler

    A really great read about the rollicking history of beer in (and out of) the United States. Any beer lover or history buff would enjoy.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Gentzler

    Fun read. It centers around the peoples who brought their version of beer to the US (the Germans, Dutch, and English) and traces the beer we drink today back to the styles made in Europe.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Felisa Rosa

    The title is self-explanatory. I enjoyed that this is a book for beer-lovers and history buffs more than it's a book for beer snobs. Huckelbridge has a knack for picking out interesting facts, stories, and details, and thus manages to weave an engaging history that wouldn't bore or alienate the casual reader. He's a good writer, though I was occasionally annoyed by questionable syntax and the sort of folksy/hokey turns of phrase that are common to periodicals. (As a writer for periodicals, I'm g The title is self-explanatory. I enjoyed that this is a book for beer-lovers and history buffs more than it's a book for beer snobs. Huckelbridge has a knack for picking out interesting facts, stories, and details, and thus manages to weave an engaging history that wouldn't bore or alienate the casual reader. He's a good writer, though I was occasionally annoyed by questionable syntax and the sort of folksy/hokey turns of phrase that are common to periodicals. (As a writer for periodicals, I'm guilty of the same, so I can hardly rail on him for it.) My only real bone to pick is that I do not know how you can write a history of American beer and only include about 4 pages on the upper Pacific Northwest. Come visit me in Oregon Dane Huckelbridge--I'll show you some real beer.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Payne

    Entertaining and informative. The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock because they ran out of beer. The importance of beer in the colonial era and in early Britain had to do with the fact that beer was safer than water since the water was boiled. Early beer was very low in alcohol so it could be consumed in relatively large quantities and by children ("small beer"). Many early brewers were women ("alewives") who brewed for the family. American Indians had alcohol including beer but it was mostly co Entertaining and informative. The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock because they ran out of beer. The importance of beer in the colonial era and in early Britain had to do with the fact that beer was safer than water since the water was boiled. Early beer was very low in alcohol so it could be consumed in relatively large quantities and by children ("small beer"). Many early brewers were women ("alewives") who brewed for the family. American Indians had alcohol including beer but it was mostly consumed during rituals so they weren't ready for the high alcohol beverages that the Europeans spread around.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Garone

    Not the first history of beer in America I have read but certainly the one that seeks the answers to questions I have sought about how we got to today. Mr Huckelbridge (pardon the expression) bridges a long beer history from the rest of the world to bring us to what is unique and diverse about American’s many phases of beer production and consumption. While one of the chapters may get a little tedious of the many styles of our Native North American ancestors, I thought he brought home the notion Not the first history of beer in America I have read but certainly the one that seeks the answers to questions I have sought about how we got to today. Mr Huckelbridge (pardon the expression) bridges a long beer history from the rest of the world to bring us to what is unique and diverse about American’s many phases of beer production and consumption. While one of the chapters may get a little tedious of the many styles of our Native North American ancestors, I thought he brought home the notion that Europeans were not the only brewers in history. Bravo to the research and looking forward to a West Coast IPA and toasting to the author. Looking forward to the Bourbon history.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    A fun read! I learned quite a bit about the history of beer in the United States (and beyond). I especially liked the attention paid to different regions throughout the country. I listened to the audiobook, so hearing the descriptions of drinking at a particular bar or getting up during a Yankees game came across a little corny. But I appreciated the personal narrative. An interesting overview of beer's influence throughout American history. A fun read! I learned quite a bit about the history of beer in the United States (and beyond). I especially liked the attention paid to different regions throughout the country. I listened to the audiobook, so hearing the descriptions of drinking at a particular bar or getting up during a Yankees game came across a little corny. But I appreciated the personal narrative. An interesting overview of beer's influence throughout American history.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    I’m not sure how truly detailed the book could have gotten, but I thought it was a fantastic overview of the story of how beer got to where it was in the US of A. Lots of great history on old-world beer origins, too. Learned a lot, and it gives me a better appreciation for how beer and world history are connected.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    A very well-written story of the history of the US in parallel with beer. I really like the concept of starting in the east and moving west as the country expanded with beer’s impact along the way. I’ve read several booze books at this point and I rarely fail to pick up some new piece of info. Keep them coming!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Dvorak

    An informal, free-wheeling history of beer making (and drinking) in the United States. More a collection of individual stories, Huckelbridge covers our history region by region as well as through time.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Scherer

    This is the best history book I've ever read. I learned a surprising amount! The history story ended before the year I started drinking myself, and I really didn't imagine American beer could go through so many changes over the ages (before I was relevant.) I highly recommend, if you drink beer. This is the best history book I've ever read. I learned a surprising amount! The history story ended before the year I started drinking myself, and I really didn't imagine American beer could go through so many changes over the ages (before I was relevant.) I highly recommend, if you drink beer.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Cook Memorial Public Library

    A 2016 staff favorite recommended by Mary. Check our catalog: https://encore.cooklib.org/iii/encore... A 2016 staff favorite recommended by Mary. Check our catalog: https://encore.cooklib.org/iii/encore...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mjverostko

    Great read. Very interesting read. Learned a lot, and always interesting to see how various beverages (beer, rum) have impacted our lives as they change through the times.

  19. 5 out of 5

    David

    Good history & fun to read A book written for its subject. Lots of good background and general information. For a homebrewer like me, it was a fun read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    This is a very enjoyable read through the history of beer in the US and in the old world. Interesting story about how it progressed across the the country and then in reality back again.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Edelweiss

    A beer-centric history of the United States, with some explanations of greater beer history or developments.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jerry

    neat little book about how beer influenced American history and travel. makes me want to go for a cold one right now

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Harber

    Fairly interesting account of the origins of the beer industry in America and the impact it's had on various aspects of American history. Fairly interesting account of the origins of the beer industry in America and the impact it's had on various aspects of American history.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Thoughtful planning allowed the author move forward through time as he moved westward in location.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joe Lanier

    Very Interesting Read If you love history and beer, then this is a great reading option. Time to crack open an ice cold Sweetwater!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lance

    A fun book Not to deep Not to shallow Not pretentious Gave some fun insights and factoids

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dave Wein

    Actually turned out to be an interesting history of America as well as talking about beer. Good read

  28. 5 out of 5

    William Hoppe

    If you’re in to beer history at all....this book keeps you turning pages. And even for the most expert beer drinkers out there, it gives you a new found appreciation for the drink.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Light and hoppy, a good summer lager of a book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    Meh

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