A few weeks ago I received a free review copy of Alcoholica Esoterica by Ian Lender sent to me by Yen Cheong of Penguin Books in New York. I must say one of the unexpected up sides of blogging has been the wee free gifties that come along and this one is no different.
This book is not the sort I might run out and buy for myself. I tend towards the weighter tomes but the fact that my article for the Journal of Culture and Brewing [ISSN 1715-7811] entitled "One Beer Lover's Library" remains unfinished is some testamony to the state of the collection. So I was quite happy to find this lighter entertaining sort of book come in the mail to see what it might be like.
In one sense it is like a 264 page Hallmark card celebrating dypsomania - all drink stories are good for a laugh. And in the cause of entertainment, some liberty is taken with detail. Organized largely according to category of drink, we get a brief history of beer or rum or champaign at the outset of each chapter. Beer's history is covered in just over a dozen shortish pages so leaps abound and lines are drawn like the one at around 1100 AD between the age of the alewife and the monk as brewer even though household brewing by women really was only stopped by the advent of commercial brewing some 500 years later. But no never mind. The point is that there have been eras and that there have been shifts. What else can you expect in 13 pages? Other than the histories, all is quip and anecdote and quip - like the fact that ten percent of all US rice production goes to beer. No never mind is made by the author that beer should not have a grain of rice in it because this is not a book aimed at the real ale nerd market.
But this is the kind of book you can pick up for 15 seconds or 15 minutes and put down again. No need for a book mark. Pleasantness. It is meant as a companion for a drink or two in company as its plasticized cover might suggest. It would find a good spot next to any bartenders guide in a quieter sort of bar or basement. It would make a good basis for a more wordy Trivial Pursuit challenge or a quiz night in a pub. So if you are looking for a stocking stuffer for someone who has a cocktail shaker and knows how to use it, this might be a good idea. If you are looking for a book for someone who said that they liked the accuracy of detail in Martyn Cornell's last work Beer: The Story of the Pint, maybe not so much.