I have not yet gotten on to the great reviewing list out there even if I am on the great beer news PR consultant list. That's OK as I pretty much like most beer books that are put before me including this one.
Travels With Barley: A Journey Through Beer Culture In America, published in 2004, intregued me as soon as I saw the title. When I created the half-begun and definitely past deadline Journal of Culture and Brewing, ISSN 1715-7811, I had an idea that there was something in and around beer that had not really discussed much, something that I encountered in relation to baseball through the Cooperstown Symposium which looks at baseball as a cultural event and not just a sport. The call for papers for the 2006 Symposium stated:
Proposals for papers are invited from all disciplines and on all topics. For the 2006 symposium, preference will be given to those submissions which focus on the relationship of baseball to the African-American and other minority communities. Papers on baseball as baseball are not encouraged. Submission is by abstract only. Abstracts should be narrative, limited to three type-written pages and a one page vitae...So what would a study of beer not for beer's sake look like? For author Ken Wells that means hunting for the best beer joint in America following the track of the Mississippi river from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Wells is a Wall Street Journal writer and a Pulitzer Prize finalist, according to the dust sleeve, and his writing style shows it. A good read. Light but substantive.
I am only fifty pages in but, hey, I'm the guy who wrote the paper on the six discourses of Descartes after finishing the third one...it was Friday afternoon, what do you expect? So far I am liking this book. I don't know if it will come to any conclusions about beer and culture on the big river and maybe that is OK. What I like is it is not an atlas, not a history and not a style guide. It is a travel with beer that takes beer serious as a travel mate. I will give more notes as I work through it.