Bob Skilnik was good enough to let me know this book of his was coming out and I am glad he did. He even signed it which is a nice touch for the lonely beer book reviewer.
The full title is Beer and Food: An American History and it could not be a plainer truth. Bob leads us through the generations of US brewing and cuisine from colonial days to the present and shows how beer has experienced more than one rise and fall as an ingredient in the American kitchen. His research and explanations are primary - by which I mean he cites cookbooks from at least the early eighteenth century to the favorite recipes of modern craft brewers. He also ties them into the prevailing technologies and context whether it is on the frontier or in the days of prohibition. There is a good sized bibliography including booklets and papers giving confidence in the authority backing up what he tells us.
And what is explained? Plenty of stuff in plenty of detail. His description of the manufacture and great popularity of malt extract in the dark decade before 1933 and the boom in illegal homebrewing and how it mirrored earlier wave of home brewing was interesting as was the fact that all bread was made with the dregs of beer, prior to the era of commercial baking yeast in the late 1860s. The popularity and commercial support for post prohibition beer parties, supported by references to actual promotional material including the Hamm Brewing Company's suggestion of a "Beer Buffet Supper" or its offer of a "Swedish Ale Party Menu" - things which would not be something I associate with 1934. Similarly, I was not aware that in the 1740s, there was a particular wave of cultural Anglophilism in the colonies which accentuated the later imposition of taxes on imports from England - including that newfangled porter. All fabulous information for the nerd and the foodie.
At just under 250 pages with notes, recipes and other sources of authority, it is a fast read but a rewarding one and certainly one of the better books on US beer history out these days - something of a surprising wasteland. Now I am even more interested in finding a copy of Bob's previous book, Beer: A History of Brewing in Chicago.