I usually don't rush to write reviews of book about beer that I get in the mail. Often they either cover similar ground to existing books, are lightweight intellectually or arrive without me having made the request. But some excite the mind in a new way that simply surprises. This week's arrival, Land of Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Missesota by Doug Hoverson, a 2007 publication out of the University of Minnesota Press is definitely of the latter class.
First of all, I have to admit that I have never been to Minnesota even if my Canadian Province of Ontario borders on it. There even seems to be a way to get there by ferry via Isle Royale. But for someone raised an east coaster, Minnesota is a long way away. Second, all I know about the place is from A Prairie Home Companion even though there is now an excellent blog dedicated to its beer and brewers. So it appears I was ripe for a book of substance about this great Prairie state's liquid history.
And what substance. The author is a history teacher, homebrewer and is involved with putting out the American Breweriana Journal making Hoverson extremely well suited to the project. Starting at the back, but not as far back as the bibliography or index, the book has over 100 pages on every brewery that has ever operated in the state including a detailed map and a description of current brewpubs. This is the sort of stuff that becomes a benchmark in terms of future local histories as well as a gauntlet thrown to historians of other brewing regions. Over the first 200 odd pages, Hoverson details the history of beer in his state from the first settlements in 1840 to the current day.
The goodness doesn't stop there. Being a proper history, there is a discussion of both problems he faced as a historian as well as descriptions of his methodology. Plus, being a proper hardcover from a university press, the quality of the book's physical substance is simply beyond compare in the realm of beer books that have come into my small library - whether the design, the quality of the printing work or just the heft of the thing.
If you are at all interested in beer history, I cannot recommend this book more highly. Clearly the top candidate so far for beer book of the year around here.