Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Comic Book Story of Beer

First off, I love both comics and beer, so this book should be right up my alley. Second, even if I did not love both of those things I would have to admit that this book is impressive, both in its scope and execution. There are just so many things jam-packed in here about the history of human civilization:  the role beer probably played in the first agricultural settlements, literary allusions to the beverage from the epic Gilgamesh and beyond, and pointed historical analyses such as how Prohibition killed off all the small breweries and led to a few monolithic companies that controlled people's tastes. Just look at the excerpt below and notice how much they manage to fit in without overwhelming the reader:
As you can see, the artwork is clear, concise, and well paced while the writing is simultaneously dense and easily navigable. Also, interspersed in all of this history is some science in the form of the chemistry behind how beer is made:
as well as a few profiles on specific, historically significant styles of beer:
By far the prevalent type of beer made and sold internationally. Who knew? These guys!
I should have known from the onset that this would be an excellent book. It is by writer Aaron McConnell and artist Jonathan Hennessey, the two creators behind The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation, one of my favorite nonfiction, historical graphic novels, as well as an adaptation of The Gettysburg Address, which I have not read. They are joined on this look at the history of beer by co-writer Mike Smith, former head brewer at Back East Brewery. This interview with all three creators sheds more light on their work on this book, as does this interview at CBR.

All of the reviews I have read about this book have been very positive. Publishers Weekly concluded, "The abundance of interesting little details in these illustrations pair well with the wealth of information that the authors provide." I was amused by this exchange in a forum at Beer Advocate (where, unsurprisingly, everyone seems to love this book) when one commenter called it the "'Beer Goggle History.' This consists of theories that credit beer with every major positive innovation" in western civilization. Emil Favila gushed that it was a book for anyone "whether you are a fan of beer, or just great storytelling." Matilo von Plume gave it an A+ and summed up, "This is a book that deserves a permanent place on one of your shelves; not only is it a fun and informative read, but the sheer wealth of beer style-specific portraits (easily located via TOC or index) makes this an invaluable resource for novice beer drinkers as well as those who want to broaden their tasting horizons."

You can see multiple previews and also learn a lot more about The Comic Book Story of Beer at its official website. It was published by Ten Speed Press.

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