Friday, December 01, 2006

Ambitious Brew

There are so many satisfactory micro-histories, or niche histories, available these days, you’re forgiven if you haven’t read them all. (Think of it as a holiday dispensation.)

The truly great ones, like The Pencil by Henry Petroski, and Cod by Mark Kerlansky, are so compelling that it’s easy to forget you’re reading about a single item. In the end, each one is about society.

As marketers, then, read Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer. It is a history of beer and brewers in the US by Maureen Ogle – just published by Harcourt, Inc. It’s a dandy.

You have to forgive the Harcourt blurb writers: the fly-leaf states this is “this is the first-ever history of American beer.” It’s not. But it is the newest, most up-to-date and enjoyable history of the subject.

I’ll leave you to read a précis of Ambitious Brew here. The salient point for us is that Ogle’s book is as much about the trends of our American society, past and present, as it is about breweries. In an eminently readable way, Ogle relates how changes in our society over the past two hundred years have had a variety of impacts on beer development and marketing.

It’s a book about great brewers and beers. It’s a book about very smart (or utterly unconscious) marketing. But more than these, it’s a book about true believers. The true believers in these pages bend or break with the times in which they live.

We’re living with changes every day, faster and faster. Can you say for certain you know which ones will affect your product or your market? That’s why you should read a history like this: to understand where you want to go, you should have a really good idea of where you’ve been. Beyond beer, it’s what Ambitious Brew is all about.

If you’re good, perhaps there’ll be a copy of this book in your Christmas stocking. Or better yet, a six-pack of your favorite brewski.


Hardcover, ISBN-13/EAN: 9780151010127, 432 pages. Book cover photo from Harcourt, Inc., with thanks.

1 comment:

Shannon Rasberry said...

Hey, Richard! Best of the season to you, too, my friend. Thanks for the 411 on this book. It’s especially topical since I’m going to be joining the Foam Rangers (a group of celebrated local competitive home brewers–though, not to brew, only to sample and sample more).