Synopses & Reviews
Do beer yeast rustlers really exist? Who patented the Beer Goddess? How can you tell a Beer Geek from a Beer Nazi? Where exactly is Beervana? Does Big Beer hate Little Beer?
Ken Wells, a novelist, Pulitzer Prize finalist, and longtime Wall Street Journal writer, answers these questions and more by bringing a keen eye and prodigious reportage to the people and passions that have propelled beer into America's favorite alcoholic beverage and the beer industry into a $75 billion commercial juggernaut, not to mention a potent force in American culture.
Travels with Barley is a lively, literate tour through the precincts of the beer makers, sellers, drinkers, and thinkers who collectively drive the mighty River of Beer onward. The heart of the book is a journey along the Mississippi River, from Minnesota to Louisiana, in a quixotic search for the Perfect Beer Joint -- a journey that turns out to be the perfect pretext for viewing America through the prism of a beer glass. Along the river, you'll visit the beer bar once owned by the brewer Al Capone, glide by The World's Largest Six Pack, and check into Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel to plumb the surprisingly controversial question of whether Elvis actually drank beer. But the trip also includes numerous detours up quirky tributaries, among them: a visit to an Extreme Beer maker in Delaware with ambitions to make 50-proof brew, a look at the murky world of beer yeast rustlers in California, and a journey to the portals of ultimate beer power at the Anheuser-Busch plant in St. Louis, where making the grade as a Clydesdale draft horse is harder than you might imagine. Entertaining, enlightening, and written with Wells's trademark verve, Travels with Barley is a perfect gift -- not just for America's 84 million beer enthusiasts, but for all discerning readers of flavorful nonfiction.
"Thoreau said, 'The tavern will compare favorably with the church.' Following this premise rather closely, longtime Wall Street Journal writer and novelist Wells (Junior's Leg) searches for his preferred house of worship: the 'perfect beer joint.' Setting out to follow the Mississippi River, Wells writes, 'I would begin in Minnesota among folk who, geographically speaking, are practically Canadians and by reputation descended from good beer-drinking Swedes and Germans. I would slide down soon enough into the Great Beer Belly of America, for, by lore at least, Midwesterners are presumed to be the mightiest of U.S. beer drinkers.' Full of profundities ('One thing you can say about lagers: the good ones don't make you work very hard to like them'), the book also lends historical, scientific and cultural insights into the $75 billion industry from the likes of beer behemoths like Budweiser to newfangled Extreme Beer, which has bottle values comparable to fine Bordeaux. Along the way, Wells encounters quirky characters, and the pages he devotes to describing brewers, bar proprietors, bartenders and plain ol' beer drinkers prove he's more interested in beer people (84 million Americans drink beer) than the industry itself. Wells's storytelling abilities complement his journalist's eye for stats and facts, making this a humorous, lively and informational tour. Forecast: This work is especially well suited for home brewers and literary-minded beer enthusiasts, but it's a fun book for anyone interested in American popular culture." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Any author who can talk his publisher into paying for him to drink his way across America deserves to be taken seriously. And sure enough, Travels With Barley is a joy. It will inspire readers everywhere to remain sober until they've finished." Michael Lewis, author of Liar's Poker and The New New Thing
"I highly recommend this (burrrrp) book." Dave Barry
For discerning readers of flavorful nonfiction, an award-winning writer offers an entertaining and engrossing look at America through the prism of a beer glass.
Table of Contents
Helpful Clues About Brews
Why Beer, Why Me?
Anatomy of a Beer Spill, Perdido Key, Fla.
Chapter 2: The Quest Begins
A Pilgrim on the River of Beer, Stillwater, Minn.
A Diversion to Consider the Beer Cure, New York, N.Y.
Chapter 4: On the Road Again
In the Shadow of the World's Largest Six-Pack via La Crosse, Wisc.
The Plymouth Rock Beer Detour (Or, a Pause to Consider the History of the River of Beer)
Chapter 6: The Quest Continues
Motoring Toward Dubuque, in Search of the Brewer Al Capone
A Side Trip Deep into the Lair of Extreme Beer, Milton, Del.
Chapter 8: Back on the River of Beer
Beer and Remembrance: Slouching Toward Hannibal by Way of Nauvoo, Ill.
We Divert West to Sleuth Amongst the Yeast Rustlers, Woodland Hills, Calif.
Chapter 10: Questing Onward
Bud Land and Vicinity: In the Castle of the King, St. Louis, Mo.
Prowling Among the Beer Suits, Boston, Mass.
Chapter 12: The Quest Takes a Southern Lurch
Beer, Elvis, and the Heartbreak Hotel by Way of Woody's
Foam Improvement (Or, a Side Trip to See the Grand Wazoo), Houston, Tex.
Chapter 14: On the Road Again
The Delta and Beer at the Cross Roads by Way of Clarksdale, Miss.
A Detour to the Green, Green Fields of Bud, Boundary County, Idaho
Chapter 16: A Wrinkle in the Quest
Post-Delta Ruminations on the Beer Goddess Phenomenon, Jackson, Miss.
Chapter 17: The Final Diversion
At Last, Beervana, Portland, Ore.
Chapter 18: Quest's End
On the Road to New Orleans: Contemplating RockandSake, Darryl and Sheila
Pa and Pabst
A Brief Glossary
Notes on Sources