Knowledge Base Glossary    Contact Us
Browse by Category
Knowledge Base .: Archives Fiction and Non-Fiction Reviews .: Archives General Non-Fiction (2004'-2008') .: Books Reviewed by Individual Reviewers .: Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer

Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer

Author: Maureen Ogle

Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.

ISBN: 0-15-101012-9


In the 1830s, few Americans had ever heard of, let alone tasted, beer.  At that time, rum and whiskey were the favorite beverages of the American drinking public, with English ale running a distant third. Over the next half-century, however, thousands of enterprising German immigrants transformed American tastes so that, by 1880, beer had decisively supplanted all other liquors as the American national beverage. Ambitious Brew is an engaging account of that transformation.

The fashioning of an industry required the development of numerous technological and commercial innovations. Starting out as small operators that supplied local saloons, early brewers had to devise ways to ensure consistent quality in every batch of beer they made. Upon solving that problem, brewers who expanded their operations had to resolve issues related to the preservation, distribution and packaging of their products. They had to extend the shelf life of beer so that it would be consumable when it arrived at distant destinations. This was accomplished by experimenting with recipes and by using refrigerated railroad cars for shipping. Moreover, reliable transportation and sales networks had to be cultivated. And, to protect their reputations and prevent saloon keepers from diluting their brews, or replacing them with lower quality swill, brewers began shipping large quantities of their beer in labeled bottles rather than kegs. Thus, as the brewing industry expanded, secondary industries grew alongside it.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a growing temperance movement threatened to dismantle the empires of such brewing giants as Anheuser-Busch, Pabst, Schlitz and others.  The brewers, aware that taxes on their products accounted for more than one-third of the American government’s revenues, paid little attention to their critics. Their security was shattered in 1913, when Congress ratified the Sixteenth Amendment that established the income tax as a major source of revenue. This amendment, in conjunction with the cumulative successes of the temperance movement over the previous several decades, made conditions favorable for the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment, which prohibited the production, sale and consumption of all alcoholic beverages in the United States. In January 1919, Prohibition became the law of the land.

Prohibition lasted from 1919 until 1933.  During that time, some brewers kept their businesses alive by producing soft drinks and “near” (non-alcoholic) beer. Others diversified their companies and produced a variety of goods.  Needless to say, most brewers did not survive. Those who did discovered that American culture had changed dramatically in a short fourteen year span. The American public had developed a taste for Coca Cola rather than beer. An entire generation had grown up without ever tasting beer. Thus, in the post-Prohibition era, brewers had to cultivate new images and new markets for their products. These struggles continue to this day, as American liquor consumption is still lower than it was before Prohibition.

The period from the 1930s through the 1960s was a time of consolidation. Many small and medium sized breweries went out of business or were bought out by larger companies. In the latter decades of the twentieth century, this trend toward increased centralization was countered by the home brewing movement and the microbrewing industry. Currently, even though Anheuser-Busch and Miller dominate American brewing (these two companies sell over 50% of all beer consumed in the USA), small and regional brewers are making a comeback. In the early twenty-first century, large and small brewers are learning from each other and rejuvenating the brewing industry. In Ogle’s opinion, an exciting future is open for business to the next generation of innovative brewers.

Carefully researched, filled to the brim with technical information and populated with colorful personalities, Ambitious Brew provides a unique lens through which to examine American culture. Ambitious Brew is more than a story about the indelible imprint German immigrants made on their adopted land. And it is more than a tale of how American consumers prompted those immigrants to adapt traditional products for new palates. Indeed, at its heart, Ambitious Brew is the fascinating story of how distinct cultural features have blended to enrich the fabric of a vibrant society. It is a story that needed to be told, and Ogle has told it very well. Beer aficionados and readers interested in popular culture and history will enjoy Ambitious Brew.

The above review was contributed by: Evelyn Sears,  Freelance writer, photographer and musician. Click here to read more of Evelyn's Reviews: 

Related Articles

article TV a-Go-Go: Rock on TV from American Bandstand to American Idol
Author: Jake AustenISBN: 1-55652-572-9The following review was contributed by:  Kathryn Atwood: Click Here To View More Of Kathryn's   ReviewsAccording to author Jake Austen, televised rock music is in some ways an impossible combination . . . and one that he absolutely adores.  Rock music is essentially "wild, raw, and dangerous" but when Bo Didley first performed it on the Ed Sullivan show in 1955, television and rock music began a long partnership which proved,  according to...

(No rating)  12-31-2005    Views: 9941   
article Sex Secrets of an American Geisha: How to Attract, Satisfy and Keep Your Man
Click Here To Purchase From Amazon Sex Secrets of an American Geisha Author: Py Kim ConantPublisher: Hunter House PublishersISBN: 089793-490-3 Are you a single woman who is ready to settle into marria

(No rating)  11-10-2006    Views: 8997   
article American Odyssey
  Click Here To Purchase American OdysseyAuthor: Brian M GelinasISBN-10: 1598007556 ISBN-13: 978-1598007558 

(No rating)  10-3-2008    Views: 5964   
article American Odyssey
You Can Purchase This Book From Amazon Author: Brian M. Gelinas ISBN: 1-59800-755-6Brian M Gelinas is a local reporter for a daily newspaper. In 1997 his first publication was a creative

(No rating)  7-12-2007    Views: 7120   
article American Warrior
Author: James SnyderISBN: 0741423200

(No rating)  5-11-2005    Views: 5503   
article American Warrior
Author: James SnyderPublisher: Infinity Publishing.comISBN: 0-7414-2320-0The following review was contributed by: S.V. SWAMY & CLICK TO VIEW S.V. Swamy's ReviewsAmerican Warrior is a novel that deals mostly with theVietnam war, which in this case symbolizes theinternal conflict. The hero is abused by a drunkfather, by schoolmates and by local thugs when young.A half-Dutch and half-Indonesian man named Draegerrescues him and the two develop an intense soul-levelrelationship (as a father...

(No rating)  8-14-2005    Views: 5180   
article American Home Life
Click Here To Purchase From Amazon American Home Life Author: David BarringerPublisher: So New PublishingISBN: 10: 0977815129: 13:9780977815128Perhaps the tritest cliché in the English language is that you can’t judge a book by its cover. I’m inclined to agree with this; but I will say that it’s not actually a bad way of picking which book to read. I’ll admit most reviewers base their selections on something a bit loftier—something with more social or artistic reasoning behind it. And...

(No rating)  9-19-2007    Views: 5234   
article How New York Became American, 1890-1924
Author: Angela M. BlakePublisher: The Johns Hopkins University PressISBN: 0-8018-8293-1How New York Became American, 1890-1924 was originally Angela M. Blake’s doctoral dissertation, which is very much in evidence when you consider that there are sixty-five pages devoted to reference notes and sources. Blake refers to herself as an interdisciplinary and cultural historian and as she mentions in her Essay on Primary Sources that appears at the back of her book, cultural historians ask...

(No rating)  2-16-2007    Views: 4519   
article Lucifer’s Dictionary of the American Language
Author: Burton h. WolfeISBN: 1419619748  The following review was contibuted by:  NORM GOLDMAN:  Editor of Bookpleasures. CLICK TO VIEW  Norm Goldman's Reviews       To read Norm's Interview with Burton  h. Wolfe CLICK HERE

(No rating)  6-23-2006    Views: 6029   
article CAFTA and Free Trade: What Every American Should Know,
Author: Greg Spotts ISBN: 1932857168The following review was contributed by: Paul Lappen & CLICK TO VIEW Paul Lappen's ReviewsThis book looks at CAFTA, the Central American FreeTrade Agreement, the newest attempt to bring "freetrade" to the Western Hemisphere. A companion to therecently released DVD called "American Jobs," thisbook shows that the reality of free trade is nowherenear as bright as the promise.If free trade in general, and CAFTA in particular, issuch a...

(No rating)  4-22-2005    Views: 6114   

User Comments

No comments have been posted.

.: Powered by Lore 1.5.2