Back again with another book, which is perhaps doubly exciting since it happens to be a book about beer. Today we are looking at Boston Beer: A History of Brewing in the Hub, by Massachusetts-based beer blogger Norman Miller. While I was not particularly familiar with Miller’s column, I have definitely heard his name in my beer journeys. My most memorable impression of him is probably through a beer Wormtown Brewing Company puts out in his honor. Simply named Norm, this fantastic Chocolate Coconut Stout came about as close to drinking an alcoholic Mounds bar as one may ever get. I definitely recommend trying this if given the opportunity, but from here on out this post is all about the book.
I had a lot of fun reading this. At only 134 pages it’s short and sweet and packed with a whole lot of interesting information. It came out very recently, published in 2014, and covered the Boston brewing scene from colonial times to pretty much the present day. The first few chapters touched upon the colonial period through the late 1890s and the build up to Prohibition. It moves fast through these sections but the information was all well selected and stuff I found interesting. The book then made a jump to provide brief histories of Boston’s active resident breweries: Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams), Harpoon Brewery, Boston Beer Works, and lastly Trillium Brewing Company. There was also a chapter in there about the breweries that came and went in a wave of craft beer during the late 1990s to early 2000s. There were so many interesting stories to be told in such a small amount of space that I found myself often scribbling down notes about things to look into further. All in all though, I think it presented just the right amount of information to engage the reader. It was perfect for someone like me who was curious to know a bit more than what a good brewery tour guide will tell you but wasn’t necessarily looking to get too bogged down. I went through this fast, only needing a few train rides to finish it.
There were a few things I particularly liked about this book. It may sound kind of silly to say this, but I was simply struck by someone talking about Boston and actually meaning the City of Boston. A lot of times around here “Boston” is used to encompass everything from the surrounding suburbs and Cambridge, the entirety of Eastern Massachusetts, or even coastal New England from Portland, ME to Hardford, CT. As for the city itself, I started a list of old brewing locations that I want to check out for some photography adventures. Other than the Sam Adams facility in Jamaica Plain none of these remain entirely intact, but I am intrigued to see what may be left behind in some of the spots that got mentioned. As for the brewing aspects, I found it interesting to find out more about some of the people who worked here in the earlier parts of their careers; guys like Todd Mott (formerly of Portsmouth Brewing Company fame and currently at Tributary Brewing Company), Phil Leinart (Brewery Ommegang), and John Kimmich (Alchemist Brewery), just to name a few. I also had no idea that the Boston Beer Works was so influential to the modern Boston brewing scene. I’ve always kind of taken them for granted as the crowded chain brewpub outside Fenway Park, but now I think I have a new perspective. This was also a rather timely read as there were a number of great quotes near the end from Dan Paquette, who recently announced an ending to his Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, that seem even more insightful in light of his recent decision to pursue other opportunities. Details and insights like these really made the book for me.
I enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to anyone local to the Boston area (however you want to define it) and interested in beer. It was fun, easy reading that presented a lot of really cool information. Cheers to Norm!