Craft Beer Books

I came across this post about the “Five Best Craft Beers” on a website called The Manual. It reminded me of a post I did over nine years ago, “Beer Books on Amazon“. In 2009, Charles Papazian’s classic, The Joy of Homebrewing was no. 3 on Amazon’s list of “The most popular items in Beer”. It is one of the five  books The Manual thinks you should have on your book shelf.

Michael Jackson’s opinion on the best beer in the world, Ultimate Beer was number 23.  The Manual chose another Michael Jackson book, Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion.

I decided to look at today’s listing on Amazon to see what has changed in nine years. The number one listing is the Kindle edition of Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser Busch by  William Knoedelseder. The sale of Anheuser Busch to InBev  was a pivotal event for the brewing industry and it is great that someone wrote a book about it. I would like to read it when I get a chance.

Today on Amazon’s list of books about beer, Papazian is no. 72  and  Michael Jackson’s Companion is no. 408. That book is 25 years old which probably accounts for it’s lower listing. Michael Jackson, however, remains an authoritative source on all things related to liquor and drinking.

In 2009 the paperback of Brewing Battles was no. 84 and today it is at 1264. Oh well, it has been in print for 11 years.

In my post from 2009, I said I would, at some point, look  and see if Amazon had any listing for temperance books.  It turns out they don’t have a separate category for that and in the Social Sciences list, I didn’t find any books about temperance or prohibition. The takeaway is that Amazon lists reflect sales and popular interest not scholarly concerns.

Half Year Update

Almost half of the year is gone; yesterday was the longest day of the year. It seems like a good time to reflect on how the first six months of 2018 have gone. I was hacked in February which was the major event of the beginning of the year, at least for me. That whole experience made me reevaluate what I was doing with the blog and security.

The major issue is who should host why blog and should I pay separately to secure it? Currently Bluehost hosts my blog and I pay $70 a month to SiteLock. Recently I renewed Bluehost for a year but I don’t plan on staying with them that long. I am probably going to switch to having a paid WordPress site.

Supposedly if you have such a site, there are no security problems. I am skeptical since I have not found the free WordPress to be that user-friendly or reliable. After I was hacked, my friend, Sarah Ryder, helped me update my theme which made the site more secure. If I switch hosts, I  will probably have to update or change the theme again. It feels like it will be a lot of work which is why I renewed with Bluehost. I wanted to give myself some time to figure what exactly I want to do.

As far as blogging goes, I have done 23 posts so far this year. It has been a struggle to post every week; it is hard to find either topics or time. Like last year, tweeting has been much easier. I have gained a few more Twitter followers which feels good. I still can’t tweet my URL but I have gotten used to it.

I would like to increase readership of the blog but I am not sure about how to proceed.  If any of you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them.


Trouble, Again

I am posting on Saturday instead of Friday because I am still having problems with my website. As you know, my website was hacked a few weeks ago. I also have been having a problem with Twitter for a couple of months. Yesterday I checked to see if I could tweet my URL and I couldn’t. I also saw that all of my comments for my 254 blog posts have disappeared.

I called Sitelock since I am paying them $70 a month and described the Twitter problem. I attempted to tweet my URL so I could accurately tell the technician what the error message said and lo and behold it worked. I could tweet my URL without any problem or error message. It seemed like a miracle.

Since the Twitter problem appeared to be resolved, I focused on the comments issue. After asking me a bunch of questions the SiteLock tech said I had to call BlueHost and get them to restore my website from a backup. This seemed like a daunting task and I was not looking forward to it.

Procrastinating, I decided to write this post first. As I was writing the above paragraph about Twitter I tried to tweet my URL to make sure it wasn’t a fluke and of course it was. It now doesn’t work. When the problem started and I tried to contact Twitter I quickly predicted that this would probably last a long time if not forever. My brief moment of resolution was gone.

I willed myself to call Blue Host and the whole experience took several hours. The first call to Blue Host resulted in a restore to March 7 which did nothing. The tech then suggested I call back SiteLock and see they could tell me what files they had cleaned up and if any involved the comments.  In turn, they suggested I get BlueHost to restore back to Feb. 17 which was before I was hacked but after the trouble with Twitter started.

I did eventually call Blue Host and more than an hour later and after two attempts at a restore, my comments were back. That was very good news but  no one at either  Blue Host or SiteLock could help with Twitter. I decided to tweet a the CEO of  Twitter the problem I was having. No surprise, he hasn’t answered yet.

Social Media

I have wanted to write a a post comparing Twitter and Facebook for a long time. I have been on Twitter for a longer period of time than I have been on Facebook. I have felt from the beginning that Twitter is a better arena for news, politics and connection with people I do not know.

Like anything, Twitter is what you make of it.  It took me quite a while to get over 100 followers – now I have 108.  Hash tags are everything; I could be better at coming up with good ones and more consistent in the use of them.

I have gotten the most responses to tweets that were essentially complaints about one or another big company.  Not only did individual people chime  in when I tweeted about Blue Host or Turbo Tax but the companies themselves responded.  There is something a little Big Brother about that but it also felt good to vent the frustration that comes with dealing with a faceless mega corporation.

Facebook, on the other hand, feels like a throw back to a village or bar where everyone knows your name.  It is very personal and enables you to stay in a minimal level of contact with friends and relatives. It is great that Facebook tells you when  it is someone’s birthday. Last week I dyed my hair purple and I got over seventy responses on Facebook to the picture I posted. I didn’t get a single response on Twitter to the same information. Once again, maybe a better hash tag would have helped.

To me, this shows that Facebook is about people you already know and Twitter is about a larger community. As a writer, I think Twitter, with the proper hash tags and tweets,  would be great to promote my next book. I don’t think Facebook would help that much except to tell people about the book party.





Book Review: Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners by Laura Claridge

In the interest of full disclosure, I read this book because an agent suggested it as a way to help with Dames, Dishes, and Degrees. Having finished the book, I think I understand what the agent was getting at, but I am pretty sure I don’t want to write a book like this one.

Before reading the book, I didn’t really know much about Post. Claridge does a good job of positioning Post in the Gilded Age upper class, but it is just not that interesting. Emily Post suffered a humiliating divorce and then wrote six novels. At the age of fifty she transitioned into writing about etiquette, publishing Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home in 1922.

The story of Post’s evolution into a successful, independent career woman holds some interest but once Claridge gets past 1922, she resorts to almost a laundry list of what Post did every subsequent year.

Claridge fills in the gaps with basically irrelevant stories about what else was happening in America and the world while Emily Post was single-mindedly pursing her goals. This is not a book I would use as a model for my own writing.


Book Review: Gilded: How Newport became America’s richest resort

Gilded: How Newport became America’s richest resort by Deborah Davis is a history of Newport Rhode Island with a focus on its wealthy inhabitants. In many very short chapters she tells interesting anecdotes about some of the famous and not so famous people who passed through Newport.

I read this book because I am always looking at popular non-fiction to see if there are ways to make the book I am working on more marketable. The book was easy to read but it was a little light on substance.

I didn’t really know that much about Newport before I read the book. I have been there once and saw the Touro synagogue (which she doesn’t talk about) and one of the Gilded Age mansions – the Breakers I think.

Her narrative goes from the colonial period to the present. Newport gained its identity during the Gilded Age. Davis’s depiction of twenty-first century Newport does not seem that different from the nineteenth century period. She describes opulent, extravagant parties in both eras. The book is similar to taking a tour of one of the mansions where you get to peek in on the lifestyles of the rich and famous.


Onto Next Year

I don’t usually make specific New Year’s resolutions. I do frequently make lists and sometimes they include more long-term goals or projects. Over a year ago, I started tweeting, which led to a chain reaction where I wound up blogging less. When I started using wordpress for my blog, I did less with my website. Each new technological advance means you use an older thing less.

I really like twitter. It enables you to be part of conversation in real time. During the recent blizzard, Keith Olbermann tweeted almost every hour on the progress of the storm and the lack of any cleanup.  Apparently, people stuck at airports used twitter to try to get seats on flights.

I don’t want to stop blogging because I enjoy it and it helps my writing.  I guess one of my goals for 2011 is to get back to blogging more frequently. I am playing around with some ideas but I haven’t made any firm plans yet.

When I think about my website and blog, I would like to find ways to make them both more current. As I move into writing about faculty wives, I don’t want to abandon beer and brewing. If I want to change how the blog looks, I will have to tackle wordpress, which I have found very difficult in the past.

One big goal I have for 2011 is to continue to make progress on my new book. I have one chapter written and would like to complete at least three more before my year at the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center is up. I also want to try to get an agent and then a book contract. For Brewing Battles, I got the contract but no agent. This time I want to try to have the agent first. In some ways it feels more difficult. I will keep you posted on my progress.

Happy New Year!

Agent Anxiety

I found a publisher for Brewing Battles without the help of an agent. I wrote queries to both agents and publishers. I got two positive responses from different publishers before any agent said they would represent me. I sent eleven queries; eight were to agents and three were to presses. I found all of that very frustrating and time consuming.

One day when I was feeling particularly frustrated, I realized that a particular agent lived in my hometown. I thought I would call him since writing letters and emails felt so distance and impersonal. It was a big mistake. Apparently, there is an underwritten rule that you never contact an agent on the phone. He informed me in no uncertain terms that the fact that we lived in the same area was irrelevant. So much for local connections. Despite his very negative response to my calling him, he did look at the book proposal. He told me it would never be published.

This experience along with others I had while trying to get Brewing Battles published has left me with some anxiety about dealing with agents. I feel that there are some many “rules” about what you can and cannot say to them and that you must not do anything that they could perceive of as wasting their time.

Two weeks ago, I attended Write Angles 25, a writer’s conference. I had the opportunity to meet face to face for 10minutes or so with an agent. That alone was an unusual occurrence. The agent liked my pitch and said I should send him/her the book proposal and sample chapter as well as Brewing Battles. This, of course, was exciting. Unfortunately, he/she wrote all of the instructions on his/her card with a felt tip pen that ran.

I tried the best I could to remember everything he/she had said. I had a lot of trouble sending him/her the documents as he/she had requested. I thought, oh, no this will ruin my chances. I emailed to say I was having trouble and ask if I could send them a different way. I did not hear back for two days, which also convinced me I had broken some cardinal rule and lost my chance.  I did receive a response the third day.

This whole experience made me realize I am terrified of agents. I am so terrified that I do not want to reveal the agent’s identity, which is why I am obscuring the pronouns. I want an agent for my new project so I can get a better deal from a publisher. However if it is going to make me such a basket case maybe it is not worth it.

It’s Academic

Several of the associates at the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center (FCWSRC) have decided to have a writing group. We met for the first time yesterday. Each person said what they would like to work on while at the center and what help they hoped to get from the group. I have to present a poster at the American Historical Association annual meeting in January. I have never even seen a poster at any conference so I definitely can use some help.

In a discussion of authenticity, which is a subject I wrote about in Brewing Battles, *(see excerpt at end of post) one of the associates said she would like to see my footnotes. I replied that the ideas mainly came from me. In other words, it was my original analysis. This exchange made me realize I have come a long way from my academic roots. Academic scholarship and writing often seeks legitimization by showing that an idea has prestigious pedigree. My current sense of accessible writing is to document the facts and the ideas and analysis are my own.

Another aspect of academe that seems to have changed is literature reviews. When I wrote my dissertation at Columbia University, you had to include a historiographical overview in your prospectus. A prospectus is akin to a book proposal. The actual dissertation did not contain a literature review. Two people in the group who have completed history PhD’s more recently both had to include literature reviews in their dissertations. This seems like a bad idea that will only make it harder to turn the theses into a book.

Before I became a nurse, I had a business, Academic Publicity. It provided promotional services and publicity to academic authors. It was a great idea with a fatal flaw. Most academics don’t think of themselves as writers or authors. Therefore, they do not want to pay to promote their books. By now, I really think of myself as a writer and author. I am writing Dames, Dishes and Degrees from that perspective.

* Brewing Battles: A History of American Beer (New York: Algora Press, 2007, 190.

The emergence of craft brewing highlights a battle within the brewing industry over authenticity and identity. Since World War II the national brewers have connected beer to all things American —  baseball, barbeques, race cars, and pretty, sexy women.1 Yet the nationalizing of the beer industry removed one of the most potent aspects of beer’s identity — localism. The new generation of brewers emphasizes its connection to place and community even more than taste. They stake a claim to authenticity via their roots in a specific locale.

Craft brewers, whether or not they start as home brewers, are entrepreneurs. In this way they are similar to the many hundreds of people who start a business every day. What is interesting about the thousands of people who started breweries and brewpubs since the late 1970s is that they created these businesses in an industry dominated by some of America’s biggest companies.

Craft brewers have been able to exploit a hole, a gap, in the huge edifice of American brewing. Some three to fifteen percent of the American beer drinking population didn’t and still doesn’t like drinking Bud, Schlitz, Miller, or Pabst. In the nineteenth century ten percent of Pabst’s customers wanted pure malt beer; craft beer drinkers of the twenty-first century are their  descendants. 2


I just finished writing a review of Garrett Peck’s The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet. You will have to wait to read the review in its entirety until The Historian is published. The book is an interesting survey of the current liquor industry. One thing that stood out in the book was how much the liquor industry is using tourism as a way to promote itself.

Wine tourism, particularly in California, is very big business. One could make the case – Peck does not – that the best aspect about the liquor industry for the American economy is that they produce their products in America. They make something and offer traditional, well paying unionized jobs, particularly at the macro brewing level. If the industry shifts its’ focus toward tourism and away from production, these jobs will be replaced by lower paying service jobs, a familiar story for much of American industry.

Of course many places want to become tourist attractions. As part of the Little Berks, on Saturday I went on a  walking tour of Florence, Massachusetts. Florence use to have some industry; Pro Brush was a big employer. It closed in 2007. The David Ruggles Center is trying to restore and promote the history of the village. Florence was involved in many of the reform movements of the nineteenth century including the water cure, abolitionism, and the underground railroad.

Sojourner Truth Statue Florence Massachusetts

Sojourner Truth lived in Florence for a while and there is now a beautiful statue of her there. The house she lived in still exists but looks completely different. Local historians would love to be able to restore the house. If they do, it will certainly be a tourist attraction. Many of the places we have gone this year while traveling also hope to have something that will produce a steady stream of visitors.