Ambitious Brew
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A “fascinating and well-documented social history” of American beer, from the immigrants who invented it to the upstart microbrewers who revived it (Chicago Tribune).

Grab a pint and settle in with AmbitiousBrew, the fascinating, first-ever history of American beer. Included here are the stories of ingenious German immigrant entrepreneurs like Frederick Pabst and Adolphus Busch, titans of nineteenth-century industrial brewing who introduced the pleasures of beer gardens to a nation that mostly drank rum and whiskey; the temperance movement (one activist declared that “the worst of all our German enemies are Pabst, Schlitz, Blatz, and Miller”); Prohibition; and the twentieth-century passion for microbrews.
Historian Maureen Ogle tells a wonderful tale of the American dream—and the great American brew.
“As much a painstakingly researched microcosm of American entrepreneurialism as it is a love letter to the country’s favorite buzz-producing beverage . . . ‘Ambitious Brew’ goes down as brisk and refreshingly as, well, you know.” —New York Post



Publié par
Date de parution 08 octobre 2007
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9780547536910
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0075€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Title Page
German Beer, American Dreams
“I Must Have Nothing But the Very Best”
“Masters of the Situation”
The Enemy at the Gates
Happy Days?
“You Have to Think About Growth”
Make Mine Small, Pure, Real, and Lite
Something Old, Something New
Read More from Maureen Ogle
About the Author
Copyright © 2006 by Maureen Ogle

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to or to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 3 Park Avenue, 19th Floor, New York, New York 10016.

The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows: Ogle, Maureen.
Ambitious brew: the story of American beer/Maureen Ogle. p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Beer—History. 2. Brewing—History. 3. Brewing industry—United States. I. Title.
TP577.O46 2006 663'.420973—dc22 2006011377 ISBN -13: 978-0-15-101012-7 ISBN -10: 0-15-101012-9

e ISBN 978-0-547-53691-0 v3.0116
I N THE EARLY SPRING of 2001, I had recently finished writing a book and was trying to think of a topic for my next one. I knew that there was no point in pressing the issue: Writers don’t find ideas; the ideas present themselves, and do so in unexpected ways.
One morning, I headed out on a shopping expedition to a small Italian grocery for sausage and pancetta. This store, named after the family that has owned it for over a century, sits in the heart of the city’s oldest neighborhood, a relic of the long-gone days when dwellings and families shared their streets with pharmacies and hardware and grocery stores. Painted across the building in huge letters that can be seen several blocks away is the store’s name, Graziano Bros., and its founding date, 1912.
I was eyeing the sign and wondering what the shop looked like a century ago when a truck rolled across the street and into my line of vision. It was a very shiny, very red truck, and it was emblazoned with a single word: B UDWEISER .
Wham! That was it. I would write a history of beer in America.
I spent the next several weeks reading what few books there were on the subject and telling everyone I saw about my great new idea. I was fascinated and surprised by their responses. Invariably, they said one of two things: Did I want some help with the “research” (a joke usually accompanied by a wink and a nudge)? Or they talked—ranted is more like it—about what an embarrassment American beer was, thanks to the giant corporate breweries that had ruined it.
I laughed at the jokes, but the humor revealed genuine unease and discomfort. We Americans have an ambivalent relationship with alcohol. On one hand, we drink because we enjoy the way beer and wine taste with food, or for relaxation and sociability. On the other hand, we fear that even a single drink will damage our ability to work and “produce.” Think what happens when someone orders a beer at lunchtime: The bottle or glass arrives, and so does a raised eyebrow of disapproval or a ribbing about not getting much work done the rest of the day.
The complaints about corporate brewers were more troubling. At the time, I knew nothing about beer—historical or otherwise—short of what I learned downing plastic cups of the stuff during dime beer hour at the Vine in Iowa City back in college. To my surprise, however, my ignorance placed me in a minority. It seemed as if everyone I ran into already knew the history of beer in America, and they were more than happy to fill me in on the facts, which went something like this:

Back in the old days, Americans enjoyed an abundance of fine, local beers from thousands of breweries that were artisan workshops where skilled brewers crafted ales using only four ingredients: malt, hops, yeast, and water.
Prohibition ended that halcyon age. When beer came back in the 1930s, hundreds of breweries opened their doors. Most were owned by old brewing families who were determined to brew only the finest and purest of beers. Alas, their dreams died aborning, thanks to the conniving of a handful of corporate behemoths—most notably Anheuser-Busch, Schlitz, Pabst, and Miller.
These Big Brewers scorned honest beer in favor of watery swill brewed from cheap corn and rice. The Big Brewers added insult to injury by using crass commercials, linked mostly to professional sporting events, to sell their foul brew to working-class people. By the 1970s, only a handful of brewers remained and American beer was a thin, yellow concoction with no flavor and even less body.
Baby boomers to the rescue. In the 1960s and 1970s, young Americans backpacked through Europe and there discovered “real” ales and stouts. They returned eager to try their hand at making those beers at home. In the 1980s, some of the homebrewers opened microbreweries and brewpubs. These new artisans crafted beer of the purest and most flavorful sort—and so real beer was rescued from the evil corporate dragons.

I started to wonder: Did the world really need a rehash of this apparently well-known story? Was there anything new to tell about beer in America?
My fears were for nought. As I dug through archives and old trade journals, I discovered that almost every aspect of that oft-told tale of skullduggery, greed, and woe was false and that the truth was considerably more interesting and complex.
Beer’s history, I learned, embodies the essence of what it is to be American: our ambivalent attitude toward alcohol, our passion for invention and creativity, and our seemingly limitless ability to take old ideas and things and remake them in our uniquely American image. But beer’s history is also a tale of gamblers and entrepreneurial visionaries, as well as the cultural clashes that are inevitable in a democracy where ideas and values are freely debated.
It is the tale of Frederick Pabst, a sea captain who entered the beer business when he married a brewer’s daughter and, forty years later, helmed the world’s largest brewery. Of Ken Grossman, a California bicycle repairman and home brewer who built a brewery with his own hands and transformed that small start into the nation’s ninth largest beer-making establishment. Of Howard Hyde Russell and Wayne Wheeler, who founded the organization that produced Prohibition and shut down thousands of breweries. Of Carl Conrad, who imagined an American version of a Bohemian beer, one that he called Budweiser, and Otto Lademan, the St. Louis brewer who tried to steal it from him. Of Charlie Papazian, a home-brewing enthusiast with no business background, whose zeal for beer inspired him to found not one but two national brewing groups. Of the Busch, Yuengling, and Leinenkugel families, who have kept their breweries alive from one generation to the next for decades on end, and in one of the most competitive and volatile of industries.
What I found was a truly American tale of ambition and passion populated by a cast of remarkable human beings. Here is their story.
German Beer, American Dreams
L ATE SUMMER , 1844. Milwaukee, Wisconsin Territory. Phillip Best elbowed his way along plank walkways jammed with barrels, boxes, pushcarts, and people. He was headed for the canal, or the “Water Power,” as locals called it, a mile-long millrace powered by a tree-trunk-and-gravel dam on the Milwaukee River. Plank docks punctuated its tumbling flow and small manufactories—a few mills, a handful of smithies and wheelwrights, a tannery or two—lined its length. Best was searching for a particular business as he pushed his way past more carts and crates, and dodged horses pulling wagons along the dirt street and laborers shouldering newly hewn planks and bags of freshly milled grain. He had been in the United States only a few weeks, and Milwaukee’s bustle marked a sharp contrast to the drowsy German village where he and his three brothers had worked for their father, Jacob, Sr., a brewer and vintner.
Phillip finally arrived at the shop owned by A. J. Langworthy, metalworker and ironmonger. He presented himself to the proprietor and explained that he needed a boiler—a copper vat—for his family’s new brewing business. Would Langworthy fabricate it for them? The metalworker shook his head no. “I [am] familiar with their construction,” he explained to Best, “ . . . but I [dislike] very much to have the noisy things around, and [I do] not wish to do so.”
Wrong answer. Best possessed what the historian of his brewery later called a “fiery” personality and an irresistible fount of aggressive determination. Best cajoled Langworthy, argued with him, badgered, and perhaps even begged. The metalworker may have been surprised at the passion that poured from the otherwise unassuming man before him, a slender twenty-nine-year-old of medium height, whose prominent ears and blond hair framed deep-set gray eyes and a ruler-straight nose. Overwhelmed and overrun by the man’s persistence, Langworthy finally consented.
That obstacle behind him, Best prodde

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