Why Beer Matters

Gotham teacher Evan Rail has just seen the release of his e-book Why Beer Matters. (It’s part of the Kindle Singles series. These are works that are longer than the typical article or short story but shorter than books. Usually 30-90 pages. The works in this series are chosen by Amazon.) Why Beer Matters covers all kinds of information about beer, a subject upon which the author has written extensively in such publications as Saveur and the New York Times.

Take a sip of the opening:
When I first started writing about beer, I wasn’t expecting much of a response. At the time I was working for a small, English-language weekly very much on the sidelines of life in the Czech Republic, and contact from readers was a relative rarity for most of the staff, often creating the impression that we were printing newspapers which no one actually read. But once I began covering beer, things changed remarkably. More and more locals started contacting me, asking my opinion of one brewery or another, or if I’d ever heard of some rare lager from way out in the backwaters of Moravian Silesia. I began getting emails from around the world, including from beer writers whose work I knew and admired. Acquaintances would tell mutual friends that while they’d always “liked” my other writing, they greatly preferred the beer articles, and they’d love it if I’d give up everything else and just focus on the pivo, a backhanded compliment that caused simultaneous grins and the gritting of teeth more than once.

Things continued on the same path, though at a greater velocity, when I left the paper and began freelancing for publications back home. A cover story I wrote about the emerging Czech beer trail was the most emailed article in The New York Times for several days, beating out political columns by Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman in the height of an election season. Another feature, on the nascent craft beer scene in Italy, did almost as well, as did one about regional brewing styles in Germany. Faced with an unexpected and still disconcertingly unfamiliar sense of appreciation, I started asking myself why people cared.

Why did beer strike such a musical note with readers? Why did beer suddenly matter?

As I continued filing beer-themed features from around the Old World, this question came up again and again. I asked Zoigl brewers no one has ever heard of in the Bavarian hinterlands and beer-making legends like Jean-Pierre Van Roy in Brussels, as well as the people closest to me--beer geeks, beer writers and regular old beer drinkers. And I posed the question to myself more than once, asking why beer suddenly really seemed to mean something, why we were seeing such a swift groundswell of interest in the drink.

I can’t explain what beer means for everyone: as a subject, beer is too broad and deep, too varied and multiform, just like the wide public for whom it has clearly come to mean so much. But I can tell you a few things about beer that I like most myself, why beer has come to matter to me, and what I tell people when they ask why I have chosen to write about it. Over and above what’s in the glass, beer offers several compelling facets beyond its principal role as a great drink.

Beyond its obvious charms--the sugary rush of malt, the fragrant flavors of hops, the elemental calm of ethyl alcohol--the first would have to be beer’s ambiguous relationship with the passing of time.
Copyright © 2012 by Evan Rail

For more information on Evan and his book, go here: www.evanrail.com