As I sit here on an airplane writing a long overdue book review, I am reminded of my first trip via commercial airlines to Milwaukee Wisconsin. At the time I did not know anything of beer or brewing, I was after all, just a kid. Soon I would be exposed to some of the worlds most beautiful brew-houses. I remember being bored when much of the Miller tour consisted of some sort of walk around a museum style display. What I really wanted was to see the brewery operations. Next on the list was Pabst, Pabst was cool. Pabst had big majestic copper brewpots. The images stick with me to this day. We cruised past several breweries with their big brick smoke stacks, and observed the workers taking a break on the loading docks out back. I remember thinking how cool it would be to take a walk through some of those old brick brewery buildings.
Thanks to Arcadia publishing once again offering to let me review one of their books, I got to take just such a walk. A walk though many of the pre-prohibition breweries of Milwaukee via the pages of Brewing In Milwaukee, from their Images of America series. The book provides a history of many of Milwaukee's early settlers and the origin of its many breweries both pre and post prohibition. I love history - so I have yet to find any of the images of America series that weren't fascinating - from the history of General Motors to the aircraft carriers of the Great Lakes. This book was no exception.
I think one of the most interesting aspects of brewery history is how they survived prohibition. One such strategy was that used by the A. Gettleman Brewing Company who made high speed snow plows. Talk about a diversified portfolio. Also interesting was the history the book shared about the inventor of the modern beer Keg, beer bottle, and jacketed fermentation vessel. The book details their origination in Milwaukee.
Overall I greatly enjoyed Brewing In Milwaukee. The author is a local historian with an impressive knowledge of Milwaukee. She is a bit sketchy when it comes to her knowledge of the brewing process. She shows a photo of a prohibition era house that most likely blew up due to it's distillation apparatus going south, and then mentions home brewed bottle bombs in the same paragraph. While over-carbonated bottles do pose a danger they aren't going to blow your house up. That said, large fermentation vessels not being vented could, and have, caused serious damage. But I guess we can't all be hardcore beer geeks.
So if you get the chance. Check this one out and remember next time you see
a snow plow, think beer.
Images reprinted with permission from Brewing In Milwaukee, by Brenda Magee, Introduction by Frederick Gettelman. Available from the publisher online at www.arcadiapublishing.com or by calling 888-313-2665.