Beer is an industry with a storied past. The colorful individuals who have operated breweries, the difficult struggles with the temperance movement and prohibition, and the unique laws governing beer production and sales in each state make the history of brewing an interesting one that few other industries can match. The American west took a little longer to fire up the kettles than the rest of the country, but it is still not without its high tales of brewing success, failure, and folklore. One recently published book that relives this important past is Brewing Arizona: A Century of Beer in the Grand Canyon State, a book written by Ed Sipos.
Beer in the Wild West
Brewing Arizona is a large, coffee table style book containing 377 pages and 14 chapters. After a brief introduction about beer and its place in history, the book launches into its main topic: Brewing beer in the state of Arizona and its evolution from the nineteenth century to the present. From the wild west days of the 1800’s to the modern craft beer boom of the 2010’s, Arizona has some memorable stories to share and this well- researched book describes the different people, places, and things that established Arizona’s brewing industry and shaped it into the bustling, thriving business it is today.
Brewing Arizona is history lesson about commercial brewing and it begins roughly around the time of the California gold rush and the gradual westward migration of Americans to the wide open spaces of the American west. This was an unstable time in the state of Arizona and there was much conflict among Native peoples, migrating settlers from the East, and others. But regardless of ethnicity, everyone shared a common love of beer and in a very short time, settlers were working to establish breweries to serve the local population. This book describes some of these 1800’s era establishments and explains to the reader the people behind the beer, the challenges they faced, and the daily life spent brewing, fermenting, and packaging beer for the masses.
Prohibition Takes Hold
Moving into the 1900’s, Arizona and other states faced their greatest brewing challenge with the United States government enacted the ugly experiment known as prohibition. Many breweries were ill equipped to make anything besides beer and most were forced to close. But like with other states, Arizona and its brewers found a way to survive. When prohibition came to an end, Arizona reacted swiftly, building and opening new breweries to quench the collective public thirst. The establishment of Arizona’s famous A-1 beer and other brands helped to shape the state’s identity and while these brands did not stand the test of time, they did influence the craft beer boom that has been raging from the 1980’s to the present.
A History Lesson in Beer
Brewing Arizona is an informational/history book more than anything and it strives to pack as many facts as possible into its pages. The book does cover the past, but the majority of its pages are dedicated to the craft beer boom of the past 30 years. The book talks about the individuals who have helped create some of Arizona’s most iconic and successful craft beer brands as well as those whose ambitions did not quite take them where they had hoped or planned.
Modern craft beer fans living in Arizona will find much to like in Brewing Arizona. Not only can they soak up some forgotten pieces of Arizona’s brewing past, they can also read about some of the current crop of breweries they enjoy today. The book talks about these important players in Arizona’s craft beer industry, the people behind them, the successes they have enjoyed, and the challenges they face. Many of these breweries have changed hands several times and evolved significantly from their beginnings. It is interesting to learn more about the people behind the breweries and the often unforeseen circumstances that led them in different business directions.
Brewing Arizona attempts to cover as many facts as its pages will allow and because of this, it tends to present its material in a rather straight- forward manner without added humor, colorful descriptors, and other writing styles common to creative non- fiction. The book is like a long research paper and it reads like a reference guide that was modified for general reading. It also has plenty of illustrations, too, and they are a tremendous asset to the book. Most of the pages include pictures and they are great for helping the reader associate a face with a name, a building with a brewery, etc.
Buy the Book
Arizona has an interesting brewing past and these lost remnants of history are brought back to life in fine educational style in the pages of Brewing Arizona. I came away from the reading with newfound knowledge of the Grand Canyon state’s brewing industry and got to know quite a bit about its breweries, both old and new, and the many colorful individuals who have brewed its beer and helped its brewing industry adapt to change.
Whether you live in Arizona or not, there is much to be learned about its beer industry and Brewing Arizona is ready to serve. It’s a nice piece of history about beer and brewing in the American southwest and it’s a book I recommend to all.
Note: I received a copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading the book