This book is free today on Kindle, so I am reposting this review from 2010.
I have a somewhat mixed relationship with beer. On the one hand, I like beer and I drink it fairly often, although in quite moderate amounts. On the other hand I come from a family that is historically against drinking and from a church background that still has a hard time dealing with alcohol.
My grandmother was raised by an alcoholic father and she dropped out of high school to support her family because he was so often out of work because of his alcoholism. She later went back to high school, graduated from college, became a teacher and raised 8 children. She passed on her strong views of alcohol to most of her children and that passed on to many of the grandchildren.
For church background, I do not remember any strong messages on alcohol other than it was not talked about and not drank publicly. I went to college where we signed a pledge not to drink alcohol as long as we were enrolled. So I did not really start drinking until my mid-20s. (I went to seminary at University of Chicago Divinity School where much of the proceeds of the student coffee shop went to parties with lots of alcohol served. I did not really participate much.) It was really after seminary that I started hanging with a different church crowd that had a more tolerant view of the proper use of alcohol.
So, now I am in my 30s and still working through some of the implications and theology of the use of alcohol. The best defense I have read was a chapter from Gary Thomas’ Pure Pleasure (my review). But this week, as I was reading Beer Is Proof God Loves Us, I ran across a blog post from a Southern Baptist seminary professor, Daniel Akin, that explicitly made the argument that all alcohol use was unwise and how alcohol use could be used as an exclusion from church leadership. I, and many others, pushed back, but the attitude still is prevalent in many church circles.
I had hope that this book would have at least some discussion about religion and beer, but it was only cursory. The title is a well known (but misattributed) quote from Benjamin Franklin. It was actually from Martin Luther. But the title is about all the real content that there is about religion and beer.
However, this was a good, if brief, book on the state of beer globally, issues with consolidation of the beer market, technology, the rise of the craft beer market in the US, and some good history of prohibition in the US and the Thatcher beer laws in the UK. There is also a very balanced section on the health benefits (a research area for the author) of beer. If you like beer and would like a general book about beer, this is a good one to pick up.
The main complaint is that the book is about 40 percent endnotes. There were just too many and some were thoughts that I think should have been in the text, others were personally comments (also should have been in the text) and the rest were very well documented citations. There is also a brief explaination of how beer is made as an appendix. If you do not know the basic process you should read that first then read the rest of the book. It will help in the discussion sections.
The author is a former brewer, worked in quality control for Beck and now has an Anheuser Busch endowed chair at UC Davis. So he has some authority on the subject and a very clear point of view. He is a bit snobbish toward wine and much more positive about general consumptions beers than I would be.