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Ambitious Brew

(article, Caroline Cummins)

Once upon a time, Americans imbibed cider, rum, and whiskey, drinks that were strong, cheap, and relatively easy to make. But with the waves of German immigrants in the mid-1800s came a taste for beer and the know-how to transform barley, hops, yeast, and water into the frothy beverage. Beer — especially the light, fizzy lager — became popular nationwide, turning such brewers as Frederick Pabst and Adolphus Busch into millionaires. But beer in America, as documented by the able historian Maureen Ogle in Ambitious Brew, has often gone stale, flat, and unprofitable. 

Conventional wisdom, she writes, generally holds that Prohibition and corporate greed together were responsible for the pale, watery beers that dominated the second half of the 20th century in the U.S. But Ogle demonstrates that the Budweiser and Miller so prevalent in America after World War II were developed in response to a nationwide preference for blandness, not foisted upon a captive public. When the baby boomers rebelled against the tastes of their parents, out went the light brew, in came the microbrew. “Welcome to American brewing in the twenty-first century, where anything goes,” concludes Ogle. Welcome, too, to Ambitious Brew, a worthy history of a beverage.

p(bio). [ "Caroline Cummins"] is the managing editor of Culinate.

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