I kind of knew what to expect before I read this comic book history on beer. I mean, there would be pictures, and there would be words.
What I wasn’t sure about is just how much of either group would be presented in The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World’s Favorite Beverage from 7000 BC to Today’s Craft Brewing Revolution. Would it be a strictly drab history book with illustrations? Would it follow a narrative?
What it does is a little bit of both. It isn’t drab, and it follows a narrative throughout history that’s kicked off by a silly intro, one where a man awakes after what seems to be a rough night of drinking, only to open another “big box” beer on his way to the craft beer store.
It is there where our beer store clerk initiates the proper story, the story of the history of our beer.
Like anything in life, beer’s story is one of chance, one of opportunity, and entirely a product of its surroundings. And of course, Rome has its hands in much of the advancement beer enjoyed in the days of old, and even now. Honestly, you just can’t escape Rome’s tentacles when it comes to the modern world.
Chapter one is where the book really begins, with Dogfish Head’s Chateau Jiahu, a beer from the brewery’s line of special ancient recipe recreations, mentioned. At this moment I knew the writer did his history, and I liked the link between the past and present. It’s a nice way to show readers that not all old beer was a barbaric affair (though we learn that it kind of was for a while).
Much of the history speaks about conjecture and guesses as to how beer may have first been created, why, and its cultural and spiritual significance.
Tales are woven by sharp, detailed art, sometimes weaving in and out of style to present a scene in a more appropriate manner. Though sometimes jarring, it helps to show the emotion or intent of the author, while also spicing up the visuals.
And though it is a tad bit wordy, the text inside is written sharply, in both a tone and voice that is very much approachable by beer newbies, but enjoyable enough for those with a basic knowledge of how their Indeed Rum King or New Glarus Belgian Red is made.
The tome (this is a lengthy book) also explains how beer is heroic, beer is holy, and beer is scientific advancement; beer is just a damn-good drink humanity has always enjoyed.
It’s as the old tale of Gilgamesh proclaims: imbibing beer is just a human activity.
Parts of the book are downright silly, with a beer can being interviewed on live TV, but it helps to give the book a jolt just as the history starts to overwhelm or possibly become mundane.
While the silliness of some panels, as well as interjections during the more scientific exposition, does well to keep your attention, the book’s core is that of an illustrated history and science book.
It sounds like a chore, but the presentation and writing do a swell job of keeping you from nodding off. The book also serves as a fun way to learn about brewing at its most basic level–but you’ll want to read it in a couple of sittings as not to get bogged down.
Luckily, the sly art and “Meet The Beer” sections (fun side trips into different styles of beer, how they’re made, and their significance) do well to keep the book from monotony. They also seem to allow the author to really flex his creative writing muscles.
I can’t recommend this book to comic book readers. I can, however, recommend it to comic book, craft beer, and history lovers. If you love comics and beer, get this. If you have a friend who is a history buff and also loves beer or comics, gift this to them.
Since people like numbers for their reviews, we’ll give this four pints out of five–not quite New Glarus level of awesome, but great, like Tin Whiskers Brewing Co.