Sunday, September 23, 2012

Book Review: Fermenting Revolution

Christopher Mark O'Brien is pulling our leg. Maybe that statement is only partially false or potentially true but it goes a little towards describing what it is like to read his book, Fermenting Revolution. This book is a manifesto, history lesson and full of frank pranks.

The style reminds me of a Robert Anton Wilson book or something by a Discordian. There are ways of telling a story using dissonance and hyperbole to jar readers - especially those that agree with you, out of their stupor. Discordians love to use this method like a good koan. Even the Dalai Lama talks about humour and the divine.

Now moving onto the divine. One of the early thesis is that beer is divine - both literally and figuratively. It is only in an industrial, consumerist society that beer has been delinked from the traditional brewing by women for ritual and tradition. Beer was and will be the glue for community, hearth and home. This new/old view of local brewing tradition in season leads to better lives; health, happiness, local, organic and eco-friendly. I have broken the book into an earnest plea but it is told in the more humourous style that I noted above. It bombastically claims that the removal of beer from the home has caused many ills.

Like I said, there is more preaching to the masses but this book does it in such a way that allows you to raise your glasses and say "Hell, yeah. I am saving the universe, the divine, the earth and society by drinking beer. Get me another, please!". A good example of the tomfoolery that I am talking about is the incessant renaming of common ideas: Female, Globeerization, Beerodiversity and Sbeeritual. Silly but serious.

What really got me thinking is the portrayal of how conservative the beer movement really is in some ways. It is trying to push back on the modern and roll back large corporate companies. Through these ideals, there is a push towards more local employment, better environment, more sexual equality and a strong idea of community, family and the divine. It's strange to see how radical an idea that has become. Holding the fort on old ideas has become new again.

There are many examples in the book around early colonial American figures who strove for a particular view around brews. It seems that like the previous beer book I reviewed, Brew North, that there is something in terms of how alehouses work that foment and ferment good government and humane ideals.

The other thing that this book did for me, is give me a few new (to me) ideas for brewing. An all dark roasted malt beverage and using local herbs for bittering. Granted, I have already stuck my head in the alternate bittering options, (used cocao nibs for a few brews), but I am thinking now about some type of sour brew with myrtle, rose or other female named herb. Rosemary beer anyone?

I found this book fun but a little too rah rah for me. I would recommend it for anyone trying to figure out what the whole brewhaha is about the new beer order.

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