#5 -- "Three Sheets to the Wind: One Man's Quest for the Meaning of Beer" by Pete Brown
Now, that was just the palate-cleanser I needed after Pynchon. It's a birthday gift, from a friend who had the clever idea of grouping together books on beer and books on straight edge in one present, and man, this one is proof positive that I made the right choice.
British author Brown travels the world here, taking part in pub and beer culture everywhere he goes -- Belgium, the Czech Republic (!), Japan, Australia, China, Denmark, the U.S., the UK ... probably forgot a few others (oh yeah, Germany and Spain. That may be it). And never has the act of drinking seemed so joyous.
Really -- I expected this to be a clever little forgettable book, but it's so much better than you'd expect. Brown never hits an ill note, looking at his subjects with humor and warmth (the only targets that really draw his ire are Anheuser-Busch and his home country). The book also reaffirms my belief that the Czechs rule, though Denmark and Portland also sound like great places to live.
I love beer, but know nothing about it. I can tell you I like something, or that I don't, or "Jesus Christ, this goes down really well for something that is 9.5%," but not much else. "Three Sheets to the Wind" makes me want to learn all about it, because it just seems so damn fun. Doesn't hurt that you get to drink all those great beers along the way.
If there's a problem with this book, it's that reading it at a time when you can't have a pint (say, before work) is pure torture. If you love beer, check this out.
Dutiful beer links:
Pete Brown's web page
Hedonist Beer Jive - someone who knows a lot about beer and has access to some good stuff
New Belgium Brewery - my old hometown brewery
Rogue - the current favorite