Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 32
Beer beyond the glass
April 12, 2001
We all know that the magic of beer extends beyond what's in the glass or the
bottle. For starters, there are folks who collect artifacts from their long
gone hometown brewery, those who revel in producing the perfect porter in
their garage brewery, or those who track down the songbooks that breweries
used to give away.
Carl Miller is one of those people. He is the author of "Breweries of
Cleveland" and many magazine articles related to beer history. He founded the
American Brewery History Page and recently
launched BeerBooks.com, a store devoted to -- you
guessed it -- beer books and a few other related items.
We decided to check in with him to get an idea of what else about beer
interests people them when they aren't actually drinking.
(Full disclosure: RealBeer.com and BeerBooks.com have an affiliate
relationship. RealBeer.com receives a small commission from BeerBooks.com
when referring visitors who end up buying books there. We don't get rich of
this and it's not why we turned to Miller for these answers -- it's because
he deals with beer book consumers one-on-one.)
On to the questions and answers:
Real Beer: How long have you been interested in beer history, in collecting
Carl Miller: When I was about 12 years old, my grandfather gave me an old
beer mug with a fancy design of hops and barley on it. It was lettered for
the Kuebeler-Stang Brewing & Malting Company in Sandusky, Ohio, which my
great-great-grandfather had worked for. The mug was his from when he worked
for the brewery. There were these stories about how great-great-grandpa would
deliver beer to saloons by horse-and-wagon, and by the end of the day, he was
pretty well in the bag. The story goes that he used to climb in the back of
the now empty wagon to sleep it off, and the horse knew the way home. Anyway,
all of this sparked my interest in brewing history.
RB: Is it your interest in beer history that led to selling beer books of all
CM: Definitely. I distinctly remember when I got my first copy of "Brewed in
America" by Stanley Baron -- I was still just a kid. But I would sit with it,
flipping back and forth -- never just reading it front to back -- but always
flipping back and forth. A little later, I got a copy of "The Beer Book" by
Will Anderson, and I was a goner. Such began my love affair with beer books.
RB: What's the best selling book at BeerBooks.com right now?
CM: Actually, our best seller isn't a book. Its a video. Its Vintage TV Beer
Commercials, a 3-volume video set. Whenever a new book comes out, it will
usually be the best seller for two or three weeks and then trail off. But, in
terms of consistent demand, the beer commercials have been our best seller.
And its easy to see why, really. If a picture's worth a thousand words,
what's a video and sound track worth? I mean, it's as close as you can get to
a real taste of the American beer culture of the 1950s and 60s. It's kind of
like a little time machine.
RB: What topic attracts the most interest?
CM: Lately, we've really become strong in all topics -- homebrewing, style
guides, trekking, everything. So, its a pretty even balance at this point.
But, initially, history was our most popular topic, because we're so strong
in the history department -- inventory-wise. We carry a lot of really rare
and hard-to-find books on beer history.
RB: What has surprised you most about people's interests?
CM: I'd have to say the specificity of some of the requests that we get. One
guy is looking for a book on the mechanical inner workings of a 19th-century
beer tapping apparatus. Another guy wants a book that will help him recreate
a beer that was popular in Omaha, Nebraska in 1875. Someone else might need a
book about beer distribution laws in Wales, or wherever. It's always
something out of left field. I love a good challenge. Sometimes you can help,
sometimes you can't.
RB: Why don't you stock the Michael Jackson Beer Hunter videos any more?
CM: Wow. It's hilarious that you would ask that question. When the Beer
Hunter videos first came out, I borrowed them from my local library, and
didn't take them back for about a month. I was completely in love with them.
When I started getting together an inventory to sell books on the Internet,
the Beer Hunter videos were one of the first products I went after. And for
about a year, they sold really well. I was always happy to see people
ordering it -- I would think to myself, "Good choice. You're really gonna
love these videos." Then, all of the sudden, they went out of print and the
publisher was sold out -- with virtually no warning. I spent a frantic
afternoon calling distributors trying to find a stockpile so I could load up,
but no luck. Maybe I'm a little over dramatic, but I really hated the idea
that I couldn't carry these videos anymore.
RB: Who the heck is Mabel (the woman at the front of BeerBooks.com)?
CM: Well, I could say that Mabel is our official greeter at BeerBooks.com,
but that would be doing her an injustice. The phrase "Hey Mabel, Black Label"
is one of the most remembered slogans in advertising history. And Mabel was a
real person. She was a model from New York City, and she appeared in TV
commercials for over 20 years. About three or four years ago, I tried like
heck to find her, so I could interview her for my book, "Breweries of
Cleveland." After a lot of letters and phone calls to people who probably
thought I was nuts, I was able to find her. She probably thought I was nuts,
too, but she was very graceful and happily told me the entire story of Mabel.
Here's a secret: If you click on Mabel at BeerBooks.com, she'll tell you her
FULLER'S CHISWICK BITTER (Cask)
Brewed by Fuller's in London
Michael Jackson's tasting notes:
The beer I most often drink in my local pub. Chiswick Bitter has a gravity of
1034 and an alcohol by volume of 3.5v (2.3w). Malts: Pale Ale and crystal.
Hops: Northdown, Challenger, First Gold. Dry-hopped with Goldings. A
light-bodied, refreshing, beer, with a very flowery hop character.
Brewed by Fordham Brewing Co. in Annapolis, Md.
Richard Steuven (a.k.a. gak) writes:
(English bitter) Bright amber, good head. Peppery hop aroma. Light body, nice
mild malt well-balanced with a black pepper hop flavor.