i finally finished Travels with Barley, by Ken Wells. I started the book before leaving for vacation and finally finished it after getting back. (i refuse to travel with hard cover books.) it's a lucky thing i finally finished it since ronda got it for me on my last birthday and it might look bad if i didn't finish it for my next birthday. well enough about me, now some blather about the book.
this is the story of Ken Wells rambling down the mississippi in search of the "perfect beer joint". he's also searching for anyone who's willing to talk to him about beer and tiny bits of beer arcana. (for instance, did elvis drink beer? if so, what was his favorite beer?) it consists of one half re-tellings of his beer related encounters with people, one quarter of insights into those encounters and different aspects of beer culture, and one quarter of random beer culture and personal history. it also includes quite a few detour chapters where he discusses different aspects of beer drinking, beer brewing, and beer culture in the US. (chapters about yeast rustlers, mico/home beer brewing, SAB Miller hop farming, beer festivals, the evolution of the current US corporate beer juggernauts, etc.)
the book is a really easy and quick read that never gets too serious. unless you're the ultimate beer guru then this book definitely includes interesting information about beer history and culture that you didn't know, and if you are a guru then the you probably love beer drinking and that's what this book is about.
if you do read it you'll probalby want to have a beer handy and in the end you'll probably be jealous of Ken since he just got paid to wander around for a year and drink beer. (and scratch down enough notes while doing it to write a book, unless of course his next novel turns out to be fiction...)