Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Proof: The Science of Booze - Adam Rogers

Proof: The Science of Booze was tossed around as an idea for one of the choices in my book club, but another title ended up winning out. Which we all ended up hating. Proof was the one that I voted for, and I decided to go ahead and pick it up anyway - I do love booze, and a nice overview of the making and consumption of alcohol? Sign me up! This could be indicative of growing up in a culture which has a seriously unhealthy relationship with alcohol - a topic best explored another time, but let's just say that heavy drinking is one of the main hobbies of Maritimers - but it's also indicative of a budding curiosity about the making of various alcoholic beverages, including the why and how.

The top shelf of my fridge these days is milk, water, juice, and a variety of beer, cider, and a bottle of wine. That wine is a cranberry from a winery local to my parents. They make incredible wines.

I enjoyed the hell out of this book. It's crammed full of facts and stories and the history of alcohol. Interestingly, one of the people that Rogers interviewed - and there's a lot - is a professor at the university where I attended library school, and I spent a time working at the research services office there, so I actually have read some of his work prior to this book. Also, he was in the news today for opening a new cider company. Anyway, it's pretty clear from the getgo that a lot of painstaking research went into this book, from reading the literature, to touring distilleries, breweries, and wineries all over the world, to speaking with all kinds of experts related to the making of alcohol.

The booze cupboard. Featuring, on the left, the 2: flask my brother gave me for graduation. Not sure what he was trying to say there...

I found this to be somewhat heavier in topic and information than other books of this ilk - it's got a more academic tone than other pop science books tend to have, so you need to be able to concentrate on the information. I tend to spend most of my days reading about things like non-specific interstatial pneumonia, bone segment transfers, and the efficacy of suboxone versus methadone - all of which are interesting, but don't exactly leave me with a desire to go home and read about the chemistry of anything. If you're like me, you may struggle to pick up this book even though you do want to read it. I plunked down with the last half over Easter and finished it rather quickly, because once I got over the hump of preparing myself to read it, it was easy to get into. Rogers has a background in science journalism, and his skill at taking complex science and making interesting and digestible for a layperson is evident here.

The book itself is organized into the journey of alcohol, from base components to the aftereffects. There are eight chapter: Yeast, Sugar, Fermentation, Distillation, Aging, Smell and Taste, Body and Brain, Hangover. How can you not love a book that devotes a chapter to exploring why the body responds to overindulging in alcohol with such an excruciating reaction? In case you missed this earlier: I thought this book was fantastic, and highly recommend it. It's interesting, it's informative, and it's a fun topic. Why is beer the way it is? How do you distill whisky? And so on. I keep offering to lend it to people, but I might end up rescinding those offers, just because I want to be able to reference my copy, with beer in hand.

And may I suggest pairing it with a favourite local brew? Because after all, if you read this book without sipping on a drink, did you really read it all? I remain uncertain on that count.

Garrison Tall Ships plus book.

On a more general book note, I think I like these random reviews, when it pleases me to write a few words about a book, and not trying to come up with something to say about every book that I've read in a month. I also haven't been reading a ton lately, so this feels like less pressure and that way I can expand on books that I do want to talk about. Not everything is worth a discussion, you know? Anyway, I shall carry on like this for now, though I might add some mini reviews for books that I don't want to write more about on Instagram. We'll see. 

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