Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cool Yule #5(a)! Beer Books for 2011: Richmond Beers

Cool Yule! #5

Cool Yule! 12 Beer Books for 2011

Not a list of the dozen best-of-the-best books about beer of 2011, but, rather, my list of 12, some personal delights, others of unique or deserved merit. Some of the books have been published this year, while others are worthy chestnuts. I'll reveal my selections between 20 November and the Winter Solstice New Year.

So ... cue Five Go-old Rings.

Cool Yule Beer Book for 2011

Richmond Beers_cover

Richmond Beers:
A Directory of the Breweries and Bottlers of Richmond, Virginia

Danny Morris and Jeff Johnson
Hardcover: 240 pages
Contact the authors at
ASIN: B001QMPXCG (no apparent ISBN)

For the beer book suggestion at #5, I reached out for fellow Virginia beer blogger Eric Delia. He may write at Relentless Thirst, based in Richmond, Virginia, but he often addresses beer 'issues' of well beyond those borders. In this case, Eric stayed 'in-town', reviewing a book on the history of Richmond Beers while offering reasons as to why even such a regional history has further import. I've labelled the review as #5(a), because I'll be reviewing another regional history —Brewing in Baltimore.

Thank you Eric (and be sure to read his blog)!

At first glance, Richmond Beers may seem like just an extensive collection of breweriana, a tangible vault of bottles, cans, and labels that have been archived in print. Even still, those labels and advertisements can say a lot about the brewing industry through the years. Despite the sometimes unwieldy statistics and timelines that Danny Morris and Jeff Johnson were tasked with putting into written word, the book offers more than just old images on new pages. It provides an insight into Richmond's not-so famous brewing past.

What many may not realize is the impact that immigrants from Germany had on Central Virginia, giving the River City a decidedly Teutonic trait. With names like Rosenegk, Yuengling, Stumpf, Bergner & Engel, even the mighty Anheuser Busch, Richmond was an early East Coast outpost for brewing based in the German tradition.

Not only that, but the interconnectedness of markets becomes evident as brewing giants from Philadelphia tried their hands at satellite breweries and bottling companies in the South. One prominent example is the James River Steam Brewery, opened by none other than Pottsville's own D.G. Yuengling, Jr. with partners from Philadelphia. Another is the introduction of canned beer in the United States by the Krueger Brewing Company of Newark, New Jersey, which first occurred in, you guessed it, the Richmond market.

Outside influence in Richmond was not taken lightly by resident brewers, which led to the formation of the Home Brewing Company. The brewery selected its name not as encouragement for locals to start homebrewing, but to distinguish itself from breweries that came from "away." It was essentially advertising itself as the local brewery in town with emphasis placed on its Richbrau beer, and through several incarnations over the years it lived on as the Richbrau Brewing Company, which ultimately closed its doors in February 2010.
Richmond Beers_inside

As Morris and Johnson dole out the straight facts, the reader can get a feel for the expansion and contraction of the brewing industry in Richmond as it follows the contours of depression and boom times, then is effectively killed by Prohibition only to be resurrected in the years after the Noble Experiment ended. The authors have compiled records from the distant past to the recent past, highlighting the long history of brewing in Richmond. And they included a lot of visually stunning images to help tell the tale.

I'm not going to lie -if you're not a collector of breweriana, a beer historian, or someone mildly into beer facts- Richmond Beers may not be for you. But, if you've got the slightest interest to take a glimpse into the world of a mid-sized American city and its brewing legacy, it's worth it to take a look.

Cool Yule for 2011, so far:
  • #6: Under The Influence
  • #7: Designing Great Beers
  • #8: The Best of American Beer & Food
  • #9: Beer & Philosophy
  • #10: Evaluating Beer
  • #11: Windows on The World
  • #12: The Story of Brewing in Burton on Trent

  • Eric Delia has compiled a comprehensive listing of breweries and brewpubs in Virginia at his site: here. Follow him on Twitter: @relentlssthirst (without an e between 'l' and 's').
  • For on-line purchasing, I link to the Brewers Association book store, or to the marvelous resource, When not available there, or if published as an ebook, I link to
  • The 12 Books for Christmas 2009: here.

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