Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer

Written by Maureen Ogle
Review by Ken Kreckel

This is the story of the rollicking world of the great American breweries and those that created them, from poor German immigrants to captains of industry. Focusing at first on the great breweries of Milwaukee and St Louis, the author gives us a detailed look at the development of this industry from the 1800s to today. It is an account of people, from the visionary men of the 19th century who, like the counterparts in steel, railroads, and oil, built mighty empires from virtually nothing. It chronicles their adversaries as well, from counterfeiters and self-serving politicians to Temperance leaders and Prohibition advocates. In addition, the book offers a panorama of the growth of the nation as a whole, its periods of heady expansion alternating with bouts of self-doubt. This story continues right up to the present day, when the industry is once again navigating a sea of troubles, from international competition to the changing tastes of a new generation. Throughout it all, the creativity and optimism of the great brewers shine through.

Whether or not you know a lager from an ale, you will likely find this book fascinating. Facts abound in this well researched work, but don’t overburden it. The author’s presentation remains lively and compelling. I am sure that after reading this book, you’ll never again look at that ordinary glass of American beer in quite the same way.