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Proof: The Science of Booze [Kindle Edition]

Adam Rogers
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)

Digital List Price: $26.00 What's this?
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Book Description

Humans have been perfecting the science of alcohol production for ten thousand years, but modern scientists are only just beginning to distill the complex reactions behind the perfect buzz. In a spirited tour across continents and cultures, Adam Rogers puts our alcoholic history under the microscope, from our ancestors’ accidental discovery of fermented drinks to the cutting-edge laboratory research that proves why—or even if—people actually like the stuff.

From fermentation to distillation to aging, Proof offers a unique glimpse inside the barrels, stills, tanks, and casks that produce iconic drinks. Rogers ventures from the whiskey-making mecca of the Scottish Highlands to the most sophisticated gene-sequencing labs in the world—and to more than one bar—introducing us to the motley characters and evolving science behind the latest developments in boozy technology. He uncovers alcohol’s deepest mysteries, chasing the physics, molecular biology, organic chemistry, and even metallurgy that power alcohol production, and the subtle mixture of psychology and neurobiology that fuels our taste for those products.

With intoxicating enthusiasm, Rogers reveals alcohol as a miracle of science. If you’ve ever wondered how exactly your drink of choice arrived in your glass, or exactly what will happen to you once you empty it, Proof makes an unparalleled drinking companion.

Editorial Reviews


"Proof, this irresistible book from Adam Rogers, shines like the deep gold of good whiskey. By which I mean it's smart in its science, fascinating in its complicated and very human history, and entertaining on all counts. And that it will make that drink in your hand a lot more interesting than you expected." —Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York

"Absolutely compelling. Proof sits next to Wayne Curtis’ And a Bottle of Rum and Tom Standage’s A History of the World in Six Glasses as a must-read." —Jeffrey Morgenthaler, bar manager at Clyde Common and author of The Bar Book

"Proof is science writing at its best—witty, elegant, and abrim with engrossing reporting that takes you to the frontiers of booze, and the people who craft it." —Clive Thompson, author of Smarter Than You Think

"Rogers distills history, archaeology, biology, sociology, and physics into something clear and powerful, like spirits themselves." Jim Meehan, author of The PDT Cocktail Book

"A page-turner for science-thirsty geeks and drink connoisseurs alike, Proof is overflowing with fun facts and quirky details. I'm drunk—on knowledge!" Jeff Potter, author of Cooking for Geeks

"Adam Rogers writes masterfully and gracefully about all the sciences that swirl around spirits, from the biology of a hangover to the paleontology of microbes that transform plant juices into alcohol. A book to be savored and revisited." Carl Zimmer, author of Parasite Rex and A Planet of Viruses

"Reading Proof feels just like you're having a drink with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic friend. Rogers' deep affinity for getting to the bottom of his subject shines through on every page." —Adam Savage, TV host and producer of MythBusters

"Impressively reported and entertaining...Rogers's cheeky and accessible writing style goes down smoothly, capturing the essence of this enigmatic, ancient social lubricant." —Publishers Weekly

About the Author

ADAM ROGERS is articles editor at Wired, where his feature story “The Angels’ Share” won the 2011 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award. Before coming to Wired, he was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT and a writer covering science and technology for Newsweek.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1004 KB
  • Print Length: 277 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0547897960
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (May 27, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00E9FYSZ0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,597 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The science and the magic of booze April 18, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If you want to amaze your friends at the neighborhood pub or the next cocktail party, this book has all the right ingredients. In Proof: The Science of Booze, Kavli Science Journalism Award winner and first-time author Adam Rogers covers everything you can imagine about the subject. There are chapters on the science and history of yeast in the production of alcoholic beverages, the role of sugar, the processes of fermentation, distillation, and aging, the biochemistry of smell and taste, the effects of booze on the body, and the causes, prevention, and cure of hangovers. Rogers’ research was exhaustive; the bibliography is more than 13 pages long, and his travels took him from the ultra-exclusive New York cocktail bar Booker and Dax to Glen Ord Maltings in Muir of Ord, Scotland, to the San Francisco Brain Research Institute. The research was impressive, until Rogers described the “experiment” where he and two friends got totally blotto in order to test the effectiveness of some recommended hangover cures, at which point I decided his devotion to his subject had gone above and beyond.
So why only 3 stars? It’s not what he said; it’s how he said it. Rogers is an editor at Wired magazine, and Proof apparently grew out of a Wired article, The Angel’s Share, about the Canadian whiskey fungus. Proof is written in the same Wired style, and it just doesn’t work as well here. Wired often takes a light tone liberally laced with witty comments, which I normally enjoy, but the humor here often comes across as forced. Also the author will drop witticisms into the middle of an extended serious scientific description, where it seems out of place. The book also seems disorganized. There is a topic for each chapter, and the author covers a number of items under that topic without good transitions.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining history of alcohol April 24, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Full disclosure: I saw the author give a talk on this subject at a conference about a year ago. The talk was a little better because this author is an outstanding public speaker and merely a very good writer. So, what of the fruits of his labor? Has the author managed to distill the essence of boozy knowledge into a coherent creation or a delirious foment?

Well the good news is that this is an entertaining book that is easy to recommend to anyone with even a passing interest in wine, beer, or spirits. It's written to be read, not used as a reference book. The narrative, such as it is, is loosely organized into chapters that deal with specific facets of booze. Chapter one is about yeast. As a former yeast biochemist, I can say that it was one of the most accessible chapters written on one of my favorite organisms, yet I definitely learned a few things. However, I'm not convinced that everything I learned is absolutely accurate. The book is clearly much better researched than the average blog post but is it up to reference standards? If your reference standard is wikipedia, it probably is.

Chapter 2 is another strong chapter about sugar. Chapters 3 and 4 handle fermentation and distillation, and these highlight the weakness of the book's organization: how can you discuss fermentation without discussing yeast? Well, it's hard and it doesn't quite happen. Instead, the author's passion and enthusiasm clouds the narrative and he ends up switching topics so many times that it's hard to follow the thread. The next few chapters are occasionally choppy accounts of aging and smell/taste. The final couple of chapters are all about alcohol's effect on the body and brain, with an entire chapter devoted to hangovers.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Proof April 12, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Long-time readers of Wired will quickly recognize the style, depth, and tone of Proof. Astute ones may recall the article that this book grew from: "The Angel's Share", which makes up a significant portion of the chapter on aging. The subtitle of this book, "The Science of Booze", could just as accurately be "A Memoir About Booze". Rogers firmly inserts himself into the book as he takes the reader on a journey of exploration through the world of alcohol. All the strengths and weaknesses of this approach come through in this book.

The scope of Proof is truly ambitious. Rogers begins with the cultivation and domestication of yeast, walks through the chemistry and types of sugars, ferments them, distills and ages the result, and then describes their effects on the body (both pleasant, such as smell and taste, and the less savory consequences like drunkenness and hangovers). My copy of the book only goes to 212 pages before the notes and bibliography, and that's a prodigious amount to cover in so few pages. I found that the chapters with material that I was already somewhat familiar with didn't hold enough new information to hold my interest. On the other hand, the light tone did make it easier for me to read the chapters which were farther outside my existing knowledge. I'd definitely say that the book is better for those who are less familiar with the ins and outs of brewing. While the chapters followed a definite progression, they didn't build on one another as much as I'd like. I normally would feel compelled to read a book like this straight through, but I found that I would put it down once I finished up each chapter.

There's one tidbit which left a sour taste in my mouth, and probably kept the book from getting a fifth star from me.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Scientific Look at Booze Science
This book is not for everyone. This is a serious look at the scientific side of booze. Do we understand how alcohol really works? Probably not. Read more
Published 14 minutes ago by Michael O. Nelson
4.0 out of 5 stars Know What You're Drinking
Really interesting and instructional read for anyone fond of beer, wine, and distiller spirits (or, actually, even fans of fungi). Read more
Published 16 hours ago by R. Witt
4.0 out of 5 stars very interesting!
Both scientific and entertaining this is a great book for those interested in booze. Very well written and well researched.
Published 4 days ago by C. Schnaubelt
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read, layman's discussion on the science of booze
Great read, layman's discussion on the science of booze. Recommended for anyone interested learning about the A to Z's of alcohol, it's science and history.
Published 6 days ago by ED
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
I bought this as a gift for my husband and he loved it. It had a lot of entertaining facts and he couldn't put it down.
Published 7 days ago by Peta Beavis
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, informative and entertaining
My son and I began our journey to becoming whisky snobs with the same "Oh crap" moment. Tasting, reading and finally visiting Scotland for the distillery tours ( yes, I... Read more
Published 9 days ago by sunnyday
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great subject, great book.
Published 12 days ago by C. Craig
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very happy with purchase.
Published 13 days ago by Mark Davis
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed the first few chapters the most
I enjoyed the first few chapters the most. The author talks about the history of alcohol consumption, the mechanics of the way our drinks are made and even the genetics and... Read more
Published 14 days ago by Tvengineer
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Well written and was a very good read. Would recommend and purchase again.
Published 16 days ago by fcawhite93
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