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Beer in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance Kindle Edition
"In Farleigh Field" by Rhys Bowen
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the industrial age. Unger demonstrates that the organization of labor and capital in
urban brewing centers in the middle ages and renaissance was a model for industrialization
in Europe later on.
This is a prodigious work of scholarship. The writing can be a bit clumsy at times, but
it is a book that's worth the effort.
The book is very thorough and informative, sometimes too much so. It's not the most entertaining read you'll ever have--the writing tends to be dry and matter-of-fact, and from time to time a paragraph slides into a listing of statistics: production figures from here, here, here, here, and here in the latter fifteenth century to those in the sixteenth century, to those...zzzzzOhwhereareweatnow?
Ok, so it can be a slow read at times. However, it honestly covers what it says it does. It talks about all aspects of brewing, from malting to distribution and sale. It discusses considerations of things such as fuel (which gets neglected in most books), it talks about sizes of breweries and relations with employees, and it goes into the subject of brewers' guilds, which was kind of an eye-opener. Also I was very glad he was honest about including the Middle Ages; his narrative doesn't start in 1485 and pretend that covers the Middle Ages. Ok it doesn't talk much about before the 12th century, but that's because the records before then become sparse.
On a technical note, it was refreshing to see that when this author talks about Holland, he *means* Holland, not the Netherlands as a whole (Holland is a region and former province of the Netherlands--calling the country "Holland" is a lot like calling the UK "England").
I was also glad to see the author give a lot of time and attention to gruit (what people used to bitter beer before hops), which is the biggest difference between medieval and modern beer. He doesn't give any gruit recipes, but then this isn't written with homebrewers in mind.
So, this isn't a light read, but it's a great source of information on the subject.
Altogether, though, a great addition to my brewers' bookshelf.