Beeronomics: How Beer Explains the World
Despite its somewhat corny title, Beeronomics is a well-researched history and economic analysis of the world's favorite alcoholic beverage and its role in turning mankind from hungry hunter-gatherers to frolicking, leisure-loving adults. A joint effort between the scholarly Johan Swinnen (professor of economics at the University of Leuven) and marketing maven Devin Briski (Vox Media and Stanford Social Innovation Review), it has enough tables and charts to please the dedicated economist, leavened with ample colloquial asides to entertain the rest of us. It even sports a telling chapter epigraph by Frank Zappa: "You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least, you need a beer."
Briski and Swinnen trace the first mention of beer to The Epic of Gilgamesh chiseled into stone around 2000 BC, although Mesopotamian beer recipes from 6000 BC have also been authenticated. From there, it has been one breakthrough after another (e.g., using hops for preservation, bottom fermenting for clarity and lightness, mass production of glass bottles, steel and aluminum cans with pull-tops, TV advertising, etc.) that shifted the beer business from isolated monasteries to global corporate behemoths (led by Swinnen's hometown Belgium giant AB InBev). With its long history of mass consumption, government regulation and taxation and technical innovation, beer has been at the center of every major economic trend--an argument the authors make convincingly, even if you can't "find your beach" or "climb on... whatever your mountain." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.