Summer days and the summer nights are gone/ I know a place where there’s still somethin’ going on…” Bob Dylan, “Summer Days” from Love and Theft (2001)
Bottoms Up: A Toast to Wisconsin’s Historic Bars & Breweries by Jim Draeger, Mark Speltz, and Mark Fay (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, $29.95, 272 pages)
Bottoms Up: A Toast to Wisconsin’s Historic Bars & Breweries has the potential to appeal to a variety of readers. Weekend travelers and curiousity seekers will find ideas for a mini-excursion in the coffee table-style book. History buffs should be drawn to various aspects of the account: prohibition, supper clubs, old-fashioned breweries, local culture, hops, architecture – a little something for everybody. But, most of all, beer lovers from anywhere should be attracted to tales of secret entrances for women; classic bartenders; dice games; microbrews; corner taverns; tourist traps; highway stopping off places; and memories of 10-ounce drafts, fish frys, crazy uncles, dart boards, and, for the true Wisconsinite, the magic potion known as an Old Fashioned.
The first 74 pages are an historical account of immigration, breweries, prohibition, and various other stories detailing Wisconsin traditions and the evolution of the brewing industry. There are times when the Germans and the Irish play nice, and times when they don’t. The rest of the book divides the state into regions and lists 70 must visit places throughout the state.
The writing is mostly straightforward. There is a hint of cleverness to some passages, but the book avoids being schmaltzy – even if it sometimes touches on malt – and can be appreciated for possessing characters, humor and insight without being contrived, forced, or displaying any hint of condescension. Having been in many of these places myself, I can personally vouch for the fact that these authors know what they’re talking about.
To memories and old friends. Cheers!
This book is also available as a Kindle Edition and Nook Book download. Dave Moyer is a public education administrator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.