This is one of the most beautiful educational graphic novels I’ve seen this year. And what a subject, beer! It’s a long title but worth it: “The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World’s Favorite Beverage from 7000 BC to Today’s Craft Brewing Revolution.” Inspired, I chatted about the book with my old friend, Roy, at a local pub, Ballard’s own Stoup Brewing, while I went about preparing for this review. “Roy,” I said, ” I am always grateful that, in Seattle, you can literally walk out the door of one’s home and be within walking distance of a first-rate pub.” “Indeed, and Stoup is such an inviting place,” Roy observed. “Ah, to sit back and marvel over all the great things about beer. That’s the life!”
You had me at beer. What “The Comic Book Story of Beer” does is provide you with everything you ever wanted to know about beer in a pleasing full-color, lushly illustrated graphic novel. We begin with a young man bumbling along tasked with getting beer for a special occasion. Once inside an upscale specialty supermarket, he is lost among all the microbrew options. A helpful store employee pops in and conveniently begins our story. From then on, we are on a rollercoaster of information, often colorful and intriguing.
How did beer play an important role in everything from the rise and fall of Ancient Rome, the Dark Ages, the Age of Exploration, the spread of capitalism, and the Reformation? Well, without fear of overstatement, beer is something of a wonder drink. In this clear and concise narrative, Jonathan Hennessey and Mike Smith weave a most compelling narrative on the health benefits and motivating powers of beer as well as guide you through beer’s robust history. It’s really an exciting story that finds a perfect home within comics.
This book does yeoman service in the name of presenting information in an accessible manner. I really admire the artwork of artist Aaron McConnell. I had the pleasure of reviewing his artwork for “The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation,” also with writer Jonathan Hennessey, which you can read here. For this book on beer, McConnell masterfully brings to life abstract subjects like pasteurization, “original gravity,” and “lagering.”
Co-writer Mike Smith adds another layer of authenticity as the beer expert that won over Jonathan Hennessy to the idea of writing a beer book in the first place. It all began when Mike gave Jonathan a tour of Mayflower Brewing Company in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The wealth of information that Mike shared with Jonathan was just too good to pass up. It makes its way into a book that will win you over with its insider insight. For example, our main story is paused by intriguing beer profiles like the one on Belgian Wit and how it was single-handedly saved by a milkman from Flanders. No doubt, this is a pleasing book to behold and easily makes for the perfect gift for anyone into comics and/or beer.
THE COMIC BOOK STORY OF BEER is a 180-page trade paperback published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, and is available as of September 22nd. You can find it at Amazon right here.