Alan D. Eames, Secret Life of Beer: Legends, Lore & Little-known Facts. Read 3-8 March 2013. Acquired from Central Oregon Community College. Call number: TP 577 .E27 1995
Secret Life of Beer: Legends, Lore & Little-Known FactsWorldCat•LibraryThing•Google Books•BookFinder
This book is the beer equivalent of The Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader series. (Then again, it has been 20 years since I’ve seen an Uncle John’s so I may be denigrating them by saying that.) The book is a compendium of poetry, songs, literary quotes, legends and excerpts from human history.
Here’s my gripe. The blurb on the back of the book states that “Alan D. Eames is a cultural anthropologist, …. He is a founding director of the American Museum of Brewing History & Fine Arts …” (back cover). But there isn’t a single source fully credited in the book.
OK, I am more than willing to take “William Shakespeare, Othello, Act I;” or, “Thomas Hardy, Channel Firing, 1914;” and even, “Chaucer, Canterbury Tales” as complete enough for the purposes of this kind of work. But. Neither “A.A. Milne (1882-1956),” nor “Henry Miller (1891-1980),” nor especially “Samuel Johnson,” nor “Christopher Marlowe” are acceptable citations. It is not just the pop culture section that is guilty of incomplete citations. ‘Saintly Suds’ gives us things like “Saint Hildegard (A.D. 1098-1179) Benedictine Nun” and “Saint Arnoldus” and “”Sir William Ashbless.” So not only are the citations lacking in rigor, but my old gripe about inconsistency is present. Well, if she is “Saint” Hildegard then I am pretty sure it is A.D. (or C.E.). But when did Arnoldus and Ashbless live? And, more importantly, from what sources does this information come?
Here is picture of p. 182 and a portion of p. 183 to illustrate what I mean (see: Shakespeare, Johnson and Milne):
P. 182 and a portion of p. 183 illustrating my point about the weakness of source citations.
Maybe it is all my years hanging out in higher ed but I expect more in the way of proper annotation by someone calling themselves a cultural anthropologist. So who is Alan D. Eames?
Well, a quick Google search shows us the question should be “Who was Alan D. Eames?” Obituaries in the New York Times, the Guardian, Realbeer.com, and elsewhere tell us that he was born April 16, 1947 and died Feb. 10, 2007. A couple of pages into the Google results is his obit from the local paper, the Brattleboro Reformer.
From his obits we learn that:
- He was known as “the Indiana Jones of beer” (NYT)
- He died Feb. 10, 2007 and was 59 years old (NYT)
- He wrote seven books, made “myriad radio and television appearances,” gave many lectures (NYT) at places such as “The New England College of Medicine, The Culinary Institute of America, the Departments of Anthropology at Brown University, University of Georgia, and The United States Botanic Garden,” and wrote many articles (real beer).
- His father was “a Harvard-trained anthropologist” (NYT).
- He was married four times (NYT).
- “He visited 44 countries in his search for beer and its roots” (G).
- “he would startle male-dominated groups of drinkers at his lectures with his view that beer is the most feminine of drinks and that most ancient societies considered it was a gift from a goddess rather than a god” (G).
- “along with Professor Solomon Katz of the University of Pennsylvania, developed the theory that beer, even more than bread, played a key role in creating settled, civilised societies” (G). [Here’s an article in the NYT about Katz and the theory (Mar 87)]
- “But he was used to controversy. He stood outside the small clan of professional beer writers and criticised those who tasted beer in the comfort of their homes rather than paddling up the Amazon or visiting Egyptian tombs” (G).
- “Some doubted the authenticity of certain aspects of his work and his description of himself as “the King of Beer” did little to quieten the critics (G).
Most of the rest of the Google results are for places to buy his books or learn about them, or other “media” ripping off each other, and the NYT or Guardian, for obits. Although, one of the early results is for this article, which is a shortened version of the book under review:
I searched JSTOR for anything authored by him, seeing as he labelled himself a cultural anthropologist and it has a good collection of anthropology journals, but found nothing.
Searching the Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure database via COCC I found the following:
- “Alan Eames.” Beverage Industry Dec. 1999 : 54. Print.
- “Cincinnati’s Brewery to Finance Amazon Expedition in Peru.” Modern Brewery Age 21 Jan. 1991 : 1. Print.
- “Peruvian Expedition Gives Beer Insights.” Modern Brewery Age 25 Mar. 1991 : 4. Print.
The first is a short interview and the other two are regarding an Amazonian expedition that he went on to discover beermaking techniques.
I did track down several article by Solomon Katz, mentioned above, who does maintain that cereal was domesticated for beer instead of for bread, but could find no mention of Eames or any contribution by him to Katz’s theories.
So, amongst many actual accomplishments—some of which are under dispute—he seems to have been quite the huckster. Part of me shies away from such a judgment without knowing more but based on one last obit I want to share, written by a friend of Eames, “he played that image [the Indiana Jones of Beer] to the hilt, too, since as he once freely admitted to me, he was also something of the P.T. Barnum of beer: “I’m in every sense a promoter.”” The P.T. Barnum of beer was exactly what I was going to call him.
In regards to beer quotes, here is a good post on more deserving beer quotes:
And here is link to one of the Katz articles I found:
With all of this said, it sounds as if Alan Eames was an adventurous, colorful, and often controversial character. I may question some of his ‘scholarship’ but I would love to have drank some beer with him. He seems like he was a jolly, avuncular chap, who just like your favorite uncle could tell some stories you might question just a bit, nor all of which you would believe, but you would still love to hang out with.
As for the book, there is a lot of interesting stuff in it. The question remains as to how much of it you can take for fact. If you aren’t overly concerned with things like that, or simply have different standards for these kinds of things than I do, then I recommend it. If you will be bugged to no end by lack of proper source crediting then do skip it.
Eames, Alan D. Secret Life of Beer: Legends, Lore & Little-known Facts. Pownal, Vt.: Storey Communications, 1995. Print.