By Joe Eskenazi
Brian Yaeger has hit the big time. A public relations company recently called the 34-year-old San Franciscan and asked him what address he’d like his complimentary six-pack of Newcastle Brown mailed to. No, there’s not going to be any money involved – but he does have free beer flowing his way, for now and the foreseeable future. Which is nice.
Of course, that’s the happy byproduct of pulling off a feat that’ll earn him a promotion to minor deity in fraternity houses nationwide: Yaeger took off on a multi-state beer run – and managed to get himself a book deal out of it. The result is Red, White and Brew, which is officially pops its literary cap today.
All-told, Yaeger visited 27 breweries and 16 brew pubs on a seven-week, nationwide beer run starting in Pottsville, Penn. (home of Yuengling, the oldest brewery in the realm), tracing up into New England, rolling through the Midwest, hitting Lawrence, Kan., traipsing through the Rockies, finding Portland, Ore., shooting through California, reaching Texas via the Sonora Desert and, finally, concluding in Rehoboth Beach, Del., home of Dogfish Head Brewing (the beer beer snobs go on about the way regular guys talk about Scarlett Johansson.). And, yes, he slept in the car.
Yaeger’s beer odyssey stemmed from a collegiate writing course in which he found himself the only possessor of a Y-Chromosome among 16 students. On Day One, his female colleagues told the professor, in succession, they wanted to write about “my relationship with (fill in loved one/family member).” Almost instinctually, Yaeger blurted out that he wanted to write about beer. The idea stuck.
And while Yaeger’s book is about beer, it isn’t crafted for aficionados; the word “mouthfeel,” for example, isn’t used once.
“It’s like VH1’s ‘Behind the Music,’ except it’s ‘Behind the beer,’” says Yaeger with a laugh as he finishes a pint of Anchor Steam at Mad Dog in the Fog. It’s at this point that a semi-sober Red Sox fan named Rodney sitting at the next table exclaimd, “Hey! You just said you went on an interstate beer run – and that guy is, like, typing everything you say! That’s awesome!” This conversation lasted quite a while – though Rodney, to his credit, offered to buy everyone beer.
Anyhow, Yaeger’s tome is more a story about the people who brew beer than a ratings manual. Yaeger is more interested in, say, writing about how fifth-generation brewer Jake Lienekugel of Chippewa Falls, Wisc. was placed into a case box and run through the conveyor belt by his dad than writing about the beer’s drinkability.
And there’s even a little history involved. Yaeger – who hosts his release day book party tonight at 7 p.m. at The 540 Club – notes that for those who think Jimmy Carter didn’t do peanuts as president, keep in mind that the man from Plains did sign a bill legalizing home-brewing in 1978.
Millions of Americans were overjoyed – and none more so than Billy.