The Lager Queen of Minnesota: A Novel by J. Ryan Stradal

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My Interest

Having loved the author’s earlier book, Kitchen Gods of the Great Midwest, I knew I wanted to read more by her. Having previously been over-run by small vineyards, my rural county now has a new “brewpub” serving craft beers to any area previously dominated by Budwiser. “Brewpub” might be wrong. “Taproom?” Whatever. They have a food truck come by to sell food in the parking lot. Inside the taproom/brewpub, they only sell beer. So, with that all in mind I started listening to this new book.

The Story

Two sisters take different courses in life–one by choice, one not so much. Big sister Edith does the predictable 1950s thing and marries young. Younger sister Helen finds her passion early: beer. But not just drinking it. She discovers she wants to brew it. She then does a few dirty tricks to use both her inheritance and her sister’s to make her own beer dream come true generations before people sought degrees in brewmastership (or whatever it is called).

Fast-forward to the modern day when Edith become guardian to her grandchild, Diana. Thru a stroke of sheer luck, Diana is taken on at a local brewery, and she, too, finds her calling making beer, only by now it is craft beer, but she needs a little help. That help is the best part of the story so I won’t spoil it.

My Thoughts

My first thought was how much this book was like a Fannie Flagg novel in tone and to me, that is high praise! I like a good, fun novel. No one gets raped or murdered and even the underhanded trick at the heart of it all isn’t really that heinous. Later I thought, the subtitle should have been: “Empowerment Through Beer.”

Diana’s story was so real and so relevant to today. No, she did not have to make the choice she did, but teenagers do surprising things when they try to do the right thing. [No spoilers]. I loved the outcome of that–it is how much such events should be handled in the real world. Edith’s life as a late-in-life worker was especially poignent. I am served every morning by elderly women just like Edith when I hit any drive-thru.

I enjoyed this book from start to finish. The author is pitch-perfect on her characters voices, vibes, values,and valor. None were charicatures–all were real. It helped, too, that the performer of the audio book nailed the local accent. That makes it an even better experience.

As to the beer ad brewing aspect of the story, I’ve tasted some craft beers and admit I do not “get” the whole excitement, but I do love the sound of many of them as well as the names and logos–much more interesting than the old Bud, Hamms, Old Milwaukee and Michelob. And, yes, Coors was divine back in that day!  In regard to craft beers, after reading this book I realize I’ve likely just tasted bad ones. Chocolate Stout might just be the ticket for me, though.

My Verdict

3.5

The Lager Queen of Minnesota: A Novel by J. Ryan Stradal

 

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