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The Life of Beer:

A Fermented Biography
by Stephen Morris


In 1978 Stephen Morris, then 29, set out with his wife and dog on a quest to learn everything there was to know about beer and beer drinking in America. His goal was to learn "the secret of the suds." He didn't know it at the time, but beer trekking has a long and rich historical precedent as a means of learning about life, while experiencing it to its fullest.
Original edition of The Great Beer Trek
At the time of this particular trek the commercial brewing business in America, from a perspective of product diversity, had hit rock bottom. Of the 1500 breweries that had started up at the end of Prohibition, only 42 remained. A massive consolidation left more than 90% of the industry in the hands of three companies (Budweiser, Miller, and Schlitz). The consolidation in terms of variety and selection was even more severe, leaving the American beer drinker with a choice of thin, fizzy, lager beer or even-thinner, fizzy, lager beer. Homebrewing was not an alternative. To brew at home was to be guilty of a felony!
Revised edition of The Great Beer Trek
It was a grim time for adventurous beer drinkers (although a great time for mega-beer manufacturers). The Morrises, fresh from a stint in England where they were exposed to cask-fermented "real ales" served in warm and friendly pubs, wanted to find out why the American beerscape was so bleak.
Their story, The Great Beer Trek: A Guide to the Highlights and Lowlites of American Beer Drinking, was published by Stephen Greene Press in 1984. By the time they finished their odyssey faint glimmers of hope had appeared on the horizon of suds. Homebrewing had lost its felony stigma. And an intrepid Californian named Jack MacAuliffe had dared to open a tiny "micro" brewery in defiance of the near monopoly of the brewing behemoths. That his business was short-lived and ill fated is insignificant. The revolution, declared the beer trekkers, had begun.
The book sold 20,000 copies. A revised edition, published by Viking/Penguin in 1990, sold an additional 12,000. The book was translated into Japanese in 1995. By this time much of the information was obsolete, but the Japanese regarded The Great Beer Trek as the book that had started the worldwide revolution in microbrewing. Now, the highlights were clearly outnumbering the lowlights. New breweries offering handcrafted, inventive brews were opening at the rate of one per week. It was a frothy era, and the beer drinker rightfully declared victory!
But what has happened since? And what does the future hold for beer and its loyal supporters? Is beer the liquid lightning rod for society? Is the revolution over, or has the beer drinker been lulled into complacency? What the hell's going on? These are the essential questions in a totally new great beer trek, The Life of Beer.

Why now? Why beer?

beer label
The central premise of The Great Beer Trek was that because beer drinking is fundamental to most cultures, an examination of a nation's beer drinking customs and environment will provide a unique window of observation. True then, true now. The Life of Beer is the contemporary update of an oft-told tale. So goes beer; so goes the nation.
There are definitely causes for concern for today's beer drinker:
* After several decades of steady growth, consolidation is occurring amongst the ranks of the microbrewers. They are victims of their own success and even the brewing behemoths are entering the handcrafted fray.
* Mothers Against Drunk Driving have successfully raised consciousness to the point where friends really don't let friends drive drunk. Drinking ages are trending up, and colleges are cracking down on an epidemic of binge drinking.
* A proliferation of brands has muddied the beverage market. Launched by the major distillers and aimed at the neophyte drinker just being weaned from soda pop, beer is facing a proliferation of competition.
* Beer, once a last bastion of regionality, has gone global. We are currently at odds with the Muslim world where alcoholic beverages are regarded as the swill of infidels. Has it come to a battle between the beer drinkers and the non-beer drinkers for global supremacy?
The target audience for this book will not be the Neanderthal frat boy depicted in commercials for Bud Light, Coors Light, and Sam Adams Light, nor will it be the erudite beer snob who interprets beer using the vocabulary of wine. Rather, it will be the beer drinker who admits that he loves beer, and who wants to better understand why.

Rationale for the book

The original Beer Trek was a physical journey that touched on every operating American brewery. In 1978 this was physically possible. To accomplish the same goals today, however, would take ten times as long and would be half as interesting. The trek that will generate the material and experiences for The Life of Beer will still be an epic exploration, but will take place in worlds both physical and virtual. The balance of the research techniques, and the contrast with the methodology of a quarter-century ago, will provide an interesting subplot to the central story.
Another significant difference between The Life of Beer and The Great Beer Trek is that the author's partner will be his 20-something son, Patrick, who will bring new energy and perspective to the otherwise timeless subject of beer. He will also be the producer/director of a parallel video that will be an essential component of the post-publication promotional campaign.

The Competition

The world of beer literature has evolved significantly in the last quarter century. At the time of the original Trek there were a handful of beer books in print. Since then beer has been scrutinized from every possible angle. Most current literature focuses on how-to homebrew, or provides comparisons and rating of different beer types.
Bookstores now have extensive beer and wine sections, and there are a half dozen monthly periodicals on beer, and dozens of specialty books, offering a far broader opportunity for reviews and publicity. The Life of Beer will have a broader focus than any other book on the market, portraying its subject within a social and cultural context. Other books may teach how to brew, or the history of brewing, or which brews are preferred by which expert. The Life of Beer, through its story of discovery, adventure, and passage, will provoke the reader to think about beer in entirely new and different ways. And The Life of Beer will make the reader very, very thirsty.
The market for a general readership beer book is difficult to quantify, but is substantial. There are 90 million beer drinkers in the U.S. At last count there were nearly 2000 microbreweries. Charlie Papazian's The Complete Joy of Homebrewing has sold over 200,000 copies. Clearly, a book that is well written, packaged as a gift that a woman might buy for a man, and actively promoted has an enormous potential audience.

Specialty markets

The publication of The Great Beer Trek attracted a great deal of national feature coverage, both from print and broadcast media. The idea of travelling America and taking the subject of beer way too seriously strikes a responsive chord with the media. Stephen Morris has been interviewed on All Things Considered and more than 100 radio stations. Favorable mentions came from the book trade, men's magazines like Playboy and Penthouse, and the beer enthusiast magazines. The fact that a new Trek is underway will have newsworthiness.
In 1984 there was not an infrastructure to connect the book with its target audience. did not exist. Superstores did not exist. Independent bookstores did not have a category for beverage books and the prevailing bookseller attitude was "beer drinkers don't read books." Specialty home brew shops and microbrewery gift stores, all of which now include books as an important part of merchandise offerings, did not exist. (There are now more than 3000 such outlets nationwide.)
The current marketplace will provide a much greater sales opportunity for The Life of Beer than existed for The Great Beer Trek.

Promotional plans and possible sponsorships

A website and eNewsletter will be created early on in the process and will chart progress of the project and later will promote the appearance schedule of the authors.
While researching the world of beer, Patrick Morris will shoot extensive video footage that will be edited into a parallel project that will be used for promotional purposes after the book is published. The video will be a humorous look at beer in America with a philosophical underpinning promoting responsible drinking. It will feature Michael Moore-style interviews with the colorful personalities who make and consume beer.
The video will be designed for a post-publication promotional tour by Patrick Morris, which will take him to brewpubs, homebrew clubs, bookstores, and colleges. He will actively sell books and DVDs of The Life of Beer. The authors will want to purchase a significant number of books for sale at specialty events.
It's possible that commercial sponsorships will reduce the costs of research. Possible candidates to support The Life of Beer will be a brewery, a trade organization, an automotive company, and video/electronic communications firm.

Logistics and timetable

This book will require travel and active research, although there will not be a repeat of the original Trek.
The authors will need twelve to eighteen months from the time of signing a contract to complete the manuscript. Because of Stephen Morris's experience as a book publisher the manuscript will require minimal editing. He can be counted on to contribute proactively to the creation of an effective and appropriate marketing campaign.
In conclusion, a good brewer can tell when the time is right to stop the fermentation and to capture the beer in a bottle. Similarly, Stephen and Patrick Morris know that the time is right, once again, to tell the story of beer drinking in America. The time for The Life of Beer has come.

The Life of Beer- A Description

The Life of Beer uses the original Beer Trek as a reference point in the modern history of beer, but is an entirely new book. It is a retrospective of the original, a review of the most tumultuous quarter-century in American culture, and a look forward into the future of beer, America, and the planet.
The text will be approximately 70,000 words, with approximately 20 illustrations picked up from the original edition (rights are held by Stephen Morris), and another 25-30 photos and line drawings, mostly solicited from breweries.
Approximately half of the text will be in the form of brief, descriptive sidebars. This will lend itself to a contemporary design that will appeal to the attention deficit nature of our contemporary culture. This is a book that can be consumed in small sips or large gulps.
There is no need for a color photography. The reference section will be brief, and will be "wired" to the website. The website will publicize upcoming promotional appearances and encourage contact with trekker wannabees.

Content and style

Many of the architects of the beer revolution in America were participants in the initial Trek. Their observations, reflections and predictions will provide much of the material for this book. The combination of interviews, travel, and the observation will create a rich and tasty brew akin to an India Pale Ale.
Says co-author, Stephen Morris:
"When I began my research into beer in 1972, I thought I was interested in beer, the product. By the time I completed the Beer Trek my quest became broadened to a search for 'the secret of the suds.' Now, a quarter century older, fatter, balder, and theoretically wiser, I am in a position to combine my accumulated observations with those of other beer aficionados who fought in the trenches of the Beer Revolution. Along the way, we might discover why beer stirs such strong passions and loyalties in the male of the species.
Adds his son, Patrick:
"The idea of travelling around the country, learning about and tasting great beer is just as appealing to me as it was to my Mom and Dad twenty-five years ago. I'm no dummy. This beats flipping burgers any day."

about the book    sample    contents

about the author

Stephen Morris, author, grower of mighty zucchinis, father to Jake and Patrick, columnist, and author of several books, is a marketing wizard in his professional life. His fans look forward to find his work in new and unexpected places.
Patrick Morris is a comedian, a basketball coach, a geography major, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Clark University, and, of course, a lover of malt, yeast, hops, and water. He loves other things, too.

Stephen Morris

One Step Consulting
100 Gilead Brook Road
Randolph, Vermont  05060
802.234.9130    fax: 802.234.6206

Patrick Morris

P-Mo Productions
32 Highland Avenue
Randolph, Vermont  05060

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