As an avid lover (but a very modest drinker) of beer, literature that explores the history of the special liquid and its transformation down the ages has always fascinated me. Beernomics is one of the more recent entries into that genre and a decent addition too. Beernomics charts an insightful (albeit dry) journey of the history of beer production from ancient Egypt through the monasteries of Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries to the modern-day craft breweries in America and Europe.
The uniqueness of Beernomics is that it explores the history of beer through an economics lens. From the taxes raised on beer and wine as a critical component finances Britain used to persecute the wars of 1689 to 1815. The high custom duties imposed on French wines made drinking locally brewed British beers a patriotic duty. The impact of globalization in the recent history of beer is seen in the rise of beer behemoths like AB InBev and SABMiller in a world where mergers and acquisitions have no respect for geographical boundaries and where global brands like Stella Artois are more popular overseas than at home. A similar story can be found in Australia where Foster’s is the export brand while Victoria Bitter is the domestic darling; Germany exports Beck’s, which trails domestically as the fourth biggest lager. The marketing and branding anecdotes of these global brands explain these seeming mismatches. Another interesting exploration in Beernomics is how globalization has played a subtle part in Russia retaining an image as a vodka drinking nation while more beer is being drunk there in recent decades. Trade liberalisation, FDIs and global advertising audiences have had an obvious impact on the changing alcohol palates in many countries with Russia a prime example.
While Beernomics does not deliver on how beer explains the world, it provides a rich (often dry though) history of how this precious liquid has transversed history, been impacted by global socio-economic trends while quenching global thirsts.