The History of Beer in Comic Book Form
With our country’s recent beer boom, the fermented beverage of malts and hops seems to have as many fanboys as any superhero. So it’s only fitting that beer is about to get its own comic book—excuse me—“graphic novel.” Let’s keep things classy like a Pliny the Elder, not dumbed down like a Keystone Light.
Next month, Ten Speed Press will release The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World’s Favorite Beverage from 7000 BC to Today’s Craft Brewing Revolution, described as “a full-color, lushly illustrated graphic novel that recounts the many-layered past and present of beer through dynamic pairings of pictures and meticulously researched insight into the history of the world's favorite brew.”
Written by Jonathan Hennessey and brewer Mike Smith and illustrated by Aaron McConnell, the 173-page project tries to make the technical aspects of brewing and beer history as enjoyable as slugging back some brews. “A lot of beer books tend to be very serious, and I think the comic medium allowed us to tell the story of beer with a degree of levity,” Smith told NPR. “Another thing is, in the part of the book that explains just what beer is, we talk about sugar molecules, or long chains of starches, being broken apart by enzymes. It's really a simple, simple, simple thing that's happening, but it can seem very dry and be very hard to explain. When you draw it out with cartoon characters—little Lego men breaking apart things—it makes the concept a lot clearer.”
Smith also points out how beer geeks and comic book nerds have a surprising amount of overlap. “The genres themselves are similar in some ways, too. Just as beer is now exploding, so are comics,” he said. “They're both mainstreaming now.”
If there are any Hollywood executives out there, I’ve got a great pitch for Stone Arrogant Bastard: The Movie!