Top critical review
4 people found this helpful
Autobiography, not a business manual
on 4 December 2013
Either this book is an autobiography, or business advice for craft brewers--but it can't promise to be both.
What this book mostly wasn't: helpful tips for starting a craft brewery by way of a personal tale of starting one of the most successful craft breweries in the US.
What it mostly was: a former English major's braggy autobiography about his exceptionalism and his personal tale of starting one of the most successful craft breweries in the US.
The book has several key faults. This most major one is that the advice of the book can be broken down into several pithy statements: be true to yourself, be true to your brand, know and listen to your customers. These generic comments are useful for any type of business, you just can't base an entire book on them. Almost every single section of the book is a rewording of one or several of those points. This started to become evident when some of his anecdotes started reappearing, and I'm only a third of the way through the book. The book is seriously in need of an editor; I'm not sure how it made it into the second edition with those kinds of blunders.
You should expect these kinds of books to be motivational, to encourage the timid would-be craft brewer into taking the plunge into the business. What Calagione fails to do is acknowledge his privilege and his exceptionalism, and presents them almost as bragging. In the first chapter he presents the story of his party-animal teenage self kicked out of a prep school. Most people aren't gutsy enough to be kicked out of their high school, and most kids don't have the kind of support that gives them things like prep school. Calagione also founded his company at a time when interest in craft beer was exploding, and rode that wave.
Make no mistake, Calagione is an exceptional man and has accomplished great things as a result of that. The problem is that he presents a tale that can only be accomplished by an exceptional man with support, not an aspiring brewer.
Despite all this, we should thank Calagione for sharing his journey with a growing public of aspiring craft brewers. If you comb the book you will find nuggets of advice in some of the anecdotes. Given a thorough edit, this book could be an enjoyable autobiography with some amusing anecdotes. But this book will never be a useful guide to the aspiring craft brewer.