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Book Review: Alaskan Bootlegger’s Bible

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Having recently developed an interest in home brewing, I figured it was about time I looked into how it fit into Alaskan history.

Now, home brewing has been going on for eons, and Alaska brewing is short in comparison, but the pioneering spirit that infiltrated the state during the gold rush years has never completely dissipated. The state offers an excellent bounty of brewable items, be it saps, honey and water, or blueberries, cranberries and raspberries.

The book takes a decidedly unscientific approach, and does so on purpose. Early Alaskan pioneers didn’t have the luxury of hydrometers and big glass carboys. Kania provides tips on constructing everything from airlocks to stills.

Which I suppose brings up a point that needs to be made early. A lot of what is in this book would be illegal for you to try at home. Know and respect the law wherever you live. He provides this information for entertainment and education. The book does, after all, provide everything you’d need to know to distill your own liquor, and that is illegal to do, at least in the United States.

Making mead, wines and beer all are covered in detail with a number of tasty looking recipes. Stressed throughout the book are safety and cleanliness. Useful illustrations accompany many of the topics, especially construction tips for tools and equipment.

There are a number of inconsistencies in the book, and some suggestions I don’t agree with. For example, Kania stresses using plastic buckets over carboys. Plastic buckets are easily scratched providing nooks and crannies for bacteria and other nasties to get hold of, making it difficult to clean. This is not an issue with glass carboys.

Additionally, on the same page (133) he gives conflicting advice. In one section he stresses never storing alcohol above 15% in plastic containers. Then in a list of tips, he suggests using metal or plastic containers instead of glass to store alcohol.

There sections of the book that made me cringe. A section where the author goes into “pseudo Indian” speak had me gagging.

Finally, this book appears never to have passed under the eyes of an editor. Typos abound. Between misspellings, incomplete sentences, out of order words, or words that don’t belong in the sentence all together, I found myself reading many sections more than once. While I can’t say I expect professionalism out of my bootleggin’ books, this was just sloppy.

This alone wouldn’t normally have me not recommend a book, but the problems were so apparent and so abundant that I just can’t do it. Yes, the recipes are good. Yes, the history is interesting. But, this book is in it’s 6th printing. Shouldn’t these problems be corrected by now? Can’t do it, purchase at your own risk.

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