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Travels With Barley: The Quest for the Perfect Beer Joint

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  215 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Travels With Barley: The Quest for the Perfect Beer Joint
Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Berkley Trade (first published October 5th 2004)
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Average rating 3.37  · 
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 ·  215 ratings  ·  38 reviews

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Oct 25, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, food, travel
Let me start that my opinion of this book and not giving it a higher rating might be due to the fact that I am Beer Geek. This book has parts that are fantastic, had me laughing out loud and appreciating the great beer world. However, that only covered about 2/3 of the book. The other third wasted time in Graceland, trying to figure out if Elvis drank beer (20 wasted pages later he doesn't), Hooters (didn't even discuss beer), and chains. Admittedly, this guy didn't map out his trip beforehand, ...more
Not my cuppa, really. And it's far more Travels than Barley.

I can't help but take a skeptical view of those who take pride in how 'not politically correct' they are.
Sep 19, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those that want to know more about beer beyond budweiser,
Well written and passionate, though it jumps around, this book is a lot of fun to read. Wells starts the book off as though he is chasing the ultimate beer joint... a venture he is not equipped to undertake (though some good stories come from trying).

A great way to see all the different things going on with different styles of beer all around America. We are living in the age of the most variety and best beer ever in history, and its happening right here in America. If you want a glimpse into t
Mar 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book that makes no pretenses about being comprehensive still manages a fairly comprehensive look at the current state of beer in America from the giants, distribution, craft and extreme beer movements to homebrew contests, law, science, and history. And surprisingly unbiased: the author has almost convinced me to not be such a snob about the Buds of the world and maybe try a Bud once in the right setting...but hopefully this feeling will pass.
Terry Kruse
I learned a lot though I do think it was overwritten. A little long.
Sep 28, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: aborted
This book is an absolute piece of trash. Not only is it far less than insightful or even entertaining to anyone who knows about or has a flirting interest in beer, but it does nothing to inform readers new to the subject either. The author confesses at the begining of the book that he has next to no beer knowledge and so embarks on this quest to gain some. Although he claims to be traveling down the Mississippi, he jumps around the continent as he so pleases, with no real agenda in mind. He obta ...more
Jan 16, 2015 rated it liked it
This book was like a 12-pack sample of US beer culture. Some parts were good, some parts were bad. Some parts were a little skunky, particularly the cheesy NPR-style jokes and humor. I think he even talks about the NPR radio station cutting in and out of his reception as he drives along the "river of beer". Yes, there are lots of filler like that in this book. In the end though, this book is a memoir of one man's experiences of trying to gain some kind of insight on American beer culture. In fac ...more
Jun 19, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was set up in two parts. The odd numbered chapters covered various high level topics in 'beer culture' such as beer history, yeast in beer, and growing hops. The even numbered chapters covered the author's quest to find the 'perfect beer joint', which he undertook by traveling down the Mississippi river, from Minnesota to Louisiana. I thought the odd number chapters were interesting. He was able to interview some well known people in the beer industry. The even numbered chapters were d ...more
Mar 04, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who know nothing about beer
Shelves: food
I figured a book about beer would be right up my alley, but this was fairly disappointing. It did have some interesting information about the brewing process, but for an author who was out to find "the perfect beer joint," he seemed woefully ignorant of even the rudiments of beer culture. So much so that he didn't even know what hops were. Trying to scour the country to find the perfect drinking establishment is a quixotic endeavor at best, but it should at least be attempted by someone who has ...more
Jan 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Interesting mix of beer novice and beer geekdom. The author starts off as a Bud-drinking everyday kinda beer drinker, but they in his quest to find the ultimate beer joint, discovers the craft brewing industry and becomes a "Hophead" (like myself). This results in a book that is a little schizophrenic - it can be a bit basic for beer geeks like myself that have already taken a dozen tours of breweries and know about microbrews and beer festivals, but probably gets a little too wonkish about beer ...more
Rich Rosell
Ken Wells probably had a lot of fun researching this book - basically traveling around the country searching for the "perfect beer joint" and documenting his journey. Along the way he presents a history of beer in the U.S. (at least up through 2002 - when this was written), stops in assorted smalltown bars, yaks with the locals and homebrewers, and tries to get a feel for American beer culture off the beaten path.

More breezy than deep, Travels with Barley is a fun read, though the fact that it's
Apr 19, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The narrative is structured around the author-constructed "River of Beer", an analogy that simply doesnt hold. He erroneously, in my opinion, takes the position that a trip down the Mississippi from north to south will provide a representative sample from which to extract a view of America's beer culture. He then tries to correct this obvious problem with frequest side trips to the east and west coasts. What the hell? Why use the river analogy in the first place? The whole thing is too cutesy, a ...more
Jul 31, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book for a friend and decided to read it myself before I passed it along :) Some of the descriptions of beer-making got a little technical and I didn't feel that they were that well explained, and I also thought that Ken Wells got a little off topic sometimes, describing the scenery along the Mississippi for paragraph after paragraph. That said, it was interesting to learn more about the industrial beer and craft beer wars. I particularly liked when he was in Wisconsin and New Orle ...more
Dec 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a VERY interesting read. Wells goes to a lot of neat (and not so neat) places and learns a LOT about beer. There's a lot of history worked into the narrative, and a lot of cool information about craft beers, microbreweries, beer culture, and BEER. My only complaint with this book was that it should come with a variety case of beer to go along with each chapter, so readers can taste and experience what Wells does through his travels. If you are interested in beer or travel writing, ...more
Jan 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ken Wells is on a search for the perfect beer joint in America and he's taking you with him. On your beer journey, some of your stops will include a dive bar straddling the border of Florida and Alabama, a microwbrewery in Delaware, and a hop farm in Idaho. You'll also learn numerous facts about brewing and the beer industry along the way. If you like beer, pour yourself a pint and read this book now. ...more
Jan 06, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Beer Geeks/Wanna-Be Beer Geeks
I really wanted to like this more. The author basically writes about his own education regarding beer, microbrewing, and the culture thereof. So it starts good but it is so disjointed. There is a vague point of him finding "the ultimate beer joint" which sends him to various towns, breweries, and bars and he talks to lots of interesting folks. But...I found it really scattered and pointless at times. Plus I was jealous - why can't I get paid to run around drinking beer in random places? ...more
Jan 24, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
A favorite author, think Mealy LeBeauv, gets an assignment from his day job, The Wall Street Journal, to find the perfect Beer Joint. After reading the title, it was all down hill for me. I'm just so over sitting in bars watching the show..... Most of the people I know who kept the beer beer culture alive in our area are either dead or look like they soon will be. I still enjoy a beer now and then, but not in the temples to brew in where Wells was conducting his research. ...more
Jul 30, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While it's informative about the beer industry, The author never does find the perfect beer joint on his trip along the Mississippi River. It's because he was in the wrong location and went looking in the wrong bars. I have a list in my head of what used to be my favorite places in Erie, PA and in Cleveland, OH. Reading this book made me miss the old Floodwater Cafe down on Canal Rd. That place was a dive, but a fun dive. ...more
Gretchen Gingerich
Jul 17, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Beer lovers
A good book if you want to learn about beer. Not a good book if you'd like a good bit of narrative. The information is worth knowing, but the author's quest of finding the perfect beer joint along the Mississippi gets lost in so many side trips and tangents. Worth a read if you enjoy beer though. ...more
Jan 05, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Came up short, in my opinion. The author travels down the Mississippi in search of the perfect American beer joint. Sounds like fun? It is not. The author writes for the Wall Street Journal and it shows. His work is very thorough, well researched and runs from dry to boring. A waste of an awful pun.
Feb 15, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy read about a man trying to find the perfect American beer bar or tavern. What would you include? Where would your beer bar be? The author mixes in a good "History of Beer in America" lesson as he drinks his way down the Mississippi. Interesting history of how cheap American lager took over the US beer market. Why do people drink Bud when there are so many great options these days? ...more
Nov 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Beer consumers that can appreciate diverse tastes
This book talked heavily about the craft beer movement that has recently swept the US. I was not expecting this much info about that subject but I did enjoy reading about it! I would recommend this to anyone that appreciate a fine brew. Especially those that are aware of the world outside "the big three" (Bud/Miller/Coors.) ...more
Apr 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book looks at beer joints across America in search of what makes a good bar such a satisfying hangout. By itself, this sounds pretty superficial, but Wells also looks at beer culture in the states and gives insight into the process and manufacture of beer - both behemoth and craft.

Well's tone is very conversational and the story he tells is entertaining.
Jul 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes superb writing and/or non-fiction... and/or beer
Recommended to Melissa by: Google
Shelves: non-fiction

I even got my 85 year old grandmother to try beer for the first time, after reading some of the book - she just loves well-written, non-fiction books. This one is TOP NOTCH. Definitely the best book I've read in the last 2 years.
Aug 19, 2008 marked it as chose-not-to-finish  ·  review of another edition
I gave up on this. The writer's perspective was very irritating, and constant stream of little, niggling errors was driving me nuts! I found myself just shaking my head on each and every page, so I quit reading it. ...more
Leigh Linley
Oct 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great Book - although it was written in 2004 so quite a lot of it is outdated. Still, I like barfly talk and stories, so although the sections on AB's world domination I already knew, the insight into the birth of the US craft brewing scene are interesting enough. ...more
Char Heinz
Honestly, I only read chapter 4. I loved reading about the area I grew up in and hearing an outsider's opinion. I tried to read other chapters but without my personal connection none of it could hold my attention. ...more
Feb 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If read as a travelogue, it's a pretty enjoyable book. Your not going to get anything but cursory beer knowledge and he spends a bit too much time dealing blabbing on and on about the beer lobby and neo-prohibitionists.
That all being said, I liked it.
Jul 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I'm a beer lover and thought this was a really good book mixing some good beer info with some nice anecdotal stories. I really liked it. ...more
Michael Heggemeyer
It was more a travel narrative than a dry piece on beer making. Not on par with Bill Bryson, but worth checking out.
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