A spirited narrative on the fascinating art and science of alcohol, sure to inspire cocktail party chats on making booze, tasting it, and its effects on our bodies and brains.
Drinking gets a lot more interesting when you know what's actually inside your glass of microbrewed ale, single-malt whisky, or Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. All of them begin with fermentation, where a fungus called yeast binges on sugar molecules and poops out ethanol. Humans have been drinking the results for 10,000 years. Distillation is a 2,000-year-old technology - invented by a woman - that we're still perfecting today. And the molecular codes of alcoholic flavors remain a mystery pursued by scientists with high-tech laboratories and serious funding.
In Proof, Adam Rogers reveals alcohol as a miracle of science, going deep into the pleasures of making and drinking booze - and the effects of the latter. The people who make and sell alcohol may talk about history and tradition, but alcohol production is really powered by physics, molecular biology, organic chemistry, and a bit of metallurgy - and our taste for those products is a melding of psychology and neurobiology.
Proof takes readers from the whisky-making mecca of the Scottish highlands to the oenology labs at UC Davis, from Kentucky bourbon country to the most sophisticated gene-sequencing labs in the world - and to more than one bar - bringing to life the motley characters and evolving science behind the latest developments in boozy technology.
©2014 Adam Rogers (P)2014 Blackstone Audiobooks
I love how this book touches all aspects of alcohol. From the making (and our discovery on how to do so) to fermentation, distillation, storage and ageing in barrels and drinking. I'm a scientist and have a background in every aspect os booze making, and still enjoyed new facts and science based content. I don't have one single reason not to recommend this book.
My reviews are honest. No sugar coating here.
The reason why I read "Proof" is for the science of alcohol. Basically, you are taking something fermented and drinking for pleasure or as an addiction. However you take your pleasure or poison, its pretty interesting how ethanol has so many combinations for booze. Adam Rogers covers it all, from the yeast to the common hangover. Good explanations what your body goes through with liquid substance. Just don't drink rubbing alcohol. Mouth wash taste better.
There was a lot of neat content.
The brewer who built a new roof over his old brewery (instead of tearing down the old roof) because he believed that the yeast that gave his beer its iconic taste was living in the rafters
I don't quite understand why this man is a narrator. I found his timbre grating, scratchy and somewhat choked. I've got a vocal injury from years ago and I found that listening to him made my whole neck tense up as I instinctively imagined what I'd have to do to make myself sound like that.
The content of the book is neat but it's somewhat over-saturated with "wink wink, nudge nudge, we're studying booze..." commentary. I get it. I got it very early on.
The science of booze---fermentation, distillation, flavoring. It's all here in a friendly, narrative format. It is wonderfully done, like a great whisky.
Starting with the basics of fermentation and the history and science of distillation, Rogers delves into why we drink, what we drink and how we create our drinks. He even dives into the topics of intoxication and hangovers.
Sean Runnette's narration is perfect for this material...his voice is a smooth single-malt companion to the book.
If you liked this book, I also found a good companion to this one in "A History of the World in 6 Glasses," by Tom Standage, and also narrated by Sean Runnette.
This book as very enjoyable. The making and history of alcoholic beverages from ancient to modern. Nature made booze. Man created distilling. This is a fascinating look into science and nature of proof.
I wanted to like this, but got turned somewhat off when the author went nuclear pompous in the first chapter (or maybe the prologue?). To his credit, he didn't maintain that tone, but for me the flavor lingered. There are a lot of interesting stories compiled here, and many involve science, but it is the sort of regurgitating facts kind of science and not any kind of trye understanding that you'll get out of this. It reads (mostly) like a series of fun stories about booze and the booze industry made to fill 2000 words of an in-flight magazine. The author use of generalizations of the "physicist think so-and-so" variety.
I really learnt a lot from this book. Rogers spans so many different disciplines: from microbiology (in fermentation) to chemistry (distillation) to history and anthropology (chronicling the importance of alcohol in ancient and modern cultures), to psychology (how we perceive booze), to neuroscience and biology (to what booze does to us). On the bright side, this meant that the pace of the book was always changing. If any scientific digression became too technical, just wait a couple of minutes and the book would soon return to something very understandable. I didn't feel like any of the science was too complex—Rogers does a great job at distilling (hah!) the important concepts down—but I do see how some readers may get lost at certain points.
On the down side, the fast pacing also meant that some topics ended much earlier that I would have liked -- there was so much more that I wanted to hear! Whatever happened to the precise "laboratory bar"-style drinks (in some bar in NYC) talked about in Ch. 1? Did it ever catch on? How do people perceive it? I was expecting Rogers to come back to it after the "psychology" chapter, for example. Does a drink taste better if it's been "scientifically engineered/optimized"? There were also "big" areas that I wanted to find out more, but Rogers probably didn't have enough space in this book to go into it. What about marketing, a large part of how alcohol is perceived in our culture (since he goes into alot of anthropology)? How do alcohol manufacturers design their advertising, get into the pubs/clubs, create an aura of "hipness" around their products? What about cocktails? Is there science behind balancing the flavors? (He does mention some cocktails here and there though, to be fair. I remember the "corpse reviver" as a purported cure for hangovers.)
Overall I felt that the book was great -- I learnt a lot from it, and I would heartily recommend it. If anything, it gives you a better appreciation of one of the most frequently consumed substances in the world. At the very least, it makes for great cocktail party conversation!
It's a high end book for a high end mind. This book does mix biology and chemistry that some may not find intriguing. However the writing and the narration mix makes it worth the listen.
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