For UCSB alumnus Brian Yaeger, finding inspiration for his book was simple.
“I love road trips and I love beer,” the author said. “I don’t know if it takes a lot of inspiration to say [that], but if you could call that a moment of divine inspiration, then that’s what it was.”
Yaeger’s new book, Red, White, and Brew: An American Beer Odyssey, is born out of his twin passions, and follows the author on a journey to fourteen breweries, old and new, family-owned and corporate, across America.
Yaeger will be hosting a book signing today at the Hollister Brewing Company in the Camino Real Marketplace at 5 p.m., where beer enthusiasts are invited to join him for a brew and a public reading of select passages of his book.
A former Gaucho who spent his days at UCSB drinking beer off the tap at the Isla Vista Brewing Company – now Embarcadero Hall – Yaeger graduated with a double major in religious studies and Russian, then went on to graduate from the University of Southern California with a master’s in professional writing. After finishing school, Yaeger set out to write a book that chronicled the stories behind the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage and those who brew it.
“I absolutely wanted everything,” he said. “Today there’s 1400 [breweries], so I figured, how about I visit 1 percent, which is why the book has 14 chapters. It’s not so much about how the beer tastes, but what’s their story?”
Yaeger said his book appeals to beer drinkers and non-beer drinkers alike. To prove this point, Yaeger recalled an encounter he had with an Irish woman who asked why she should buy his book if she never drank a beer.
“I told her I wrote a chapter about a guy who grew up in Dundalk, Ireland; he worked at the Harp Brewery,” Yaeger said. As it turned out, he said, her father worked at the Harp Brewery, too. “So I said [the book is] about him and his family and encouraging his children to follow in his footsteps. And she saw it was about him and the people, and that you don’t need to drink a bunch of beers just to read it.”
In light of his time spent traveling the nation and sampling what he calls the best beers the country has to offer, Yaeger said, his taste for Natty Ice and other cheap Isla Vista brews has dissolved. Although he might have to spend a bit more money on a quality six-pack of, say, Firestone – one of his personal favorites – to him, the splurge is worth it.
“No more is it about quantity, but about quality,” he said.
Yaeger said he hopes students in I.V. can follow his lead, but understands the draw towards cheap thirty-packs of lesser quality beer. As long as people are aware of the quality and variety that exists throughout the country, he said he would be satisfied.
“No matter where you are, you can drink good, local, homegrown beer,” Yaeger said. “Especially here in Santa Barbara now. I mean, damn, do I wish it was like that when I went here.”
Ultimately, Yaeger said he aspires to build a name for himself in the beer community by writing future books on the subject of beer culture.
“I love going on Amazon and looking at my book’s rank, then finding a book by an established author who is selling below me,” Yaeger said. “That’s the best feeling.”
For now, Yaeger said, he is satisfied with his accomplishments, as his book sales have reimbursed him for his expenses incurred on his solo beer journey across America.
“I basically got to travel across America and drink good beer. For free,” he said. “A Gaucho couldn’t ask for much more than that, right?”