How Beer Explains the World

Johan Swinnen, Devin Briski


How Beer Explains the World

Johan Swinnen, Devin Briski






12 Sep 2017




$35.95 AUD

$40.99 NZD

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From prompting a transition from hunter-gatherer to an agrarian lifestyle in ancient Mesopotamia to bankrolling Britain's imperialist conquests, strategic taxation and the regulation of beer has played a pivotal role throughout history. Beeronomics: How Beer Explains the World tells these stories, and many others, whilst also exploring the key innovations that propelled the industrialisation and consolidation of the beer market.

At the same time when mega-mergers in the brewing industry are creating huge transnationals selling their beer across the globe, the craft beer movement in America and Europe has brought the rich history of ancient brewing techniques to the forefront in recent years. But less talked about is the economic influence of this beverage on the world and the myriad ways it has shaped the course of history. Beeronomics covers world history through the lens of beer, exploring the common role that beer taxation has played throughout and providing context for recognisable brands and consumer trends and tastes.


Introduction: From Monastries to Multinationals and Back
1: The World's Oldest Profession: Brewing in the Cradle of Civilization
2: A Revolution Every Thousand Years: How Hops Jumpstarted Commercial Brewing in Medieval Europe
3: The Brew that Launched a Thousand Ships: How Porter Paid for the British Royal Navy
4: A Revolution Every Thousand Years, Part II: How Bottom-Fermentation Made Beer the Darling of the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions
5: How TV Killed the Local Brewery
6: Beer Monopoly: How the Belgian Beer Barons Dethroned the King
7: Socialist Lubricant: Liberalization, Take-Overs, and Restructuring of the East European Brewery Industry
8: The Belgian White: Reincarnation of an Old World Brew
9: The Reinheitsgebot: Protection Against Competition or Contamination?
10: From Land to Brand: How Nineteenth-Century Nationalist Politics Planted the Seeds for the Global Trademark Battle Over "Budweiser"
11: The Great Convergence: The Fall of the Beer-Drinking Nation, the Rise of the Beer-Drinking World
12: From Vodka to Baltika: Deciphering Russia's Recent Love Affair with Beer
13: Trading Water or Terroir? The Changing Nature of the Beer Trade
14: Craft Nation: How Belgium's "Peasant Beers" Became the Best in the World
15: Hop Heads and Locaholics: Strategies of the American Craft Beer Movement


Johan Swinnen, Professor of Economics, KU Leuven; Director, LICOS Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance; President, The Beeronomics Society; Visiting Scholar, FSE, Stanford University

Devin Briski

Johan Swinnen is Professor of Economics and Director of the LICOS-Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance at the KU Leuven, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) and a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Food Security and the Environment (FSE) at Stanford University. He is a Fellow of the AAEA and the EAAE, was President of the International Association of Agricultural Economists (2012-2015) and is President of The Beeronomics Society.  He was previously Lead Economist at the World Bank (2003-04) and Economic Advisor at the European Commission (1998-2001), and has been adviser to many international organisations and governments.  He holds a Ph.D from Cornell University, and has published widely on agricultural and food policies, political economy, institutional reform, trade, global value chains, and standards.

Devin Briski is a print and audio journalist focusing on food, ideas, and technology. She serves as content marketing manager for the events team at Vox Media, which produces Code Conference and Vox Conversations. She is also host of the podcast One Mans Trash about the collectibles market. Devin began her career in Silicon Valley, where she worked on the publishing and marketing team of Stanford Social Innovation Review and co-founded online magazine The Ventured Life. She holds a bachelor degree in sociology and a master's degree in journalism, both from Columbia University.


`If you care about beer and its impact on our world, Beeronomics is a smart and entertaining primer on the subject, that deserves its place in any beer lover's library.' American Craft Beer

`Highly recommended, this book isn't a dry tome either. It's essential for those turned on by history, economics, fun facts and, erm, beer.' Paul Howard,

`This book is aimed at serious students of economics and business -- it's more investment strategies and market consolidation than tales from the pub. But even in the analysis, there are interesting moments.' Mark Mason, Daily Mail

`This impressive, all-encompassing, and accessible book is a tour de force and must-read for anybody interested in history, economics, and obviously beer. Cheers!' Bart Minten, Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute

`For much of human history beer was central  a safe source of fluids, calories that fed the work force, and tax revenues that reshaped the political world. Monks, generals, scientists, kings, and robber barons are all part of the books journey that ends with craft beer. A must on all business schools list of case studies and your holiday gift list!' Professor Harry de Gorter, Cornell University

`Beeronomics: How Beer Explains the World is a significant book. It covers diverse aspects of the economics of beer in world history, providing fascinating reading for beer enthusiasts and others alike. Each chapter is a revelation. Drawing it all together leaves us with a much changed view of this wonderful, historically important beverage.' Julian M. Alston, Professor and Director of the Robert Mondavi Institute Center for Wine Economics, UC Davis, and author of The Effects of Farm and Food Policies on Obesity in the United States

`For several years now, Jo Swinnen has been devoting serious scholarly attention to a neglected topic, and uncovering intriguing stories along the way. Finally, these insights are made available to a broader public in this refreshing read.' Koen Deconinck, Former Management Consultant at Bain & Company; Economist at Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

`This is a fascinating book on beer, history, and economics by the leading beer economists from the world's beer capital. In fifteen chapters, Swinnen and Briski tell the story of how the world has shaped beer and how beer has shaped the world.' Karl Storchmann, New York University, Managing Editor of the Journal of Wine Economics

`Beeronomics provides an excellent addition to the literature. It addresses and explores multiple aspects and issues related to beer and brewing worldwide, using several interesting approaches to highlight new trajectories and trends in the field. Definitely worth a read!' Professor Ignazio Cabras, Chair in Entrepreneurship and Regional Economic Development and Faculty Director (International Development), Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University