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Fires, Floods, Explosions and Bloodshed: A History of Texas Whiskey

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by Andrew Braunberg
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Written by the co-founder of an Austin distillery, this is a vivid and readable account of whiskey-making in the Lone Star State.

Whiskey was not the first spirit produced in Texas. Indigenous people had been fermenting drinks for centuries, and Spanish settlers were producing distilled brandy near El Paso by the middle of the 18th century.  By the time the Texas Republic was declared in 1836, home production of whiskey had begun, and commercial establishments began to be taxed a few years later.

As much as this book's title might seem to be hyperbolic, the history of Texas whiskey does indeed seem to be bound up in violence, much as the early history of the state was. Andrew Braunberg uses tax records, surveying maps, and reproductions of newspaper advertisements to trace the industry's development, never having to venture far afield to discover men who were scalded to death, buildings which mysteriously collapsed or burned down, and boilers which were overtaxed or poorly tended enough to fulminate.

And Texas was affected by larger trends, such as economic depressions to the temperance movement, which had their own impacts on the whiskey business.

Braumberg does a good job creating a contrast between historical production and contemporary craft and industrial production, giving the book helpful context within the contemporary state of the business.

Paperback. Black-and-white illustrations.

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