The Homestead Reference Library: The Alaskan Bootlegger’s Bible

By , January 18, 2012

For every human interest, there are those who participate, and those who watch from the sidelines, participating vicariously. These are known as “armchairs.” There are armchair quarterbacks, armchair economists, and armchair sailors, who never do more than collect books and boat plans (Bless them! If not for them, we wouldn’t sell nearly as many boat plans as we do!).

For armchair brewers, there is The Alaskan Bootlegger’s Biblelink, by Leon W. Kania (check your local independent bookstore). This book contains the best plain-folks, here’s-how-it-happens explanations of wine making, beer brewing, and distilling.

The Alaskan Bootlegger's Bible


For many of the topics in this book, I too, am a mere “armchair brewer.” Distilling alcohol (as opposed to wine making or beer brewing) is illegal in the U.S., and I certainly will not risk losing the homestead (or being removed from it to serve time) by experimenting in illegal activity. However, these chapters of the book remain, should things change someday. In a possible future without antibiotics or anesthesia, having simple, straightforward instructions on how to distill medicinal liquids might become very important. Until then, the book satisfies one’s curiosity, provides a lot of interesting historical background, and, above all, entertains with its light writing style and outrageous analogies. I particularly enjoy his description of the sleeping habits of three types of home champagne makers, and his hilarious analogy of hydrometer use as an expensive rifle. The book’s full of this sort of diversion, as well as factoids about the odd things that happened during prohibition and more.

The Alaskan Bootlegger’s Bible has been my primary source of information during our recent return to home wine making. I use several books on the subject, but my method has simplified: when I find an important topic in one of the other books, I turn back to the Bootlegger’s Bible for a simpler explanation. Almost every time, I will find the term demystified, laid out in language that makes sense to me. If I don’t necessarily rank this book as an essential title in our Homestead Reference Library, it stands very high in the second tier.

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