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Proof: The Science of Booze [Kindle Edition]

Adam Rogers
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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"Lively...[Rogers'] descriptions of the science behind familiar drinks exert a seductive pull." —New York Times

“One of the best science writers around.” —National Geographic

"Rogers's book has much the same effect as a good drink. You get a warm sensation, you want to engage with the wider world, and you feel smarter than you probably are. Above all, it makes you understand how deeply human it is to take a drink." —Wall Street Journal

“A great read for barflies and know-it-alls—or the grad student who is likely both.” —New York Times’ T Magazine

"In this brisk dive into the history and geekery of our favorite social lubricant, Wired editor Adam Rogers gets under the cap and between the molecules to show what makes our favorite firewaters so irresistible and hard to replicate—and how a good stiff drink often doubles as a miracle of human ingenuity." —Mother Jones

"A comprehensive, funny look at booze...Like the best of its subject matter Proof’s blend of disparate ingredients goes down smooth, and makes you feel like an expert on the topic." —Discover

"A romp through the world of alcohol." —New York Post

"This science-steeped tale of humanity’s 10,000-year love affair with alcohol is an engaging trawl through fermentation, distillation, perception of taste and smell, and the biological responses of humans to booze...Proof is an entertaining, well researched piece of popular-science writing." —Nature

"A whiskey nerd's delight...Full of tasty asides and surprising science, this is entertaining even if you're the type who always drinks what the other guy is having." —Chicago Tribune

“Written in the same approachable yet science-savvy tone of other geeky tomes (think Amy Stewart’s The Drunken Botanist and Brian Greene’s The Fabric of the Cosmos), Rogers’ book sheds light on everything from barrels to bacteria strains.” —Imbibe Magazine

"This paean to booze is a thought-provoking scientific accompaniment to your next cup of good cheer."—The Scientist

"Follow a single, microscopic yeast cell down a rabbit hole, and Alice, aka Adam, will take you on a fascinating romp through the Wonderland of ethyl alcohol, from Nature’s own fermentation to today’s best Scotch whiskies—and worst hangovers. This book is a delightful marriage of scholarship and fun." —Robert L. Wolke, author of What Einstein Kept Under His Hat and What Einstein Told His Cook

"Proof, this irresistible book from Adam Rogers, shines like the deep gold of good whiskey. By which I mean it's smart in its science, fascinating in its complicated and very human history, and entertaining on all counts. And that it will make that drink in your hand a lot more interesting than you expected." —Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York

"Absolutely compelling. Proof sits next to Wayne Curtis’ And a Bottle of Rum and Tom Standage’s A History of the World in Six Glasses as a must-read." —Jeffrey Morgenthaler, bar manager at Clyde Common and author of The Bar Book

"Proof is science writing at its best—witty, elegant, and abrim with engrossing reporting that takes you to the frontiers of booze, and the people who craft it." —Clive Thompson, author of Smarter Than You Think

"Rogers distills history, archaeology, biology, sociology, and physics into something clear and powerful, like spirits themselves." Jim Meehan, author of The PDT Cocktail Book

"A page-turner for science-thirsty geeks and drink connoisseurs alike, Proof is overflowing with fun facts and quirky details. I'm drunk—on knowledge!" Jeff Potter, author of Cooking for Geeks

"Adam Rogers writes masterfully and gracefully about all the sciences that swirl around spirits, from the biology of a hangover to the paleontology of microbes that transform plant juices into alcohol. A book to be savored and revisited." Carl Zimmer, author of Parasite Rex and A Planet of Viruses

"Reading Proof feels just like you're having a drink with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic friend. Rogers' deep affinity for getting to the bottom of his subject shines through on every page." —Adam Savage, TV host and producer of MythBusters

"As a distiller I find most books on booze to be diluted. The science and history here are sure to satisfy the geekiest of drinkers. While the chapters, carried by stories, told through the lens of a rocks glass do not lose the casual. To get this kind of in depth overview of how spirits are produced, consumed and studied you'd have to read 20 books." —Vince Oleson, Head Distiller/Barrel Thief, Widow Jane Distillery

"An entertaining read...Rogers elegantly charges through what took me more than 5 years of research to learn...Proof will inspire and educate the oncoming hordes who intend to make their own booze and tear down the once solid regulatory walls of the reigning royal houses of liquor."
—Dan Garrison, Garrison Brothers Distillery

"From the action of the yeast to the blear of the hangover, via the witchery of fermentation, distillation and aging, Wired articles editor Rogers takes readers on a splendid tour of the booze-making process." —Kirkus Reviews, starred

"Impressively reported and entertaining...Rogers's cheeky and accessible writing style goes down smoothly, capturing the essence of this enigmatic, ancient social lubricant." —Publishers Weekly

Product Description

Named a Best Science Book of 2014 by Amazon, Wired, the Guardian, and NBC
Winner of the 2014 Gourmand Award for Best Spirits Book in the United States
Finalist for the 2015 PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
“Lively . . . [Rogers’s] descriptions of the science behind familiar drinks exert a seductive pull.” — New York Times

Humans have been perfecting alcohol production for ten thousand years, but scientists are just starting to distill the chemical reactions behind the perfect buzz. In a spirited tour across continents and cultures, Adam Rogers takes us from bourbon country to the world’s top gene-sequencing labs, introducing us to the bars, barflies, and evolving science at the heart of boozy technology. He chases the physics, biology, chemistry, and metallurgy that produce alcohol, and the psychology and neurobiology that make us want it. If you’ve ever wondered how your drink arrived in your glass, or what it will do to you, Proof makes an unparalleled drinking companion.
“Rogers’s book has much the same effect as a good drink. You get a warm sensation, you want to engage with the wider world, and you feel smarter than you probably are. Above all, it makes you understand how deeply human it is to take a drink.” — Wall Street Journal

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2051 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0544538544
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (May 27 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00E9FYSZ0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #44,802 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Booze is civilization in a glass." Nov. 7 2014
By Jeffrey Swystun TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
The subject and the style make this popular history eminently readable and incredibly engaging (it kicks off with a debate about Vodka and Soda being the dumbest drink ever invented). Yet, what really lubricates the proceedings is the author's passion for the topic and the conversational manner he he brings about by discussing the impact, both good and bad, booze has had on society.

The chapters are well thought-out and follow the process of making booze: Yeast, Sugar, Fermentation, Distillation, Aging. These were fascinating and though the science challenged me at times it was never frustrating, besides, had Rogers dumbed it down too much it would lose all impact.

The book took off in the last chapters concerning Smell & Taste, Body & Brain, and finally, Hangover. This is where the expert layman like me could relate. What struck me was the discussion of the impact of environment has on those who drink and not just the intoxicants themselves. It was scary to learn about effect on our livers, brains and behaviour. While the content can disturb what Rogers has done is put this very human invention, extraordinarily large business, and pervasive past-time in context. He does so with a confident, self-deprecating, factual and approachable writing style. Here are three examples:

- “The bar, though, was cool and dry—not just air-conditioner cool, but cool like they were piping in an evening from late autumn. The sun hadn’t set, but inside, the dark wood paneling managed to evoke 10 P.M. In a good bar, it is always 10 P.M.”

- “Every four seconds, someone on earth buys a bottle of Glenlivet.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A pleasant combination of scientific tome and the author's wry sense of humor. The prose is a bit dense at times, but an enjoyable read for those whose High School/College/University courses never really explained what it was that you were drinking.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very educational. I had no idea there was so ... April 11 2015
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very educational. I had no idea there was so much behind a glass of beer/wine/spirit !
A must-read for anyone who likes a drink.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  138 reviews
46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining history of alcohol April 24 2014
By a scientist - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Full disclosure: I saw the author give a talk on this subject at a conference about a year ago. The talk was a little better because this author is an outstanding public speaker and merely a very good writer. So, what of the fruits of his labor? Has the author managed to distill the essence of boozy knowledge into a coherent creation or a delirious foment?

Well the good news is that this is an entertaining book that is easy to recommend to anyone with even a passing interest in wine, beer, or spirits. It's written to be read, not used as a reference book. The narrative, such as it is, is loosely organized into chapters that deal with specific facets of booze. Chapter one is about yeast. As a former yeast biochemist, I can say that it was one of the most accessible chapters written on one of my favorite organisms, yet I definitely learned a few things. However, I'm not convinced that everything I learned is absolutely accurate. The book is clearly much better researched than the average blog post but is it up to reference standards? If your reference standard is wikipedia, it probably is.

Chapter 2 is another strong chapter about sugar. Chapters 3 and 4 handle fermentation and distillation, and these highlight the weakness of the book's organization: how can you discuss fermentation without discussing yeast? Well, it's hard and it doesn't quite happen. Instead, the author's passion and enthusiasm clouds the narrative and he ends up switching topics so many times that it's hard to follow the thread. The next few chapters are occasionally choppy accounts of aging and smell/taste. The final couple of chapters are all about alcohol's effect on the body and brain, with an entire chapter devoted to hangovers. Much more time is spent discussing getting drunk (how exactly does that work?) and curing a hangover than exploring alcohol's impact on society, whether positive or negative.

But what it lacks in comprehensiveness, it makes up for with gusto! Even though I got a little lost in several chapters, it was usually because there were just too many interesting facts to cram in. This book is chock-full of fascinating tidbits of information, including the origins of the term 'bain-marie' (a type of double boiler) with side references to almost everything from British sailors to the Library of Alexandria. Perhaps it's fair to say the mixology on display slowed me down a bit, but didn't really affect my overall enjoyment of this slightly dizzying concoction. It does explain the deduction of a single star, though.

This book isn't perfect, but the author's passion and enthusiasm have created a book that's both entertaining and interesting. When it is finally released, I will recommend it to friends and buy at least one copy for my Dad. And if I ever see the author again, I'll buy him a drink.
83 of 91 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The science and the magic of booze April 18 2014
By Angie Boyter - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
If you want to amaze your friends at the neighborhood pub or the next cocktail party, this book has all the right ingredients. In Proof: The Science of Booze, Kavli Science Journalism Award winner and first-time author Adam Rogers covers everything you can imagine about the subject. There are chapters on the science and history of yeast in the production of alcoholic beverages, the role of sugar, the processes of fermentation, distillation, and aging, the biochemistry of smell and taste, the effects of booze on the body, and the causes, prevention, and cure of hangovers. Rogers’ research was exhaustive; the bibliography is more than 13 pages long, and his travels took him from the ultra-exclusive New York cocktail bar Booker and Dax to Glen Ord Maltings in Muir of Ord, Scotland, to the San Francisco Brain Research Institute. The research was impressive, until Rogers described the “experiment” where he and two friends got totally blotto in order to test the effectiveness of some recommended hangover cures, at which point I decided his devotion to his subject had gone above and beyond.
So why only 3 stars? It’s not what he said; it’s how he said it. Rogers is an editor at Wired magazine, and Proof apparently grew out of a Wired article, The Angel’s Share, about the Canadian whiskey fungus. Proof is written in the same Wired style, and it just doesn’t work as well here. Wired often takes a light tone liberally laced with witty comments, which I normally enjoy, but the humor here often comes across as forced. Also the author will drop witticisms into the middle of an extended serious scientific description, where it seems out of place. The book also seems disorganized. There is a topic for each chapter, and the author covers a number of items under that topic without good transitions. For example, the chapter on Sugar talks about a 19th-century Japanese scientist named Jokichi Takamine who developed a process to replace malting in distilling whiskey. It says, "He was on the cusp of a new world of booze, but the Old World wasn't quite ready to let go yet." The next paragraph launches into a 5-page description of a present-day Scotch whiskey malting operation and how it operates. The book suddenly leaves that topic and jumps to a discussion of koji, the fungus that produces sake. My reaction is, "So what happened to Takamine's process?" Eventually the chapter gets back to Takamine and his process, but all it says is "it never really took off", hardly a very satisfying conclusion. In some chapters, the author leaves a subject abruptly and never does return to it. These kinds of problems are much less likely to occur in a shorter magazine article. Although Roagers has won prizes for his journalism, this is his first full-length book, and he hasn't quite made a successful transition to the longer format.
If you are very strongly attracted to the subject of booze or the style is not an issue for you, you will probably enjoy Proof. Otherwise, perhaps you should accompany your reading with a good stiff drink.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Proof April 12 2014
By Matt Morgan - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Long-time readers of Wired will quickly recognize the style, depth, and tone of Proof. Astute ones may recall the article that this book grew from: "The Angel's Share", which makes up a significant portion of the chapter on aging. The subtitle of this book, "The Science of Booze", could just as accurately be "A Memoir About Booze". Rogers firmly inserts himself into the book as he takes the reader on a journey of exploration through the world of alcohol. All the strengths and weaknesses of this approach come through in this book.

The scope of Proof is truly ambitious. Rogers begins with the cultivation and domestication of yeast, walks through the chemistry and types of sugars, ferments them, distills and ages the result, and then describes their effects on the body (both pleasant, such as smell and taste, and the less savory consequences like drunkenness and hangovers). My copy of the book only goes to 212 pages before the notes and bibliography, and that's a prodigious amount to cover in so few pages. I found that the chapters with material that I was already somewhat familiar with didn't hold enough new information to hold my interest. On the other hand, the light tone did make it easier for me to read the chapters which were farther outside my existing knowledge. I'd definitely say that the book is better for those who are less familiar with the ins and outs of brewing. While the chapters followed a definite progression, they didn't build on one another as much as I'd like. I normally would feel compelled to read a book like this straight through, but I found that I would put it down once I finished up each chapter.

There's one tidbit which left a sour taste in my mouth, and probably kept the book from getting a fifth star from me. In that chapter on aging, Rogers reveals that he fudged a relatively minor detail in his Wired article on how he and the mycologist obtained a fungal sample. Knowing that he deliberately changed the facts in his writing for Wired leads me to wonder how many of the conversations and stories in this book were massaged for the sake of a better narrative. It doesn't affect the science I learned about, but it did factor into my overall enjoyment of the book.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Science Book for the Alcoholic May 14 2014
By Rawim - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Yes a book on the science of booze….the science…the facts.
About how sugar becomes booze and how booze interacts with the human body.
Broken down into 8 chapters on Yeast, Sugar, Fermentation, Distillation, Aging, Smell and Taste, Body and Brain, and the Hangover.
Now the author doesn’t really do any original science here, but rather does a great job of compiling and organizing the best current science on these facts. Some things we know how exactly they work, others we still are not quite sure. But the amount of knowledge presented in one place here is great.
I knew most of what I read in the first half of the book, but I was woefully uninformed when it came to alcohol and body, so I feel smarter now. Also the book is great at putting many myths to bed which I knew were myths but now I can explain why.
Well laid out, easy to read and understand, I would say that this is the definitive work on the science of alcohol that is approachable to the non-scientist. If you are interested in the why’s and how’s of alcohol then this is your must read book.
If you have a question about the book, feel free to leave a comment below and I will try to answer it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Book June 24 2014
By RWK - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As others have noted, after reading the book I was left questioning the accuracy of what the author had written as facts in a few places. One of the most obvious mistakes was on page 12 of the Introduction (Kindle edition) where he states that in Scotland they spell whisky without the “e” but in Canada and the United States they spell it with the “e”. I would think that anyone very familiar with whiskies would know that Canada normally spells whisky without the “e” as they do in Scotland and Japan. With a few exceptions, they generally spell whiskey with the “e” in the United States and Ireland. A simple mistake like that makes one wonder what other mistakes the author has made. While reading the book I was left with the impression that the author was more concerned about being humorous than necessarily being factual, although he gives the impression that what he is presenting is technically accurate. I should note that I have a technical background, which probably led to me questioning the accuracy of some of the author’s statements. With that said, the book presents a lot of technical information but in a way that is entertaining. If you enjoy reading about whiskies, then you would probably enjoy this book. But I would be hesitant to take what the author states literally without verifying it from a reliable source. Personally, I would read the book more for the entertainment value and view it’s accuracy in the same way that you would a conversation with your friends as you sit around enjoying a dram of whisky.
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