It is refreshing when the title of a book works so well with the subject matter. The name “Minnesota” is derived from a Dakota word meaning “sky-tinted waters.” Doug Hoverson does a great job of relating the brewing history that brought the thirty-second state of the Union from sky-tinted to grain-infused waters. Land of Amber Waters explains the state’s pioneering spirit, from the first brewery in 1849 right up to its present day microbrewers. Historic photos and impressive breweriana embellish the storyline throughout.

Small settlement and farm breweries appeared even before Minnesota officially became a state in 1858, as settlers from Scandinavia and middle Europe took advantage of the pure brewing water and fertile land. The best way to maximize this combination was to set up shop and turn the water a beautiful shade of amber.

An in-depth chapter takes a county-by-county look at who brewed where and when. It’s impressive to see how many small or remote towns or settlements could support a brewery, and even cause it to thrive. Duluth brewing history alone proves the determination of the Land o’ Lakes.

This book does the wonderful service of stressing the innovative and inventive ways of this state’s breweries. The three largest breweries—Hamm’s, Grain Belt and Schmidt—still resonate throughout the upper Midwest, much as the Ballantine, Schaefer and Rheingold brands do back east. Hamm’s was “from the land of sky blue waters,” Grain Belt was “from the perfect brewing water” and Schmidt was “the brew that grew with the great Northwest.” Hoverson does a great job of taking these brands from their inception all the up to the present era.

The locals took pride in drinking local. Even as these brands were acquired by out-of-state owners, residents continued to drink Minnesota beer. That loyalty continues today, through the support for Minnesota’s microbrewing movement. A pioneering presence is still evident, as you read about the Minnesotans who will brew us into the next 150 years.