A People’s History of Pittsburgh and Brewology | Literary Arts | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

A People’s History of Pittsburgh and Brewology

A new compendium of Pittsburgh snapshots; an illustrated dictionary about beer

Its title notwithstanding, A People’s History of Pittsburgh, Vol. 1 ($20) shares little with Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, the revisionist classic that unearthed forgotten grassroots struggles against injustice. This book, one product of a two-year project by local photobook gallery Spaces Corners, recalls The Family of Man, the famous 1950s photobook surveying the human condition. Except that, rather than polished exposures by professional shooters, its images are snapshots by everyday Pittsburghers — 200 of them, culled from some 1,500 donated images.

Working with photos ranging from posed 1880s black-and-white portraits to camera-phone snaps, editors Melissa Catanese and Ed Panar smartly curate the sorts of scenes people have considered important, from mill landscapes (natch) and other workplace shots to tableaux of people swimming, boozing or posing with pets or cars. (There are lots of cars.) A few — like a fawn lying by a grave marker at night — are mysterious, others just baffling: Why are all those men milling in the street? Intentionally, and somewhat enticingly, all the images lack dates, credits or other identifiers. Still, because snapshots seldom document troubling events, the book’s effects tend toward the anodyne, without even the unhappy associations we might bring to a family scrapbook. It’s a history of Pittsburgh, yes, but through a rather narrow lens.

In its effect as well as its lore, beer typically incites jocularity. And indeed, there’s no crying in one’s beer over Brewology: An Illustrated Dictionary for Beer Lovers (Skyhorse Publishing, $16.99). Aptly named local illustrator Mark Brewer’s new full-color hardback combines concise, straightword definitions of everything from “alpha acids” and “India pale ale” to “trub” and “wort” with wacky caricatures and goofy visual puns.

Brewer (an occasional CP contributor) works rather in the style of the great Arnold Roth, with heavy but carefully rendered lines and a sort of benevolent dark edge to the humor. “Helles Bock,” for instance, is represented by sozzled winged goats yucking it up in Hades. “Final Gravity” finds astronauts clinking longnecks in space.

Nominally, Brewology is for any beer-lover, but in practice it would surely appeal more to appreciators of craft brews (the folks Brewer seems to be addressing in his introductory “Brief History of Beer”). Most Budweiser aficionados, after all, probably wouldn’t be any more interested in knowing the definition of “oyster stout” than they would be in drinking it.

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