BREWING IN MAINE: IMAGES OF MODERN AMERICA

Folks in Maine sure do like their beer. Even Benjamin Franklin allegedly praised the beverage: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” And Maine’s beer boom now has more than 90 breweries, employing 1,600 people, selling $150 million worth of beer last year.

Portland author Tom Major’s new book, “Brewing In Maine,” tells of Maine’s craft-beer industry since Geary’s opened the state’s first microbrewery back in 1986. Although overpriced for such a slim softcover book, the story is a lively explanation for craft beer popularity.

With smart narrative supported by nearly 200 color photographs, Major describes the challenges, benefits and fun of creating Maine’s growing number of breweries, from well-known names like Geary’s, Gritty McDuff, Shipyard and Allagash, to small, obscure micro-breweries like Monhegan Brewing and Belfast Bay Brewing.

Major reveals no beer-brewing secrets, but he does offer fascinating anecdotes about how and why people get involved in the brewing business — producing lagers, ales and stouts, some in oak barrels, some in stainless steel vats, in barns, farmhouses, and large industrial operations.

He tells how some brewers like to experiment with ingredients like different hops, barley, wheat and yeast, as well as additions like agave, oysters, habanero peppers, even onion. Marketing is catchy, too, with names like Bug Lager, Dead Man’s Cove IPA, Monkey Fist IPA and Pumpkinhead.

Learn about pub crawls, beer bus tours, the Portland mayor who brought prohibition to Maine in 1851, and about the Franciscan friar making Whoopee Pie Stout at the Friar’s Brewhouse in Bucksport.

For those people who need a healthy justification for drinking beer, consider a pundit’s reasoning: “Beer is made from hops. Hops are plants. Therefore, beer is a salad.”

DESTINY’S PAWN: A PEYTON COTE NOVEL

Some people really like art. A few like art so much they’ll steal it, even kill for it. And Border Patrol Agent Peyton Cote is up to her gunbelt in stolen art, greedy art thieves and ruthless killers who will do anything to get their hands on a priceless painting.

“Destiny’s Pawn” is Maine author D.A. Keeley’s third mystery featuring Peyton Cote, who patrols the remote northern Aroostook County border between the U.S. and Canada. Keeley has also written an excellent five-volume PGA Tour mystery series under the name John Corrigan. And he’s not lost his edge, especially with this latest superbly crafted, taut mystery.

On a winter patrol, Peyton encounters a cold, wet 13-year-old Ukrainian boy coming out of the woods, asking for political asylum. Aleksei Vann tells a fantastic story of solo immigration, fleeing war-torn Ukraine, but his story just doesn’t add up. He and his American aunt are both evasive and uncooperative. When the boy’s Ukrainian father suddenly shows up on a two-week visa, Peyton senses something is wrong.

Aleksei’s teenage American cousin, Michael, is hiding two secrets: one might get him in trouble with the law, the other might get him killed. One secret is directly connected to Aleksei, but the Ukrainian boy doesn’t know. Peyton suspects Aleksei is an unwitting pawn in his father’s dangerous game which eventually leads back 25 years to an unsolved Boston art heist (think the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art robbery in 1990).

Add an unwashed, armed scumbag who baits Peyton, a dangerous auto mechanic, a Russian hitman, the double-crossing daughter of a dying Russian mob boss and a trigger-happy cop, and Keeley has yet another fast-paced, suspenseful and wholly believable mystery hit.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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