• Jessica

Backlist Book Review: The Lager Queen of Minnesota



Somehow I managed to squeeze one more book before the month of November ended. That book was The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal. Did I end November on a high note? Read on.


Synopsis from the publisher

Two sisters, one farm. A family is split when their father leaves their shared inheritance entirely to Helen, his younger daughter. Despite baking award-winning pies at the local nursing home, her older sister, Edith, struggles to make what most people would call a living. So she can’t help wondering what her life would have been like with even a portion of the farm money her sister kept for herself.

With the proceeds from the farm, Helen builds one of the most successful light breweries in the country, and makes their company motto ubiquitous: “Drink lots. It’s Blotz.” Where Edith has a heart as big as Minnesota, Helen’s is as rigid as a steel keg. Yet one day, Helen will find she needs some help herself, and she could find a potential savior close to home. . . if it’s not too late.

Meanwhile, Edith’s granddaughter, Diana, grows up knowing that the real world requires a tougher constitution than her grandmother possesses. She earns a shot at learning the IPA business from the ground up–will that change their fortunes forever, and perhaps reunite her splintered family?

Here we meet a cast of lovable, funny, quintessentially American characters eager to make their mark in a world that’s often stacked against them. In this deeply affecting family saga, resolution can take generations, but when it finally comes, we’re surprised, moved, and delighted.


My thoughts

I first heard about Stradal when this book debuted earlier in 2019. A family drama about beer? Yes, please! I read his first novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest until I could borrow Lager Queen, and I loved it. I enjoyed Lager Queen a lot, but I will say there were some details I thought could be better.


One thing Stradal likes to do is tell the story from different perspectives and via different points in time. I've always liked this storytelling device because it keeps me on my toes. He does it in Kitchens by using the experiences of minor characters to paint a picture of the protagonist, Eva. We follow along as Eva grows up and becomes a chef. However, in Lager Queen, we follow read from the POV of 3 different characters: eldest sister of the family and award-winning pie maker Edith; her younger sister Helen, who falls in love with brewing; and Edith's granddaughter Diana, whose troubled upbringing somehow lands her in the brewery business also. We jump backward and forward in time with these 3 characters, which got a little confusing for me. I think separating their perspectives into 3 different parts, rather than bouncing to each of them chapter by chapter, would have made the story more cohesive. Or, simply telling the story chronologically but cycling through each character.


That being said, I loved following each character's journey, particularly Diana's. I'm not sure how accessible the story is for people who don't love or know anything about beer, but the family drama is certainly worth it.


Rating: 4/5 stars

Fair warning, you'll probably start craving beer or pie while reading this.

Denver, Colorado

©2018 by Jessica Hammons