Well, I finished Beer Money by Frances Stroh. For the last few pages, I decided to get some of the product to help ease the last few pages along.
This isn’t going to turn into a beer blog, but I will say that when I was a youth, Stroh’s was synonymous with beer. This was what the word meant. And, the Bohemian Pilsner style of beer is what beer is supposed to taste like. It might be Stroh’s or Pabst, but to me, that’s what beer is. All your fruity and hoppy stuff can be OK here and there, but when you’re going to sit at the picnic table and talk to your family for five hours, a big bucket of Stroh’s on ice is the way to go. It is a beer for life.
The brand has come back now after disappearing, and according to the Internet it follows the same recipe developed by the original Stroh’s. It doesn’t say anything about being fire-brewed, which I never really understood but I knew it sounded GOOD. (It’s Toasted).
Anyway, it still has all the satisfying elements I remembered. That’s a beer.
When we last left the book, I was wondering how she was going to have anything happen in the last half of the book that hadn’t been played out in the first half. I was wrong, she managed to get it done. A couple main characters went from living miserable lives to dying miserable deaths. The wicked stepmom (same age as Frances) divorced Frances’s Father.
But you truly get a sense of what is happening when you track the fortunes of the business, right down to the last meeting when the lawyers inform the Stroh progeny that the money was completely gone. Like completely. Like get a job.
Which was not comforting to those folks, who had done nothing or next to nothing to prepare themselves for that outcome. Stroh does a nice job comparing her family to the City of Detroit itself, in terms of being flat busted. Busted beyond illusion or delusion. No spin or shine to be put on it. Zero is a non-negotiable number.
Detroit was brought down by Coleman Young. Stroh’s was brought down by the relatives of Frances Stroh, who made a series of ridiculous business decisions (in retrospect). (For a business-centric view of the Stroh collapse, check out this from Forbes.)
Stroh leaves the reader with a revelation. As she looked around Detroit and thought about it how much it was like her family and life, she thought about the social entrepreneurs who were trying to restart in Detroit.
“It looked like a good time to start over,” she said.
This is an idea I am interested in. It is similar to the end of Mad Men. Don couldn’t stop running from his past until he had completely lost the race–his family, his job, his kids. Everything. Similarly, the Stroh’s (and Detroit) had to lose everything before they could start over.
This is an important insight. In both cases, they were fighting losing battles, something that had been apparent–obvious even–for a long time. They had a chance, literally every day, to liberate themselves from a life of being pursued simply by not running away anymore, and yet it doesn’t happen. Not just for them on their larger canvases, but for many of us whose lives take place on smaller pages.
There’s something about keeping the race alive. It feels like hope, but it isn’t, of course. Or maybe they just can’t envision another way of living. Running is a way of life.
So, I’m going to finish the last of the Stroh’s. Fire-brewed.