Former Review staffer publishes ‘heady’ history book

Scott Carlson

“Twin Cities Beer: A Heady History,” is a new book that details the area’s rich history of commercial brewing from the mid-1800s to present day. submitted photo

While microbreweries are currently center stage in the Twin Cities, local beer is not a new trend, according to Scott Carlson’s new book, “Twin Cities Beer: A Heady History,” which details the area’s rich history of commercial brewing from the mid-1800s to present day.

According to the book, the Twin Cities offered a perfect storm of elements to become a “beer capital,” including ample fresh water, fertile conditions for growing hops and barley, and an early influx of German immigrants and their culture for brewing. This eventually led to nationally-recognized brands, such as Hamm’s, Schmidt’s and Grain Belt, as well as the over 50 microbreweries operating out of the Twin Cities today.

“I hope you find my book a quick, engaging read, one that you will feel free to tuck into your backpack or knapsack as a reference resource when you are out on a pub crawl,” Carlson, a New Brighton resident, wrote in the book’s preface.

His goal is reflected in the organization of information, with subheads clearly separating the history of one company from that of another, making information on any one brewery easy to find.


Getting to know Scott Carlson

Carlson’s organization of information, as well as his knack for research, may have come from his career in journalism, which began at the Ramsey County Review in the early 1970s. 

“My senior year [at North High School], one of my teachers asked me if I would be interested in writing about the high school football team for the Review,” Carlson remembered. “Actually, that’s how I got my start, and, you know, from covering sports I graduated into covering city council and school board, and I even had my own editorial column for a while.”

He went on to work at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader and AOL’s Roseville 

“I definitely feel like that writing background helped in putting this book together, both in terms of the writing and just kind of knowing where to go to dig out information and facts and whatnot,” Carlson said.


Fitting in time to write

Although Carlson is not a homebrewer and “not very much of a beer drinker, either,” he said he loves history and enjoys talking to people and learning about brewing.

Carlson explained that he got involved with the project when The History Press, the book’s publisher, reached out to him nearly five years ago, asking him to write a book on St. Paul’s brewing history.

“They actually had a writer lined up from the area at the time, but the individual who was going to do the book took a job in California and was moving out of the area ... and I was actually recommended by this other writer,” said Carlson, though he never found out who the other writer was.

He explained that the book was initially just going to focus on brewing in St. Paul, but the publisher eventually decided that it made sense to expand it to Minneapolis, too, as seen in the final product.

It took about two years to gather all of the information, Carlson said, adding that one of the most difficult parts of the project was juggling it with his day job, working for the state, and family responsibilities. He added that he even had one extension on the deadline, though it ended up making the book better.

“That, actually, I think, worked out for the best because there have been plenty of changes in the local scene in the last year or so, and we’ve had a number of new microbreweries come onboard,” Carlson said. He even added that a second edition of the book could eventually be possible if there are enough changes to the local brewing scene.


Looking ahead

Because “Twin Cities Beer” is Carlson’s first book, he said he was eager to get it published, adding that eventually he would like to be a full-time nonfiction book writer. “That may be a few years in the making, but the thing is, I think anyone can be a writer. It’s a matter of if you have the discipline.”

Currently, Carlson is mulling over a few book ideas, and, as he pointed out, there is a lot to consider, such as what existing books are published on the subject, what new information his book could offer and how marketable the subject is. With those considerations in mind, he said he expects his next venture will be another local history book.

“Twin Cities Beer: A Heady History” was published June 4, and can be purchased at most local bookstores in the Twin Cities, as well as Barnes & Noble, Costco, and

Over the summer, Carlson has held several book signing events at local bookstores and breweries throughout the Twin Cities, and said the best way to follow those events is by visiting the book’s Facebook page, “Twin Cities Beer: A Heady History.” Although the details were not revealed by presstime, Carlson indicated online that there will be additional book signings in September.

“The publisher tells me that the book is selling well,” he said. “It has been gratifying to see it in print and to see the response it’s gotten. I sometimes don’t quite believe that I got it done!”


– Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or

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