Siss at library
Wowing them at the East Hampton Public Library

I can’t get over what a wild ride this whole book thing has been, and I’m floored by the places it’s taken me. Since Connecticut Beer: A History of Nutmeg State Brewing (History Press) came out in April of 2015, I’ve chatted about it on radio shows and a podcast, and taken it with me to brew festivals, restaurant fund raisers, historical societies, and even a yacht club. My most consistent supporters, however, have been the Connecticut libraries, and I wanted to reflect a little on how grateful I am of the men and women who have given me chance to talk about my love of Connecticut brewing history, lead beer tastings, and sell my book.

When you’re giving a talk at a library you’re entering a sacred space, at least from my perspective. Growing up, I stood up a little straighter and tried to sound a little more intelligent when I went to my public library. It was a well-lit oasis for a bibliophile and committed indoorsman like myself. My library was right next to the soccer field where I tried to keep up with the big kids and labored to breathe, so in many ways it was a sanctuary.

I learned as an adult that the public library system is still an asylum. Of course I stop by for books and books on tape CD as a patron, but ever since my first book talk at the Prospect Public Library in May of 2015 I’ve had a new perspective on what a library means to its patrons.

To keep relevant and viable, libraries offer what the internet cannot: human interaction. So they offer author talks, but also cooking demonstrations, storytelling sessions, business adviser meetings. Thanks to the Connecticut Library Consortium, program directors can find actresses, musicians, and time management gurus who do more than just perform. They interact.

So I’ve tried to do just that, and it’s been a blast. The people I’ve met have been a pleasant mix of beer geeks, local history enthusiasts, and mildly curious library groupies. I think my largest gathering was at Avon Free Public Library, where about 60 people gathered and Tina, the adult services manager, had set up a great selection of beer-related books for people to peruse. At the gorgeous Darien Library, I had a chance to speak in a lovely lecture hall with stadium seating. Other times I’ve gathered in a more humble side room and spoken in front of a well-behaved and encouraging crowd of six.

I’ve been challenged and chided, questioned and second guessed, but never disrespected and always inspired to dig deeper into history and up my game as a presenter.

The beer tasting, which comes after the talk (because, really, I’m afraid to have it first), plays a big part of the presentation — where I’m allowed to lead it, that is. Not all libraries have policies that allow for alcohol, so sometimes it’s just me talking with my PowerPoint presentation. I’ve come to enjoy the tasting not just for the Connecticut beer we sample, but for the discussions that come during the sessions. I hear reactions I won’t hear during a roundtable of beer enthusiasts. Of course, I love, “Wow: I don’t even like beer, but I like this! It’s kind of sweet, isn’t it?” But I also appreciate, “Yeah, this is gross…”

I should say that if it were not for Tess at Veracious Brewing, who recommended approaching libraries, and for John at Prospect Public Library who recommended me on a librarian list-serv, I’d never have had these great experiences.

On Tuesday, July 12, I’ll be talking at my 30th Connecticut library – Kent Memorial Library in Suffield,  to be exact. It starts at 7 p.m. Join me, if you can.

Author’s note: I charge libraries a fee for my services, and for their generosity I am also grateful.

Future speaking engagements include:

Aug. 11, 6:30 – New Milford Public Library (860) 355-1191

Aug. 15, 6:30 -Manchester Public Library (860) 647-5235

Aug. 18, 7 – Oliver Wolcott Public Library, Litchfield (860) 567-8030

Sept. 15, 7 – Windsor Public Library (860) 285-1910


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