Leslie Patiño and the rise of beer fiction

I was reading The Brewer’s JusticeLeslie Patiño’s new novel about the dangers of running a brewery in Mexico, barside one afternoon. A young lady to my left noticed the foaming lager on the cover and announced that, she too, was reading a beer book. Hers was Randy Mosher’s Tasting Beer. While we were comparing fiction and nonfiction, I thought to myself: beer fiction has a lot of catching up to do.

The Brewer’s Justice, which the author self published as Patiño Publishing, is a fast-moving thriller set in Monterrey, Mexico, where Patiño has visited for decades and lived in for more than three years. I recently had a chance to talk to Monterey, California-based Patiño about her novel, her connections to the beer scene, and publishing.

But first, a little more about her gripping tale. It’s about Brad from Colorado who is trying to make it as a head brewer and owner of the fictional Monterrey Brewing Company in San Pedro with his business partner and local wheeler-dealer Carlos. Along the way Brad runs afoul of a drug cartel, dabbles in love interests, and learns the hard lessons of life in a culture that is not his own.

I met Leslie, oddly enough, drinking a Budweiser. The retired Spanish teacher originally from Austin, Texas, and I were both sampling Buds at the 2015 Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference in Asheville, North Carolina, during a presentation by an Anheuser-Busch brewer. She writes the blog Not My Father’s Beer, and I’m always impressed by her writing skills.

But going from covering the beer industry to writing a novel with craft breweries as its backdrop is no easy feat. Luckily, Patiño had help. Her husband Hugo, a brewer originally from Mexico, gave her plenty of insight.

While in many ways it’s a brisk read, The Brewer’s Justice also holds plenty of commentary about what many Mexicans have to bear in a country with so much cartel influence.  

“I started out writing a novel that shows mainstream Americans how life [in Mexico] has changed remarkably in the last two decades,” Patiño said. “Certainly, bodyguard service has proliferated. Simple things like people now carry their house key and car key separately in case they get carjacked.”

The brewery scene in the upscale Monterrey area, which is breathtaking and surrounded by mountains, is actually more developed than Patiño depicts in her novel, she said, but it’s still very small.

One of the many themes of the novel is that of misperception: Brad shows us that his idea of what police should do and how businesses should be run simply does not mix with the reality of northeastern Mexico.  

She decided to self-publish, which has its freedoms. However, Patiño would certainly entertain the idea of working with a publishing company, especially for the marketing it affords an author.

“I think this was a genre I was comfortable with,” Patiño said. “It took more than a couple of years [to write]. It took a lot of iterations.”

Patiño said she’s proud of her work. “It’s created a more heightened awareness of the reality in Mexico and the everyday things that can happen,” she said.

I hope we see more beer-based fiction, but while we wait for such future works to rival the output of John J. Palmer, Garrett Oliver, and Randy Mosher, please enjoy the work of Leslie Patiño.