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Finally, a book that embraces women of a certain age for their talent, tenacity, and can-do spirit (who actually like beer!) Helen and Edith are sisters who have a falling out after their father leaves his entire inheritance to younger sister Helen.

“His heirs were two daughters, neither of whom wanted to farm, nor married men who did. And now one of these daughters was asking him to leave it all, every cent, to her. Not out of malice or anger to the other, but just because one had a plan and the other didn’t.”

Helen’s plan was to refashion her husband’s family’s failing soda-pop business into a brewery. She wanted to brew something new — something for the times, light beer. Their motto? Drink lots. It’s Blotz. Helen became a successful brewer and a savvy business woman and she wished she could reach out to Edith, but she knew she had done something unforgiveable.

Edith struggled to make a living. She worked in a nursing home and café baking pies that brought her some acclaim, but little income. When her daughter and son-in-law were killed in a car accident, her teen-aged granddaughter Diana came to live with her. Diana recognized the precariousness of their financial situation and wanted to help her grandmother — but her methods could’ve landed her in juvie jail. Fate was on her side and through the benevolence of a local brewmaster, Diana learned how to brew an IPA that could stand head-to-head with the best of them. Could she save their family from financial ruin? Not without the help of Edith and her compadre of granny friends who learned to brew craft beers with catchy names and ingredients.

“Along with the beers that Diana had brewed, the Artemis lineup now included Grandma Betsy’s Strawberry Gose, Grandma Linda’s Chocolate Stout, and Grandma Lucy’s Pale Ale . . . they’d also made a label for Grandma Edith’s Rhubarb Pie-In-A Bottle Ale.”

After years of successfully brewing Blotz’s light beer, Helen’s luck had run out. Beer palates were changing, micro-breweries were popping up everywhere, and it seemed that Helen’s comeuppance might come at the hand of her sister’s granddaughter. But that wouldn’t be very Minnesota-nice, would it?

J. Ryan Stradal was born and raised in Minnesota and his affection for the quirky characters of Nicollet Falls  and Artemis Brewery is apparent. The women are strong, smart, sassy, and hard-working. And while the narrative is not linear, this reader never felt lost. I highly recommend J. Ryan Stradal’s THE LAGER QUEEN OF MINNESOTA for fans of Lorna Landvik and Sarah Stonich.

Listen to my interview with J. Ryan Stradal on November 28 at 7:00 pm on Superior Reads, WTIP 90.7 Grand Marais.

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