Cover Image: The Lager Queen of Minnesota

The Lager Queen of Minnesota

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Member Reviews

THE LAGER QUEEN OF MINNESOTA is the latest novel by J. Ryan Stradal (Kitchens of the Great Midwest).  This one, too, is full of descriptions to tempt your palate and stimulate your appetite. The focus, though, is not food; it is on beer – lager, ale, IPA, Gose, stout, porter and so on.  There is enough detail about the many varieties that some readers might even benefit from this quick guide on the types of beer from Time magazine. Stradal also refers to some history and trends (e.g., light beers, micro-breweries, waves of consolidation and acquisitions) in the industry since the 1970s. But his biggest emphasis is on the diverging lives of two sisters, Edith and Helen.  Edith is the older, hard-working, and someone who "looked at money like a motorcycle driver looks at asphalt. The more of it you see, the farther you can go, but a single mistake with it can finish you." Helen's one passion in life is to brew beer and she causes a decades long rift by using the sale of the family farm to fund her brewery launch.  While certainly a relatively quick and entertaining read, THE LAGER QUEEN OF MINNESOTA could also be used by our Junior Theme researchers and tied to economic themes (e.g., transitions for Midwest companies like Old Style, Schlitz, Hamm's and Stroh's; or difficulties of being an entrepreneur – especially a female one; or even the sense of identity which one's work provides).  Alternatively, students could use this title as a springboard to look at family relationships like sibling rivalry or inter-generational responsibilities due to the large role played by Diana (Edith's granddaughter) in this story. THE LAGER QUEEN OF MINNESOTA is a LibraryReads selection for July and it received starred reviews from both Booklist and Kirkus. Enjoy!

Link in post: 
https://time.com/5218581/types-of-beer-guide/
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Such a fun read!  A July Library Reads pic. Pub date July 23.

What's more American than apple pie and home brewed beer?  Well, maybe a lot of things, depending on your viewpoint, but for the two sisters at the heart of this story, that says it all.

Polar opposites, sisters Edith and Helen grow up wanting to be really good at two things: Edith wants to be an award winning pie maker and Helen, after her first taste of a stolen beer, decides she wants to become a brewmaster.

Will they be willing to pay the price? Will they be satisfied with the end results?

We all make choices in life, some of us sacrifice everything for our families and some choose to sacrifice our families for everything.

Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this title.
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Be prepared for some odd time jumps, and people just falling over dead…but, such is life. The Lager Queen explores the realities and hardships of Midwestern families, along with some interesting beer industry info.  And like Kitchens of the Great Midwest, the characters are sublime.
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This was an absolute treasure. It is an absolute joy when reading to realize that the writer really, truly knows not only their characters, but the place they are writing about as well. Capturing a pace so perfectly is a skill that I never appreciate more than when the writer is talking about my beloved Midwest, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Minnesota through J. Ryan Stradal's perspective. I felt this story captured Midwestern beer culture perfectly, as well as created characters that felt real and true. And the family story at the heart was by turns heartbreaking and warm- it felt like Edith never really got a break, but sometimes that's how life is. I can't wait to hand this one to people, and hope that they see themselves in this story the way I saw my fellow Midwesterners as well.
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I didn’t read the author’s first book, but the beer premise of this book really intrigued me. I love a good beer, yet quickly discovered that reading about it is not as interesting as drinking it.  I almost gave up on this book, neither of the sisters who the story revolves around are particularly liekable. They felt very one dimensional to me-Edith the good sister and Helen the bad sister when surely there had to be more to the story for both of them. Then after becoming emotionally invested in Edith’s granddaughter Diana, she all but disappears from the story. I wanted the characters to be as richly detailed as the descriptions of how breweries get their products into bars and stores, and how adding hops changes the flavor of beer.  These are all good details, but they didn’t quite bring me satisfaction.
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You know it's a good book when you start telling people they need to read it before you've even finished it! This Minnesota based tale is about sisters, families, estrangement, vocations, beer, and, my personal favorite, pie. When two sisters have falling out, they each go their separate ways -- younger sister Helen achieves her fortune through brewing beer and while older, more reserved Edith becomes a hometown hero late in life since she makes homemade pies for all the residents at the nursing home where she works. Tragedy strikes Edith's family and she soon finds herself struggling to make ends meet....and then the story takes the most unlikely of turns. 

Told through the perspectives of Edith, Helen and, later, Edith's granddaughter, this tale of heartbreak and hope will keep you turning the pages while also reaching for a cold one. :-) I can't wait to share it with my book club in the future! (Note: I read an advanced copy of this novel courtesy of NetGalley. Opinions are my own.)
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Estranged sisters that haven't spoken in years.  One bakes pies while the other makes beer.  Then hardship comes and both are making beer and my oh my, rhubarb in beer?  What a ride this story is, hang on to your hat 'cuz it moves fast with lots of twists.
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How do you get me to read a "light" book? Put beer in the title/on the cover, set it in the Midwest, feature a strong female character. This book hits all the right notes. Coming from Wisconsin with a healthy dose of time spent in Minnesota, certain turns of phrase in this book and the stoic attitude of most of its characters hit me right in the feels. Opening the book was like coming home. 

The book centers on three women from the same family: sisters Edith and Helen who haven't spoken in over 50 years and Edith's granddaughter Diana. Through different forces, both Helen and Diana become brew masters. Helen's main focus is to brew Minnesota's best selling beer while Diana's is to start up her own craft brewing operation. Long-enduring Grandma Edith once famous for her pies would do anything to help her granddaughter who she has raised since a teenager, even if that means brewing beer, an enterprise she's long associated with her estranged sister Helen.

Readers of Stradal's debut novel Kitchen's of the Great Midwest will remember his knack for inserting tragedy without overwhelming the reader. Characters cross paths with each other in novel ways through both books in a way that makes me think of Stradal as the Maeve Binchy of the Midwest. Whether or not he'd see that as a copmliment, as long as he's writing, I'll be reading even if this is my Blotz Special Light version of fiction.
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Stradal's book capably and movingly pushes a lot of buttons. It's a warm, engaging, funny, and wise tale about families, grudges, guilt, love and loss -- and the joys of baking pies and fermenting beer. 'The Lager Queen of Minnesota' is a compelling read, and its resolution is uplifting, a welcome moment in the midst of these turbulent times.
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If you're looking for a heartfelt, quirky novel about the ups and downs a family experiences; grab The Lager Queen of Minnesota immediately. When Helen and Edith were teenagers, it seemed like Helen excelled at everything, but Edith was the star baker of the family. When Edith moved away with her husband Stanley and Helen's big dreams of creating a beer for the world to enjoy became more of a reality, Helen got all of their parent's money upon their death. For apparent reasons, this created a schism in the sisters' already complicated relationship. While Helen had money, a company, and staff, Edith was working in nursing homes and becoming renowned in the area for her delicious pies, but living economically throughout the years. When Edith's daughter and son-in-law die in a tragic accident, granddaughter Diana comes to live with them. Throughout the years, Diana decides she's also interested in the beer business. But her "in" comes in a different form and changes her life, Edith's life, and the lives of all of their local friends. Great novel for a road trip!
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I enjoyed this multi-generational novel about beer making in Minnesota. There was so much I learned about making beer by reading this story. I found myself cheering for several characters, Diana in particular. This was a sweet, fulfilling story.
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The Lager Queen of Minnesota was a wonderful read and despite the full- time job, it was read in three days.  I definitely have it on my to be reread list.  It is both funny and honest, while it showcases the strength, determination and creativity of Midwestern women.
Get busy Mr. Stradal!  We need another wonderful book from you.
Thank you NetGalley, Penguin Books, and J. Ryan Stradal for the free advance copy that was read in exchange for an honest review.
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"Kitchens of the Great Midwest" blew me away, so I was very excited when I saw a new title by J. Ryan Stradal. While "The Lager Queen of Minnesota" wasn't quite as good as "Kitchens," I still really enjoyed it. "Kitchens" was a little more on the literary side to me, while "Lager Queen" read like a hipster Lorna Landvik. Not that that is a bad thing. I love Stradal's strong women characters, and his Minnesota humor comes out strong. I am excited to see what he has in store for us next.
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I enjoyed this warm novel about the estrangement of two sisters over thirty years and how each lived her life.  The two stories are tied together by the granddaughter of one of the sisters in a lovely family story.
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I really enjoyed Stradal's debut novel, so it was no surprise that I really enjoyed this book. His prose is so warm and inviting, that reading his books is a joy. This book is funny, big-hearted, and honest.
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Better even than Kitchens of the Great Midwest. Lager Queen is the story of two sisters who are very different and who value different things in their lives.  Helen is driven to be a brewer while Edith takes the more traditional path of marriage and motherhood.  After Helen betrays Edith and takes their whole inheritance, their relationship is ruined and they both have to navigate their lives on their own. The characters are warm and real and by the end my heart hurt from all the emotions.
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Two women of different generations obsessed with making craft beer--both having entered the field for entirely different reason. Engaging characters and a bittersweet, satisfying story.
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You don’t have to be a beer lover to enjoy The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal, but it sure doesn’t hurt. Breweries are the backdrop for much of this family story, starting with two sisters, Edith and Helen, who know early on what path they each want to take in life. Those paths lead them far away from each other, and the women certainly don’t end up where they thought they would, but in the end I don’t think they’d have it any other way. 

The third strand in this braided tale belongs to Diana, Edith’s granddaughter. She also finds her calling at a young age and has as much grit and determination as her grandmother and great-aunt, probably more. Her efforts not only pay off for her, but they impact the two estranged sisters as well.

This is a story about chasing dreams, staying on course when you’re thrown for a loop, and finding people you can rely on to make those dreams a reality. The story bounces among the three women and back and forth in time, not in a way that would confuse the reader, but giving us a richer sense of how they are connected.

I am grateful to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for allowing me to read an advance copy of this book.
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Stradal writes beautiful, character-driven novels. I enjoyed this one just as much as his first - he is becoming my go-to for entertaining, humorous, works with depth. One of my favorite authors.
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I love books about the Midwest.  I grew up with people like those in this book and they ring true.   It is a book about home and family and the quirks that keep us apart.
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