Books, Brews and Collaboration

Books and Brews Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing

Books and Brews line at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing

Tuesday, July 28, 8:00 p.m.

It’s a typical summer evening on the central California coast, overcast with the temperature hovering just above 60o. Many of the fans waiting outside Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing wear light jackets or hoodies. The line they form stretches the length of the brewpub’s patio and beyond. Some wait, beer in hand. Most chat with those ahead or behind them. Their goal? To reach the folding table where journalist and The New Yorker writer, William Finnegan is autographing copies of his newly released memoir, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life.

William Finnegan signing books

William Finnegan signing books

Finnegan has just finished talking about his life, his latest book and surfing to a crowd of ninety plus in the second of four Books and Brews events put on this summer by Bookshop Santa Cruz in conjunction with local brewpubs and pour houses. When the crowds finally dwindle and the dust settles, Bookshop Santa Cruz has sold fifty-three copies of Finnegan’s hardcover book at $30.40 a pop, after tax.

I ran into my friend TC Zmak, holding her newly purchased copy of Barbarian Days, and her homebrewer husband Steve standing in the line. They had enjoyed Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing’s pint-for-a-penny special during the author’s talk, with TC drinking an Amber Ale and Steve, a Devout Stout. Last year, TC published Dark Surf, a novel about surfing vampires who spend a lot of their non-surfing hours in San Diego-area bars and taprooms.

TC said she was there because of her love for surfing and craft brews. “I also wanted to see how a well-known author handles a book signing event. And I wanted to support Bookshop Santa Cruz and their Books and Brews series, which is a fabulous concept.”

Julia Sinn at Discretion Brewing Books and Brews

Julia Sinn at Discretion Brewing Books and Brews

The idea started with Bookshop Santa Cruz owner Casey Coonerty Protti. The venerable indie bookstore, located in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz, was founded by Protti’s parents in 1966. Today, the bookshop’s events are so numerous that coordinating them is Julia Sinn’s full-time job.

Asked how the series came about, Sinn says, “Every year we assess our programs and ask, ‘What new program or initiative can we launch?’ We had been brainstorming about doing smaller-scale off-site events for some unconventional books, personable authors, community engagement events—things like that. So this was the perfect fit and with so many excellent new craft breweries and pour houses popping up around Santa Cruz, we saw a wealth of possible venues and partners.”

Author Tim McGarvey at Discretion Brewing

Author Tim McGarvey at Discretion Brewing

The first event, a Summer Reading Mixer held at Discretion Brewing on June 24, had the house so packed that I ended up sharing a table with Tim and Leslie McGarvey. While we enjoyed our beers and the literary-loving crowds, Tim told me about writing his novel, Only The Days We Danced. “It’s the story of two eleven-year-old boys, Irish-Catholics, living in Indiana in 1929.” As to how he came to write it, “There was this thing inside of me that had to come out.”

Craft breweries often collaborate on special beers, so the concept of a brewery/indie bookstore collaboration makes sense. Both are typically small, independent and locally owned. Both prize good product and service. Both Davids  have their own Goliaths (Amazon, ABInBev and MillerCoors). Collaboration seems like such a natural fit. So, do other cities have their versions of Books and Brews?

Fiction Beer Company, Denver

Fiction Beer Company, Denver

I checked in with Christa Kilpatrick who, with her husband Ryan, owns Fiction Beer Company in Denver. Turns out that last Friday, July 31, Fiction Beer Company participated in The Zero Annual F**king Fabulous Fiction Fest. The event, organized by BookBar, a bookstore that serves alcohol, and High Fiction, a fiction-loving music band, featured activities like Narrators on Stage and The Novelistas. “The Adult Spelling Bee was my favorite part!” Christa reported.

On Monday, it was back to work. Fiction got busy brewing a cream ale for the September 1 invitation-only kick-off of Denver Public Library’s BrewHa!Ha! During the month of September, the library will celebrate Denver’s culture of brewing—beer, coffee, tea, kombucha.

Meanwhile, Sinn and Bookshop Santa Cruz are gearing up for Books and Brews #3, the August 10 Community Read Discussion of The Bees by Laine Paull at Beer Thirty Bottle Shop & Pour House.

Is a 2016 Books and Brews in the future? “We definitely want to repeat this next year,” Sinn says, “as it’s been a big success for us and so well-received by our community. We’ll make some changes to improve the events even more, and maybe expand to some different breweries!”

Here’s raising a glass to all the possibilities of bookstore/brewery collaborations.

If you know of other book and brew collaborations, I’d love to hear about them. Comment on this post or email me at

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