Summer reading is a relative term. Some want to spend an afternoon in the sun with a romance novel. Others prefer diving into the history of Iowa bootlegging.
For those who join me in the second category, I just got to spend 235 pages with the original distillers of Templeton rye in the book Gentlemen Bootleggers, by Bryce T. Bauer. This is old-school Prohibition Templeton rye and not the alcohol currently made under that name. Despite impressive marketing (and a nice flavor), the current Templeton Rye is distilled in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.
But there was an original Templeton rye straight out of Templeton, Iowa. And talk about community spirit. Who wouldn’t want to live in town where the church makes liquor in the basement and most sheds probably contain a still?
Bryce T. Bauer is the author Gentlemen Bootleggers: The True Story of Templeton Rye, Prohibition, and a Small Town in Cahoots. After I reviewed his book, I contacted him with some questions about Prohibition, whiskey in Iowa, and what he is currently drinking.
Why this story:
"Well, being from the area, I always heard stories of Templeton rye growing up. I knew people had a lot of great anecdotes of making it, and selling it, and drinking it. Those were all very appealing. But it wasn’t until we started collecting those stories, and people from the community began contributing all the information that they had, that we realized just how rich it was."
On the importance of recording the Templeton rye history:
“It’s one of the most unique stories to come out of the Prohibition-era — most small towns in the Midwest were far more likely to be supporters of Prohibition than major violators of it.
There’s also the German-American history, which, as someone whose heritage is German, I knew nothing about starting out but clearly was so important in my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ experiences.
It’s also a story of rural America, specifically of the rural Middle West, which is in so many ways a cradle of American civilization and yet it is grossly neglected, and when it does enter into popular culture, it is usually as hyperbolic parody.”
I once took a Facebook quiz that told me the state I should live in is Texas. Which is odd because the only state I’ve ever declared out loud I won’t live in is Texas. So I think what the quiz actually meant was I should go to Texas and spend some time sipping Garrison Brothers whiskey at its tasting room on a 68-acre ranch outside of Austin.
I got a preview of such a visit last Saturday when Dan Garrison came to one of my favorite local spots, Brooklyn Wine Exchange. He had the cowboy hat to match the lonestar bottles, and he graced us with some bourbon and talk.