Although both Stradal's humorous novels celebrate the food of the flyover coast, "Lager Queen," like his debut splash "Kitchens of the Great Midwest," is ultimately an appreciation of its strong daughters. Two of our protagonists are female brewer/owners: "Laverne and Shirley" they are not. Helen is the "Lager Queen," who has created a wildly profitable light beer she knows is crap ("Drink lots, it's Blotz"). Diana is starting a microbrewery, like the ones that are gobbling up marketshare from older beer brands -and risk being gobbled up in return. Their connection is Edith, Diana's impoverished mother, who has a knack for baking pies--and is also Helen's estranged sister. Cue family betrayal, beer wars, and the only plausibly satisfactory ending. Stradal must have many well-loved women in his own family: I have to believe these portraits are from life. Take this and some assorted IPAs to your next bookclub meeting.
“A Minnesota family grounded in farming, beer, and award-winning pies is split for decades when one of two sisters inherits the farm. Helen and Edith — whose stories author J. Ryan Stradal effectively weaves together — stop speaking, while one’s fortunes soar and the other’s plummet. When a woman of the next generation has a chance at success, she may also reunite the Calder family. Stradal brings the heartland to the page with warmth, humor, and plenty of hops-inspired lore.”
— Cheryl McKeon, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
Summer 2020 Reading Group Indie Next List
“This is a tale of two sisters, a batch of undefeatable Midwestern women, and the modern evolution of American beer trends in the Midwest. America’s heartland looks a bit different from the perspectives of Edith, Helen, and Diana, each of whom struggles to both survive and realize her dreams in a world less than willing to give women a chance, let alone a beer. Lovely, powerful, and an excellent read!”
— Linda Sherman-Nurick, Cellar Door Books, Riverside, CA
A National Bestseller!
“The perfect pick-me-up on a hot summer day.” —Washington Post “[A] charmer of a tale. . . Warm, witty and--like any good craft beer--complex, the saga delivers a subtly feminist and wholly life-affirming message.” —People Magazine A novel of family, Midwestern values, hard work, fate and the secrets of making a world-class beer, from the bestselling author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest
Two sisters, one farm. A family is split when their father leaves their shared inheritance entirely to Helen, his younger daughter. Despite baking award-winning pies at the local nursing home, her older sister, Edith, struggles to make what most people would call a living. So she can't help wondering what her life would have been like with even a portion of the farm money her sister kept for herself.
With the proceeds from the farm, Helen builds one of the most successful light breweries in the country, and makes their company motto ubiquitous: "Drink lots. It's Blotz." Where Edith has a heart as big as Minnesota, Helen's is as rigid as a steel keg. Yet one day, Helen will find she needs some help herself, and she could find a potential savior close to home. . . if it's not too late.
Meanwhile, Edith's granddaughter, Diana, grows up knowing that the real world requires a tougher constitution than her grandmother possesses. She earns a shot at learning the IPA business from the ground up--will that change their fortunes forever, and perhaps reunite her splintered family?
Here we meet a cast of lovable, funny, quintessentially American characters eager to make their mark in a world that's often stacked against them. In this deeply affecting family saga, resolution can take generations, but when it finally comes, we're surprised, moved, and delighted.
About the Author
J. Ryan Stradal is the author of New York Times bestseller Kitchens of the Great Midwest and national bestseller The Lager Queen of Minnesota. His writing has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Granta, The Rumpus, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, among other places. His debut, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, won the American Booksellers Association Indie's Choice Award for Adult Debut Book of the Year, the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association award for fiction, and the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award for debut fiction. Born and raised in Minnesota, he now lives in Los Angeles.
Praise for The Lager Queen of Minnesota:
“This charmer of a tale is a loving ode to the Midwest, the power of persistence and, perhaps above all, beer. . . Warm, witty and--like any good craft beer--complex, the saga delivers a subtly feminist and wholly life-affirming message.” —People Magazine
“This generous spirit makes The Lager Queen of Minnesota a pleasure to read and the perfect pick-me-up on a hot summer day.” —Washington Post
“Delightfully intoxicating. . . will make you smile with its droll humor, and its poignant moments will stop you to reread and confirm that they are really that good. In beer-geek slang, Stradal’s novel is ‘crushable’ — easygoing, well-balanced, super-drinkable with tons of flavor … and will make you go back for more.” —USA Today
“In Stradal’s follow-up to his best-selling debut, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, the Minnesota native’s energetic prose once again captures the optimism of the heartland.” —Time Magazine
“Complex female characters, tragedies, and descriptions. . . will awaken all your senses. . . The book is The Lager Queen of Minnesota, but this release could cement J. Ryan Stradal as the King of Midwestern novels.” —Entertainment Weekly
“I read J. Ryan Stradal’s Kitchens of the Great Midwest on a flight. I buckled my seatbelt, opened the book and when I looked up again, the flight attendant was asking if I needed assistance getting off the plane. I didn’t, but now you know the spell this author can cast. He does it again with The Lager Queen of Minnesota.” —Elisabeth Egan forThe New York Times
“The fortunes and foibles of a brewery mirror the relationship between two sisters tussling over a family farm in this quirky, enchanting novel reminiscent of Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres.” —O Magazine
“Everything about this book satisfies — from how the characters grow to how beer-making is described to Stradal's hilarious assessment of lagers vs. IPAs. You may never drink a beer in ignorance again.” —The Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Wonderful. . . Stradal’s gift for getting the reader to invest in these lives is particularly profound.” —The Chicago Tribune
“Delightful.” —New York Post
“Stradal's second novel goes down easy. Imbued with Midwestern references and the importance of a 'can-do' attitude, this warm, witty novel willappeal to fans of Curtis Sittenfeld and Meg Wolitzer.” —Booklist (starred)
“This book tastes great, is quite filling and never bitter.” —BookPage (starred)
“Stradal’s writing is sharp and funny while still managing to treat each character with warmth and respect. . . this is an ultimately hopeful and heartwarming story. . . . Readers will love watching these truly original characters overcome their challenges and take care of each other. An absolutely delightful read, perfect for a summer day with a good beer and a piece of pie.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Refreshing. . .This story about how a family business succeeds with generations of strong and determined women at the helm makes for a sometimes sad, sometimes funny, but always winning novel.” —Publishers Weekly
“Brilliant. . . a love letter to the Midwest. . . it’s hard to put down not only because the storytelling is so seamless and the characters so relatable, but because the author's delight in the written word is so contagious.” —Jen Sincero, #1 New York Times bestselling author of You Are a Badass
“Utterly charming. . . Stradal loves and knows his territory, and his affection for the Midwest—with all its stubbornness, stoicism, long memories, readiness to provide aid and quiet pride in excellence--gleams on every page.” —Janet Fitch, bestselling author of The Revolution of Marina M.
“The Lager Queen of Minnesota is pure reading joy: warm, funny, informative, and full of heart. It is impossible not to root for Stradal's characters, who are so vivid, and relatable that you will miss them every time you set the book down; indeed, if you set it down at all.” —Jonathan Evison, New York Times bestselling author of Lawn Boy
“Warm, whimsical, incredibly well-written and infused with Stradal’s signature sympathy for his characters--those everyday heroes we all know and love. . . a thorough delight, from beginning to end.” —Nickolas Butler, internationally bestselling author of Shotgun Lovesongs
“Full of the easy-to-love quaffability of a perfect ale, Stradal’s The Lager Queen of Minnesota will warm your heart. With empathy, love, wisdom and humor on every page, I wish I could go back for more.” –Jade Chang, author of The Wangs vs. The World
"The Lager Queen of Minnesota is the kind of book you think about all day, while at work, while speaking to someone else, while in line at the market. . . . I loved this book so much. I carried it with me like a talisman, marveling at the unique storytelling of J. Ryan Stradal, who knows his people so well. It's a portrait of America, of place and land and neighborhood, and, of course, a celebration of beer." —Susan Straight, author of Highwire Moon
"A book to make you laugh and cry and believe the best days of your life are still in front of you." —Ben Loory, author of Tales of Falling and Flying