Reimagined Book Launch: A Brew Hall, Beer, and Books

December 16, 2022 § 7 Comments

by Nancy Jorgensen with Elizabeth Jorgensen

The bookseller tilted and steered her dolly past the bartop where green-jerseyed Packer fans lingered. In the corner, poets waited for my book event to begin, heads inclined to each other—rock tunes muffled conversation. Meanwhile, the Packer fans hurled curses at the television, blaspheming the Washington Commanders.

Raised Grain Brewing Company was not known for literary affairs, but I loved the vibe. Soaring ceiling, crisp modern architecture, comfortable seating at high-top tables or low sofas, towering tanks humming in the background. RG embraced beers that “are a reflection of our drive to branch out, break convention, and celebrate the art…”

Everyday Warrior—an India Pale Ale

When I requested the Brew Hall, Rex had said, “Sure. There’s a $300 rental fee plus a catering minimum.”

“I wish I had a budget,” I said, “but I’m hosting a book launch and celebration of writers. But I hope one hundred or more people show up—paying customers.”

“Sorry—management policy.”

I said I’d check around for free venues and maybe call back.

“Oh, f*** it!” Rex said. “I can’t turn down one hundred sales on a Sunday afternoon.” The room would be ours, no charge, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Quick Release—Amber Lager

I posted on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, tagging Raised Grain. I hoped to draw a crowd not only to support my book’s launch, but to justify Rex’s gift. I did an interview for my local newspaper and posted again on social media. Launch day arrived, and I looped a slideshow on a giant welcome screen—Available today: regular pours, five-ounce pours, flights!

The airy space sprawled behind the taps. White oak tables and benches marched in perfect rows. Stools and a narrow countertop hugged the perimeter. A soaring glass wall showcased RG’s state-of-the-art steel fermentation vessels.

To launch our book, Gwen Jorgensen: USA’s First Olympic Gold Medal Triathlete, my co-author and I had posed a question: How could we design an event to celebrate a community—of authors, of businesses, of our county and state?

We settled on a shared affair and invited local writers to join us. Poets, essayists, novelists, romance and young adult authors. Each would deliver a three-minute pitch on their latest title.

Book launches typically transpire in bookstores to support a literary establishment. But ours would be in a brewery. Writers and brewers share traits. Both are creatives. Both sell products. Brewers market beer. Writers peddle words. Beer devotees purchase brews to smell and/or taste. Readers buy books to see and/or hear. The two sectors traffic in sense as well as cents. We hoped to champion both.

Chasing Giants—India Pale Ale

One after the other, writers commanded the front of the room. Some read a poem or two, one told a story, several elicited laughs. The audience sipped ales, lagers, and IPAs and followed a “tasting sheet” with cover photo, title, author, genre, page count, and price. A few patrons from the bar ventured by to investigate; several literary fans wandered in, bought books, and left.

After the elevator pitches, audience members browsed the bookseller’s table while authors answered questions and signed books.

Rex checked in and seemed happy to see our people ordering taps and cans. And pleased to watch waiters zig-zagging our space to deliver pizza and chicken tenders for those who ordered via QR code.

Mello Rillo—Session Hazy IPA

As the crowd broke up, I collected my computer, bookmarks, and business cards. My co-author and I helped the bookseller pack up and cart boxes to her van.  

Then we perched at the bar—my co-author with a Haze Before the Storm (Triple India Pale Ale), me with a Paradocs Red (Imperial Red India Pale Ale)—for a quick autopsy. We surveyed sales, which weren’t stellar for any one author, but profitable for the bookseller. And judging by the glasses and mugs we spied, the brewery made money.

But what about bigger goals? Does a brewery partner well with poetry and prose? Is the whole greater than the sum of poets plus novelists plus essayists plus beer? Could two authors and one book influence more than sales?

Our afternoon highlighted eight Wisconsin authors, sixty Wisconsin readers, thirty Wisconsin brews, one Wisconsin bookstore, and two titles featuring a Wisconsin Olympic champion. Like a Badger State yeast culture that ferments into Miller High Life, Wisconsin literary culture bubbles up robust and hearty too. It appeared a literary community could thrive alongside Packer cheeseheads.

Badgerland—Hazy IPA

Suddenly, overhead lights bathed the bar—Raised Grain closes early on Sundays. I downed the last of my glass, gathered my things, and closed the tab. On my way out, I slipped Rex $100.

Rex wore a look of gratitude. “Hey, thanks. Worked out great. Let me know if you want to do this again.”

Santa’s Sack—A Christmas Ale “like a gift…”


Elizabeth Jorgensen and Nancy Jorgensen are a mother/daughter writing team. Elizabeth is a creative writing teacher, and Nancy is a music educator. They recently collaborated on a biography of their sister and daughter: Gwen Jorgensen: USA’s First Olympic Gold Medal Triathlete. Their credits include Elizabeth’s recent release, Hacking Student Learning Habits (Times 10 Publications), Nancy’s Things They Never Taught You in Choral Education (Hal Leonard) and their family memoir, Go, Gwen, Go: A Family’s Journey to Olympic Gold (Meyer & Meyer Sport).

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