Health, Family, & Fermentation: Seven Essays




Stein, Michael

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What do Czech heritage, beer, and diabetes have in common? They are all inside me. No, not all the time, but I’ll be diabetic until there is a cure. As a result of a trip to Prague and with the help of a Czech historian, we have traced the Stein family back to the 18th century. And, beer is a subject that I simply must write about. Last semester a professor of fiction asked me, “if your last name was Shot would you write about whiskey?” He said it offhandedly, though seriously because many of my fiction assignments, or “pastiches,” were written around beer. They were scenes about brewers, people in European fields harvesting hops, and an immigrant looking over a body of water, the Potomac, that would inevitably be used in his brewing. It was hard for me to write about anything else, though I did end the semester by creating a piece of fiction about my great grandmother who had perished in the Nazi-run Czech concentration camp, Terezin. In the following collection of seven essays I write about beer, health, genealogy and its intersection with history and religion. My first essay Bohemia, is a chronicling of Czech lands and four generations of Steins, with religion and history providing the backdrop. Where Bohemia charts the course of religion back to the 9th century, the second essay Crossing the Vltava, is a peak into the lives of my grandfather, my father, and myself. The third piece, Knock on the Cellar Door, is a narrative of creative nonfiction; it also focuses on the lives of my father and grandmother who survived the Nazi occupation of Prague. Zofie is an essay about my great grandmother, the first and only known diabetic in the Stein family. My Type 1 is another essay that deals with diabetes, particularly with my kind of diabetes, type 1 insulin-dependant diabetes. Hops to Save The Day traces the history of the first production brewery in the District of Columbia in the 21st century. Finally, The Quest for Heurich’s Lager is my quest as a homebrewer and beer historian to recreate DC’s indigenous drink, returning to the influence of Bohemia on DC’s beer.



Bohemia, Diabetes, Prague, Beer