Across the Beer Bar

Welcome back Beer Wench Fans and not-so-much fans! I have a big tent. You are all welcome beneath its sheltering coverage….

Today I am thrilled to have LESLIE PATIÑO Across the Bar from me as part of the erstwhile, every-so-often yet totally awesome series of Wenchie-style interviews. She has a book out today (throws confetti and does The Dance of Many Sales)!

Your Very Own Wench has several books that use “craft brewing” as a backdrop. And I’m working on a little somethin’ somethin’ right now (around selling houses and managing the Soccer Wenchling’s Flight from the Nest) that is my take on “SIDEWAYS.” It features three friends on a little craft beer excursion around Michigan that is a little bit buddy/road movie, a bit more chick lit and a whole lotta fun with the “Flabby Cabernet” style of craft beer connoisseur/critic. Don’t worry. One of the ladies on the trip IS a former owner of a brewery who was ousted for reasons she spends some time hashing out with her buddies on the road so the legit craft beer stuff is just that: legit. But we have all experienced the 2 sides of craft beer critique: the polar opposite of the “Whaddaya got that’s like Bud Lite” that is, at times, just as insufferable for his or her lack of actual knowledge.

*Make your own craft beer at home with a small oak barrel from Top Shelf Barrels*

Working title: RANGE ANXIETY (they’re driving one of the ladies’ fancy schmancy and obnoxiously expensive electric cars that she took from her almost-ex-husband’s collection…)


I got to read The Brewer’s Justice early days and can tell you ….. well….let’s save that one shall we? My Official Review of the novel is below our scintillating interview so what’re you waiting for? Read on!

Liz: Welcome to my bar, Leslie! What can I pour for you to start?

  • Thanks for the invite, Liz. Since I live in California, my familiarity with Michigan craft beers is a little limited. As a hop head, I’m a fan of Founder’s Centennial IPA, which finally made it to Central California last fall.

ipa beerLiz: Great choice. I’m gonna go with my new fav session IPA: Norm’s Raggedy Ass from Griffin Claw Brewing. Now, first of all, what inspired you to write a thriller novel set in the craft beer world?

  • I’ve lived and traveled in Mexico for forty-five years, and during most of that time, I’ve been married to Hugo, a native of Monterrey and the third generation of his family in the beer business.

With the rise of the drug cartels, I’ve witnessed so many changes in Mexico. Here in the U.S., we hear about some of the gory violence or the arrest of El Chapo, but I don’t think most Americans realize the pervasive impact of the cartels on the lives of Mexicans at every socio-economic level.

I wanted to write a novel about a mainstream American who I hope readers can relate to. He goes to Mexico pursuing his ideal job, but his dream gradually turns into a nightmare as a drug cartel increasingly complicates his business, his relationships and his life, as happens all too often in real life for Mexicans.

Liz: How and why did you get involved in the craft beer business? What is your role in it right now?

  • The novel pulled me in. As I wrote, I kept going to Hugo with questions. Eventually, I realized craft and homebrew fans and the brewers themselves were my target audience. Therefore, I needed to blog on beer. But in order to do that, I had to learn A WHOLE LOT more! When I informed Hugo that I’d decided to start homebrewing, he rolled his eyes and said, “Good luck. I suggest you read this book.”

It was John Palmer’s How to Brew. I’ve never been good at science, but, dang, I had to prove myself. An hour later, I came back, highliter in hand, and smugly announced, “I’ve read 14 pages!” Never mind that the book is 246 pages, start to finish. There are times in life when it’s all about focusing on how far you’ve come rather than the distance still between you and the goal.

I still haven’t finished reading and really comprehending the advanced section of How to Brew, or of Charlie Papazian’s The Joy of Homebrewing, but I’ve spent hours poring over them and referring to them on brew days. I took three beginner homebrewing classes and started hanging out with some experienced homebrewers when they brewed.

I’ve been a reader all my life, so I jumped into reading on craft beer. Two of my favorite books are Ken Grossman’s Beyond the Pale and Maureen Ogle’s Ambitious Brew. I’ve attended lots of cool beer events like the Beer Bloggers Conference and HopUnion’s Hop School in Yakima, Washington during hop harvest. I’ve done on-location interviews with people like Jeffery Stuffings, founder of Jester King outside Austin, Texas. I’ve sent off email requests for blog information that have gotten replies from folks like Natalie Cilurzo of Russian River in Santa Rosa, California and Julia Herz, director of Craft

jolly pumpkinLiz: Whoops! Empty glass. What’re we having next (and why?)

  • One of the neatest things about craft beer is traveling and discovering new brews. So, Liz, what’s a Michigan beer that you recommend?


Hmmm….. ok let’s go with these: Bam Biére from Jolly Pumpkin here in Southeast Michigan. I’m not a giant fan of sours or even Belgians but I love this company and have grown attached to this particular farmhouse ale. It’s about the only thing that’ll drag me away from IPAs!

Liz: So tell everyone about The Brewer’s Justice:

  • I wandered around the Novel Desert almost as long as it took Moses and the Israelites to get to the Promised Land. At one point, Brad was a teacher at the American School (a real school) in Monterrey and he coached American football (as opposed to fútbol, or soccer). He and the team were traveling to an away game when a drug cartel hijacked the bus. The published novel includes a teacher from the International School (a fictional school) and a bus that’s hijacked, but no football team.

Liz: And how has your path to publication been?

  • Like so many aspiring novelists, I’ve attended lots of writers’ events. I did Speed Dating with the Agents two years in a row at the San Francisco Writers Conference and came home excited by the requests to send portions of my manuscript. I sent query letters and pages to those agents and many more, but in the end, none took on the book.

Instead, I assembled a great team of people who helped shepherd The Brewer’s Justiceto publication. Graphic artist and homebrewer Steve Zmak took my headshot at Peter B’s, a great brewpub down the hill from my house. Steve also designed the book cover, the promotional bookmarks that look like a tap handle and my business cards. Editor Joyce Krieg did two rounds of developmental edits with lots of red ink and “No, no, no, that’s not gonna work!” comments that really pushed me to improve the plot. Colorado maltster and author Dave Thomas read the manuscript and made comments like, “No, Brad can’t win a GABF (Great American Beer Festival) medal. The competition’s only open to U.S.-brewed beers.” Patricia Hamilton of Park Place Publications steered me through the final stages of the Novel Desert and into the Promised Land of Publication.

Liz: I adored this book. I was so lucky to read it early! Will there be more from you?

  • Actually, I think I was the lucky one to have you read the manuscript last spring, Liz, since you also pushed me to rethink some critical points. As far as what’s next, the current priority is promoting The Brewer’s Justice. I have some events lined up, including the Craft Brew Circus, a series of four spring-fall beer festivals in southern California. As part of my blog, I wrote a 26-episode Brewer’s Backstory about Brad Peter’s life before the start of the novel. Editor Joyce Krieg has worked her magic on them and I hope to get The Brewer’s Backstory out as an e-book in the fall. After that, the plan is a second novel about Brad’s life post-Monterrey Brewing Company.

Liz: It was my pleasure. I have to say, when you contacted me after a recommendation from Kristi at Brewer’s Publications as someone who’d written fiction around the craft beer biz, I was flattered and as always, happy to help a fellow author.  I’m a big fan of thrillers that are character driven and The Brewer’s Justice definitely qualifies as that!

Liz: And you have a blog? Tell us about it.

  • I post each Tuesday on “Not My Father’s Beer.” Most of the posts involve the stories of the people behind the beers. You can find the blog is on my

Liz: Great! And what’s our nightcap?

  • If we could have any one beer in the world, I’d bring you a Pliny the Younger from Russian River. I stood in line 5 ½ hours on Day One of the 2016 Younger release. I have to say the beer is absolutely worth the wait at least once in the life of every serious craft beer fan.

fine beerLiz: Well that sounds lovely. Let’s have a sip of that but then this, a beer I would stand in line for, were I the type of person to stand in line for a beer, which I am kind of not. Luckily, there are so many amazing craft beer options out there now, the lines are shorter and beer is getting better and better every day! I love these brews that you can sip like a fine wine….


About The Brewer’s Justice:

The Brewer’s Justice tells the story of twenty-seven-year-old Brad Peters who works the graveyard shift at a major brewery and dreams of one day opening his own craft brewery. When his wife dumps him and a wealthy Mexican friend wants Brad as his brewmaster and partner in a new, upscale brewpub in Monterrey, Mexico, Brad jumps at the opportunity… The only thing they didn’t factor into the recipe was a drug cartel muscling in on the action.

And finally, the Official Liz Review of The Brewer’s Justice:

So I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for a solid thriller. I’m also recently a fan of thrillers set in and around the world of drug cartels in Mexico, having just finished CARTEL, by Don Winslow, as well as several others.

I do prefer my thrillers to be character-driven and that is not an easy feat. I’ve learned by way of multiple rejections of my own thriller novel that “thrillers” by genre definition are meant to be plot driven. So it takes a deft authorial hand to pull off the sort of thriller I like. I want my characters fully fleshed-out, in three dimensions which is why I’ve sort of gone off the Jack Reacher series, although I do read them for mind candy at times.

My kind of thriller doesn’t always require a professional assassin, or a surly ex-cop (although CARTEL has those in spades). My kind of thriller has a regular guy or gal (yes I said that, relax) at its core. Someone who’s a fish-out-of-water. An innocent, if you will. Someone trying to “do something” in a place or time that is less than accommodating and who must learn lessons as a result of, at times, failing at that “something.”

Hence, hero/brewer dude “Brad Peters” is right up this reader’s alley.

Brad dreams of having his own brewery and when circumstances align to allow him to do just that, in Monterrey, Mexico, it would seem as though dreams really do come true.

The Brewer’s Justice, is a fast-paced, well plotted first novel that delivers if you are seeking action with a solid dose of well-developed characters and even a side of romance. As with most thrillers, the “romance” piece is a little “insta” as in “insta-love” but hey, it happens. Don’t be a cynic!

The craft beer background is in the not-so-much-that-you-need-a-college-course-on-itrange, with just enough realism to tantalize anyone who knows little about it, and to satisfy those of us who know more than a little. The bad guys are pretty damn bad, and based on what I’ve read about their type in many other novels and non-fiction pieces, are NOT exaggerated in their zeal to not just “get” a piece of the craft beer action, but to own it.

It’s real edge-of-your-seat action with a delicious brewery backdrop!

A FIVE LAGER read….crisp, easy to consume, won’t leave you overfull, but will leave you wanting another taste of the lovely “Brad.” Yeah, smart ass I know those down there are ALL LAGERS.