Newly in paperback, history professor Jeffrey W. Alexander's 2013 book charts the rise of beer in Japan, from early Dutch influence and the barrels brought by Matthew Perry in 1854 (described by the Japanese as "bitter horse-piss wine" — well, it was American beer) to today's craft boom.

Brewed in Japan: The Evolution of the Japanese Beer Industry, by Jeffrey W. Alexander.
University of Hawaii Press, Nonfiction.

Alexander charts the growth of Japan's four major brewers — Kirin, Asahi, Sapporo and Suntory, a "cartel" whose rivalry flared with the "dry beer wars" of the 1980s — as well as the effects of historical and cultural events such as war of the more literal kind. His tone is undoubtedly academic but far from boring, and the many plain graphs and charts are accompanied by some cool period photographs and classic posters. A sober read, for sure, but you'll soon be gasping for a refill.