Book Review: The Greatest Beer Run Ever (John Chick Donohue and J.T. Molloy)

Book Review: The Greatest Beer Run Ever (John Chick Donohue and J.T. Molloy)

Paul R. Kan Book Review

Paul R. Kan is back with another book review. He has recently written for us with his story about Alexander Gates moving from Central Pennsylvania to Hawai’i and his craft beer journey. (You can find that article here: From Central PA to the Pacific: A Beer Lover’s Hawaiian Journey An Interview with Alexander B. Gates.) Paul has written two book reviews for the site now (so far), all beer related, you can find them here:

For more information on Paul R. Kan, please check to the end of the article.

Book Review: The Greatest Beer Run Ever

Odds are good that you’ve either bought someone a beer, or someone has bought a beer for you.  Odds are still good that you’ve brought beer to a party.  Beer has a type of social power that other alcohol doesn’t.  When there’s a get together and someone says they’ll bring the beer, they’re a hero.  It’s not the same with other types of alcohol.  If someone says they’re bringing tequila, it’s like, “so it’s gonna be THAT kind of party.”    

In 1967, John “Chick” Donohue used beer’s power to boost the morale of his neighborhood’s friends who were serving in Vietnam during the war.  This real-life story started with a bar owner’s outburst in his Manhattan bar one night.  Upset by the news coverage of people disparaging the troops fighting the war, the owner exclaimed, “Somebody ought to go over to ‘Nam, track down our boys from the neighborhood, and bring them each a beer!”  The outburst turned into a dare that soon became a mission for Chick. 

Grabbing as many cans of Pabst and Miller as he could carry, Chick used his merchant marine credentials to hitch a ride on a supply ship heading Vietnam.  It would be a spoiler to mention whether Chick found all his friends and gave them a beer.  Let’s just say that it was easier to get beer into Vietnam than it was for him to leave and get home.  A series of events, often violent, hampered Chick’s ability to find a way to get back to his neighborhood and tell the folks at the bar about how their friends serving in Vietnam were doing. 

The book is also about how beer can transcend national divisions.  As you read the book, the political divisions over the Vietnam War are clear…but you’ll keep reading because you want to know about the beer run and not the politics. 

The book is a page-turner; it can be read in one day.  Apple+ has also turned the book into a movie, if you’d prefer watching the story rather than reading it.  Whether you read the book or watch the movie the story has an underlying message—using the social power of beer to do something positive.  Not all of us would be willing to go to an active war zone with a few beers to hand out to the troops.  But, supporting veteran owned breweries or just buying someone a beer when they really need a boost are also ways to use beer for good. Thinking about how to pay it forward with a cold one could potentially turn into your own greatest beer run ever.

Paul R. Kan Biography

Paul grew up in Hawai’i and knows its unique culture, traditions, and history. He is the author of Hawai’i Beer: A History of Brewing in Paradise, which the North American Guild of Beer Writers awarded second place for Best New Book of 2021. He currently lives in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

For more articles written by Paul R. Kan:

Thank You For Reading

The clock is ticking on The Battle of the Breweries (2023). The Finals Fatal Four Way is nearing its end (this Sunday – April 16th, 2023 – at 11:59:59 PM EST), so make sure to get your daily votes in.

You can vote here:

We have also completed the first two Maps of Breweries – Maine and New Hampshire. You can see those here:

Next up is the Map of Vermont Breweries, I should hopefully have that done by end of Wednesday (fingers crossed).

Today we will start the articles detailing the four breweries left in the Finals Fatal Four Way. Starting with Tattered Flag Brewery and Distillery today, then tomorrow we’ll cover Allusion Brewing Company, and then on Thursday we’ll cover AleCraft Brewing Company, and then on Friday we’ll wrap things up with Mad Chef Brewing. The tournament ends Sunday (April 16th, 2023) at 11:59:59 PM EST.

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