The Tale of John Barleycorn:

Or From Barley to Beer

In 1981, we published the second book of the gifted artist Mary Azarian. It was the ancient and beloved British ballad that anthropomorphically tells the story of how barley was converted into beer. In the Middle Ages, this was not a boutique activity for the idle rich; it was central to survival. We were young and naïve, saw it as a book for children, and inexplicably included fairly explicit instructions of how to brew beer in a bathtub. Not surprisingly, the sober review community was not amused. No doubt they envisioned a horde of America’s children starting the fermentation process in their parents’ bathtubs. We’re pleased to report that, to the best of our knowledge, this degradation of our national character never occurred and the very youths who were exposed to, and bravely resisted, this temptation are now prime candidates to purchase this new edition. We have seen the error of our ways, and are reissuing this classic, newly hand colored by the artist herself and transformed, much as John Barleycorn was transformed in the story, into an adult title. And it makes perfect sense; we have entered an age where microbreweries have finally entered the mainstream. The ballad of John Barleycorn is still sung in England today, replaying the age-old story of grain, the essential component of beer-making. From planting, harvesting, brewing, and celebrating, this ballad covers the entire process and yes, in case you are wondering, we have decided to include a new and improved bathtub recipe, for old time’s sake. But we’ve kept the lovely and appropriate calligraphy by George Laws, and the expressive vignettes and initial letters. Finally: a book you’ve been waiting for; a classic for the intelligent and sophisticated beer drinker!

Mary Azarian grew up on a small farm in Virginia, where she had horses, rabbits and chickens. After graduating from Smith College, where she studied printmaking with Leonard Baskin, she married and moved to a farm in northern Vermont. There she taught for four years in one of the last one-room schoolhouses in the state. She has been a full-time printmaker since 1969. Her other books include The Tale of John Barleycorn, The Man Who Lived Alone, and the Caldecott Medal-winning Snowflake Bentley.