Trouble Brewing

Trouble Brewing

by Suzanne Baltsar


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501188312
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 09/25/2018
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 351,077
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Suzanne Baltsar writes romance novels, manages a small cinema, and has her own film company, for which she wrote and directed a narrative feature in 2014. She writes and lives her happily ever afters in Pennsylvania with a Mr. Brawny look-a-like and a couple of children, some furry, some not.

Read an Excerpt

Trouble Brewing

  • Piper

    It was miserable out. The groundhog saw his shadow this year, and we were all paying dearly for it in Minneapolis. I mean, really, who gave that four-legged, bucktoothed furball that much authority anyway?

    While he hid away enjoying the rest of his long winter’s nap, we’d been hit with a foot and a half of snow on the first day of spring and were still waiting for it all to melt, even though it was now the last day of March.

    I hefted the garage door up another couple of inches so it was off the ground a few feet, despite the outside temperature. Between the heat from the propane boiler and the smell of hops and barley, I needed to get some fresh air. I tugged my beanie farther down on my head before slipping out underneath the garage door, leaving the humidity of my pseudo nanobrewery.

    The neighborhood was quiet at this time of day, before schools let out and people got home from work. I watched the melting snow fall in big clumps from nearby trees and made tracks with my boots in the now-dirty gray mush, contemplating the latest e-mail from my sister. I had asked her to send me some mock-ups of my logo with different colors. My website needed a little pick-me-up; the drab taupe and brown just wasn’t doing it for me anymore.

    Out of the Bottle Brewery had been my dream for years, ever since I’d learned you could actually earn a living from making beer. And with a couple of cases at a distributor, the reality of making my dream come true was closer than ever before. I wanted—needed—everything to be perfect. Including the welcome banner on my website.

    I breathed out a big puff of white air, still not used to a Minnesota “spring” even though I’d been there for two years now. Two years of this cold and all of my savings, hoping I could reap the benefits of an expanding craft brew scene.

    So far Out of the Bottle hasn’t gained much traction, despite winning a few local tasting contests. But that would all change soon. It had to, because there was no way I was ever going back to work for someone else, brewing recipes that weren’t mine. Plus, my bank account was in dire need of a paycheck. I had to believe I’d get some of my beer into paying hands. Sooner rather than later.

    Before my teeth started chattering, I stomped off whatever snow was left on the bottom of my boots and ducked back into the garage. With five conical fermenters, a lautering tun, three wooden casks, a small utility sink, and a tiny desk, my two-car garage at the back of the house was a miniature brewing kingdom and I was queen.

    I couldn’t wait to expand and open up a real brewery. One with a multiple-barrel brewing system, a tasting room, a couple thousand square feet, and a few workers. A place I could actually reign over.

    But to get there I needed to sell. And to sell, I needed to get to work.

    I pushed up my sleeves and sat down to look back over my sister’s e-mail. Unfortunately, the quick jaunt outside hadn’t helped in deciding what color to make the funky wording. I dropped my head to the table with a frustrated groan.


    “In here.” I turned just as my roommate stuck her head in the side door. Her normally golden-brown skin was tinged pink from the cold. “What are you doing home?”

    “My last two clients for today canceled, and Manny heard me sneeze three times. He sent me home to recover,” she said, stepping inside.

    I snickered. Sonja was the healthiest person I knew. Between her strict workout regimen and constant green juices, I didn’t know if she’d ever been sick. Manny, her boxing coach, would have a fit if his star athlete ever really came down with anything more than the sniffles.

    “Does this mean you have the night off?”

    She lifted a resigned shoulder. Only Sonja would be bereft at having absolutely nothing to do for the night. “Guess so.”

    “Piper and Sonja’s day of fun!” I sang, matching the annoying pitch of Chandler’s girlfriend Janice.

    She pointed a finger at me. “No, we’re not watching Friends.”

    I waved her off as she sat down on a folding chair, extending a pair of fancy leggings out toward me. She always got cool-looking workout gear because of her boxing sponsorship, and the hot pink called to me.

    I plucked at them, touching where the black mesh met the pink spandex.

    “We could go for a run,” she suggested.

    “Yes. That’s exactly what I want to do,” I deadpanned.

    I loved my friend, but I hated her idea of a good time. She was always on the go, and quite frankly I couldn’t keep up. In fact, that’s how we met—she literally ran into me. Sonja likes to argue I ran into her, but that’s not true.

    She had her headphones and face on, the one I’d come to learn was her all-business face, and she smacked right into me next to the Landwehr Canal in Berlin. I was brand-new to Germany and happy to bump—literally—into a fellow American. She was there for a month visiting family; I was there studying to become a brewmaster, and we became quick friends. It turned out we were both fish out of water. Me being a student with zero friends, she being reintroduced to her mother’s family who she’d only ever met as a child.

    Our friendship quickly grew over daily lunches and weekends spent dancing at EDM clubs, forever bonded by bratwursts and a struggle to learn the native language. When she went home, we kept in touch, so much so that when I was moving to Minneapolis, she offered me room and board.

    That was almost two years ago. Now we were more best friends than roommates.

    “Here.” I turned my laptop screen to her. “Which colors do you like for the logo?”

    Sonja tied her thick, dark hair on top of her head, a few tiny corkscrew curls sticking out by her temples and at her neck. “Navy with the lime green.”

    “I like that one, too.” I sent off a reply to Kayla to change the header on the website, and before I stood to turn the propane off, I got my sister’s response that she’d have it updated as soon as possible. Sonja had seen me brew enough times to know the drill, so she followed me to the sink. I grabbed the wort chiller—a bungle of plastic tubes and copper wire—and untangled it as Sonja screwed one end of the tube to the utility sink’s faucet. I dropped the copper wire into the pot, and she let the ice-cold water rip from her end.

    Using this method to cool the beer was a bit amateurish, but it was all I had without the money and space for a glycol chilling system. I let the hot water drain out of the garage, carving a steaming path in the snow. My mind went with it, once again losing my thoughts to a future of chrome and steel. I’d had just about enough of these homemade shortcuts.

    I was a professional, dammit.

    My phone rang in my back pocket, disturbing the mental image of my future kegs. I didn’t recognize the number but answered anyway, hoping it wasn’t the credit card company chasing down the payment I owed them. I was already up to my ears in interest rates.


    “Hi, I’m calling for Piper Williams.”

    “This is she.”

    “Piper, my name is Blake Reed, I got your information from Dave at B&S Distribution.”

    I’d met Dave a few weeks ago at one of the contests I had won. He’d agreed to stock a couple of my cases at the wholesaler he owned. So far not much had sold, but Dave had high hopes.

    “How can I help you, Blake?”

    “Well, I was just perusing your website and—”

    “You were? What’d you think of the colors?” The question was out before I could stop it, and I slapped my hand over my mouth. Could I be any more desperate?

    Blake laughed on the other end, and I could feel my stock in professionalism dropping by the second.

    “I like them,” he said. “The lime green is different, stands out.”

    I offered up a silent thank-you to the universe for the unbelievably quick work of my sister and that this guy had a sense of humor.

    “I actually called because I was hoping you’d be able to meet with me. I’m opening a gastropub next month, and I’d love to try your beer.”

    I jumped up, pivoting to face Sonja in a silent scream. She raised her brows, rushing to my side. I angled the phone so she could listen to the conversation.

    “Sure. I’d love to give you anything I got.”

    Sonja flicked my forehead.

    “I mean, I’d love to bring you some samples. When would you like me to come in?”

    He laughed again, my nerves no more eased by the sound. “Is tomorrow too early?”

    Sonja pumped her fist up and down as I answered, “Not at all.”

    “How about four o’clock?”


    “Is the e-mail on your contact page okay for me to send you the address?”

    “Yes. Absolutely.” I knew I sounded way too giddy, but I couldn’t help it. Better to be overly excited than to have more accidental innuendoes fly out of my mouth.

    “Great. I’ll get that out to you in a few minutes.”

    I danced in place. “Thank you so much. I’ll see you at four tomorrow.”

    I hung up and let loose my scream of joy. Sonja joined me, dancing, ringing her arms around my shoulders.

    “Yes! Do you feel amazing?”

    I couldn’t have wiped the smile from my face if I’d tried. “I do, actually. This calls for a special dinner. What do you think? Pizza?”

    Sonja snorted. “Ha. No. I got spaghetti squash. You can finish up out here and I’ll get it in the oven.”

    “Piper and Sonja’s day of fun, remember? Pizza’s mandatory.”

    She turned at the door, side-eyeing me. “No pizza, but I’ll give you two episodes of Friends. Just not the one when Ross gets the spray tan. That one’s the worst.”

    I’d give her that. “Deal.”

    She closed the door, and I sank into a chair, waiting for the wort to finish cooling before I added the yeast. I watched the temperature gauge with an eagle eye. This batch wouldn’t be ready for tomorrow, but it would be perfect nonetheless. Every single gallon had to be.

    My first real chance to move out of a converted two-car garage to a bigger place was this meeting. And I was not going to screw it up.

    I was going to be perfect.

    As perfect as my beer.

  • Customer Reviews

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    Trouble Brewing 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
    gaele 6 months ago
    I’ll be honest, at this point in my life and reviewing career I should know better than to take the advice of publisher blurb-recommendations, but I live in hope and occasionally find a gem. But the comparisons in this blurb don’t connect on any level with the exception of food and drink. And that isn’t to say that this book was horrible, but using a story that contained both depth and emotion, and comparing it to a far lighter and less well developed romantic comedy is a failure- doing a disservice to the author and the story she brought forward. In this book we meet Piper, a brew master who has just scored a coup – the local gastro-pub is going to stock four of her beers, and the owner, Blake, a guy she finds attractive and is giving her a shot at her dream. Now, moving onward, Blake has made a ‘deal’ with Piper – if she can convince two more pubs to stock her beer – she’ll go out with him. So – not so bad, but a far cry from the depth and solid heroine working for her dream that I hoped for. And from nearly the first interactions through the last, the humor and Piper’s character were off – ‘carpet matching drapes’ comments are not only in poor taste, but when you first meet Blake’s friends and they talk like that? Seriously? And not only does she miss this infantile behavior as being a giant red flag – but she kisses Blake and then gets all “oh I shouldn’t have’ about it – a total backpedal where things just seemed to be thrown up to push them together or pull them apart, without regard for the actual reason we are there – her touted ‘dream’ of making her own craft brewery work. I don’t know where the editor was on this one – and if the story was to be about her struggles in breaking into the industry as an anomaly – female brew masters are relatively rare – and then Blake being one of the stones on the path – that’s one thing. But this muddled mess of romance and dream-chasing, with a bit of family drama from Blake’s side being thrown in at random points without really going anywhere – the book was disappointing and lacked a solid plot or identity. Sadly, even as I hoped for something – development in characters, a seriously solid sense of place, the real struggle to move toward capturing a dream, and it never came. There’s a solid story when all of the chaff is blown away here – but it was far too muddled and required an identity, leaving me with no doubt that the blurb and comparing this title to one from Amy Reichert was a huge miss. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
    LeighKramer 19 days ago
    3.5 stars. I like beer but I wouldn’t call myself a beer aficionado. I like what I like and I enjoy going on brewery tours but I don’t think much about how it gets made or the steps between idea to actual sales. As such, I’ve never thought about it being a male-dominated industry and I was highly intrigued when I learned Trouble Brewing is about Piper, a female brewer, and what she faces on her quest to start her own brewery. I admired her drive and passion for her work, as well as the frank understanding of the obstacles she faces in addition to the rampant sexism and misogyny in the industry. I didn’t always understand her reasoning, particularly when it came to Blake, but I could empathize with her struggle in wanting to be treated fairly, while also wanting to date the guy she’s interested in. The sexism she did face felt heavy-handed and I wish this element of the story had been handled with more nuance. It’s a hard critique to make because I really appreciated the way the story didn’t back down from Piper’s roadblocks and how infuriating it is we women are still dealing with this BS. It made me that much grateful Blake understood the double standards Piper faced and that he was supportive of her no matter what. Even though Piper and Blake have a few things stacked against them, I was really rooting for their relationship once it got started and hoping they’d have a happy ending. Blake was a magical unicorn in some ways and a conundrum in others. He has an extremely toxic family but he still goes to family dinners. His best friends said really inappropriate things when they first met Piper. I think we’re supposed to see them as lovable goons but I just wanted to tell Blake to find better friends. Blake also has a hard time not trying to fix things for the people he cares for, regardless of what they want. This could be aggravating to watch. He has more growing up to do and while I wish he’d had to grovel more, he does make some big moves that were satisfying to watch. While I had some nitpicky issues, I really did enjoy reading it. Piper’s foray into brewing and watching her ups and downs was fascinating to me and that’s the real reason to give this one a a try. Disclosure: I received an advanced copy from Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.
    Courtney Leyes 3 months ago
    Thank you to Netgalley and Gallery books for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. I loved the premise of this book, as well as the smartly tongue in cheek crafted title. Especially since here in California, craft beer has become a cornerstone for social meetups with friends or dates. Almost, though not entirely, eclipsing the old regular coffee shop meet up. So I was very interested in seeing how the author would integrate the hype and the how-to of craft brewing with a romantic story line. This book definitely feels like a cozy, fall read. Almost as if it's easy to get fully immersed into the story if you read it at just the right time of the year. I enjoyed the knowledge of craft beer I learned from this book, but I think you have to be a fan of romance/contemporary romance novels to really enjoy this novel overall. Aside from the craft brewing aspect, the plot and the characters felt a little basic for me. I liked Piper's character enough to continue reading the book. She was a go-getter and had big dreams, and I love a strong willed protagonist. The dynamics of her character is the real standout in this book for me. Blake was little bland for me at times, like most guys I read about in romance novels. Not a terrible book at all, just not as strong as I think some of it could have been. Definitely recommend for people interested in the world of craft brewery and romance novel lovers. Thank you again to Netgalley and Gallery Books!
    ShellB82 4 months ago
    Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this delightful contemporary romance. The story of Piper, a young woman working to build her craft brewery on her on terms in a male-dominated business and Blake, the pub owner to whom she is instantly attracted to. Trouble Brewing is a pretty typical romance - steamy but not graphic - but the realistic dynamics of Piper and Blake's relationship and the complexity of their characters gives the story a believability not always found in romance novels.
    Bosco2579 7 months ago
    Piper is a brewmaster in a male dominated world. Blake is an owner of the new gastropub in town. Romance ensues with a side of beer. I thought this was a cute, charming book. I ended up really liking this book and finished it in a couple of days. I don't read a ton of romance novels but I liked the story description. As mentioned in someone else's review this romance isn't hot and steamy, it is more sweet and funny. I enjoyed the supporting characters as much as I enjoyed the main characters. I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5 stars because I didn't really believe Blake's parents. They and the sister were just obnoxious and forced but they were about 5%of the book. Choose this book if you are looking for a quick, sweet read that might teach you something about beer. By no means is it an encyclopedia on brewing but they have several tidbits thrown in that the average reader wouldn't know. Overall this book is a sweet, charming read. I feel like this book could easily turn into a Hallmark Movie. *****I received an advance reader copy of this book from Netgalley for an honest review.*****
    Cutiefulpink 7 months ago
    more on The first word that I think of to describe this book is cute. The story is cute. The couple is cute. The ending is cute. That’s not to say there isn’t substance, because this novel really delves into some important topics: feminism, sexual harassment, money, and obviously love and what that looks like for a modern woman trying to have a career in a male dominated field. In the end, though, this is a fun, easy read. I learned a lot about brewing and now want to try all the varieties Piper makes, especially, a grisette. That French for little grey. I mean, it’s French, so of course I’m interested. She also provides some places in Germany I am adding to my travel booket list. My travel booket list is something I am working on for Blogtober. I am making a list of the places I have read about and now need to see. Think Culloden and the Scottish Highlands because of Outlander. Sorry, I got distracted, back to the review. The dialogue and description are very well written. The story flows easily and seems to make be paced nicely. I would like to see a little more subtlety in the dramatic portions of the story. For instance, there is a scene with another brewer where literally, the guy says the worst things possible. Not innuendo, just point blank horribleness. Same with a scene with Blake’s family. Not a single bit of that interaction seems realistic. The people involved all behave in a nightmarish fashion. With a little bit of restraint, more verbal condescension instead of transparent rudeness, Baltsar could have created some intricate and more believable scenes. Before I move on to characters, I have to stop and talk about the Gilmore Girls. Not only did this book literally reference Gilmore Girls (actually talking about specific scenes), but Piper got Blake to watch the series on Netflix. And like most oxygen breathing adults, once you start watching it, you are hooked. The book actually echoes some GG aspects. If you are a fan, and read this book, come back and tell me if you agree. The Characters... I probably have the same issue with the characters. Blake was a good guy. Piper was a determined woman. Blake’s family were all horrible without redeeming qualities. I loved seeing a woman working as a brewer, because this concept is so new to me. I just would have liked for the chracters to have more layers, just to keep it a little more interesting. * Special thanks to Suzanne Baltsar, Gallery Books, and Netgalley for providing a copy of Trouble Brewing in exchange for an honest review.