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Former Blacklick Township man authors popular book

Leon KaniaThe Alakan Bootlegger's Bible, “Making beer, wine, liqueurs and moonshine whiskey: an old Alaskan tells how it's done,” is making a splash on Internet booksale sites like Amazon.com and in mall bookstores like Crown, B. Dalton, and Waldenbooks as well as non-chain bookstores for author Leon Kania, a Blacklick Township native and 1960 graduate of Blacklick Township High School transplanted to the continent's last great frontier, Alaska.

A Green Beret in the Vietnam War, Kania was assigned to the U.S. Army Northern Warfare Training Center at Ft. Greely, Alaska, in 1973. There he met his wife, Scottie, who he describes as his partner in the book authoring and publishing venture. The parents of a son, Leon, Jr., who is studying for a degree in computer science, they also own “an incorrigible little green bird named Jessie who 'punctuated' almost every page of the draft book.”

Since leaving the military, Kania has worked as an independent logistics consultant whose work, he says, keeps him more out of the country than in it.

“One month finds me in a decrepit Vietnam-era Huey flying over the Bight of Biafra; the next in an even more decrepit Russian chopper to a silver mine in the Siberian Gulag region,” he says in an email. “Lots of hairy experiences. I don't even talk about my work to most people because they don't believe me.”

Now in its third printing since being released last July, The Alaskan Bootleggers Bible is described on its web page as intended “to explain how to make all types of alcoholic beverages in an easy-to-understand and entertaining manner. It stresses the arts, not the science, steers you toward using wholesome natural ingredients, rather than chemicals, and shows you how to make, rather than buy, most of your equipment. It has an Alaskan Bush flavor by virtue of many of its tales and recipes, but the 'how-to' information is universal and applies anywhere in the world.” Kania reports that, besides his life as author and an international adventurer, he has done free lance writing over the years, for periodicals on antique firearms and military-related topics.

The Amazon.com web page for the book indicates that its buyers give it a five-star satisfaction rating. The author “is the dang McGuyver of homebrewing and winemaking and he shows you how to be one too,” an enthusiast from Calhoun, Ga., says in a review published on the publisher's website. The book gives recipes for dozens of beverages and details on improvising the equipment to make them. “'Making your own' often meant using local ingredients and improvising your equipment. This thirst-induced ingenuity produced some amazing and sometimes hilarious results. The characters, recipes, plans and instructions in this book are real, only the names have been changed to protect the guilty. The war stories are all true and growing daily...” says a publicity blurb.

The book sells for $21.95, plus $4 shipping U.S. Priority Mail in the United States, or $7 shipping Global Priority International. It can be purchased directly from the publisher's website using Visa or MasterCard. The website includes a detailed table of contents, recipes for varied beverages, and articles on the legalities of brewing your own, a history of shame in U.S. brewing annals, and links to related websites. Kania wrote that he hopes readers will check out the book's webpage “both to sell books and to perhaps hear from some old friends.” His mother, Sophia Kania, still resides in Blacklick Township on Shawnee Lane, Ebensburg R.D. 2.

“I was back home for a few days two years ago and took great delight in cruising the Red Mill Road. One of the prettiest places on the planet and lots of good memories,” the author wrote.

Capsule review:

Its web page on the Internet claims that Leon W. Kania's Alaskan Bootleggers Bible “Making beer, wine, liqueurs and moonshine whiskey: an old Alaskan tells how it's done,” explains “how to make all types of alcoholic beverages in an easy-to-understand and entertaining manner. It stresses the arts, not the science, steers you toward using wholesome natural ingredients, rather than chemicals, and shows you how to make, rather than buy, most of your equipment.”

And it eloquently delivers on these promises in its easy-to-follow writing style embellished by many anecdotes and a formidable collection of easy-to-use recipes for everything from mint and dandelion wine to how vermouth is created. It describes how different kinds of yeast perform in beer brewing and why sterilization and cleanliness are essential in all kinds of beverage making.

The book “has an Alaskan Bush flavor by virtue of many of its tales and recipes, but the 'how-to' information is universal and applies anywhere in the world. Kania is not only interested in the romance of home brewing but makes interesting all the scientific facts you might need to choose the right bottles and media to use to cap them, gauge temperatures throughout the process, and even includes a table on the bitterness quotient of various types of hops. It's no wonder readers have raved about the thoroughness yet down-to-earth understandability of this brewer's bible.

Jon Kennedy, Nanty Glo Home Page

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