Eco-Living Magazine

Reading Beer Part 1: Drinking Deep

Posted on the 10 April 2014 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

PorterNow that the Arctic Vortex has (hopefully) permanently left the Mid-Atlantic Region, Revolutionary Spirits is returning from its self-imposed hibernation. (Also, my new pup, the aptly named Porter (right), now requires significantly less attention than he once did.)   During the break, I received a few requests from readers inquiring about how to best explore beer aside from reading the column.  The oft repeated sommelier’s mantra – trial and error – is not wrong, but there are a number of great books on the subject that could assist people without requiring them to try every new tap or six pack.  Below is a non-exhaustive short list of some of the widely available volumes that I have enjoyed, and might assist you in further discovering the world of beer.  To quote Alexander Pope, ”A little learning is a dang’rous thing;/Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.”  Here’s to drinking deep in more ways than one.  Cheers!

Michael Jackson
If you are planning on taking the dive and reading up on beer on any level, the man to start with, and return to consistently, is the “Beer Hunter,” British writer Michael Jackson, who was one of the first modern writers to address beer in a sophisticated way. During the pre-internet days (70’s-90’s), he introduced an entire generation of people to the world’s great beers through his articles in a variety of international publications and his famous beer tastings throughout the world.  In fact, he is often credited with popularizing the idea of beer styles.  His book The World Guide To Beer, originally published in 1977, still stands as one of the key works on the subject.  (One of my first beer books was actually Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion, which, while out of print, can still be easily obtained.)  Mr. Jackson was especially well-known for his work on Belgian beers, and his book Michael Jackson’s Great Beers of Belgium graces bookshelves and coffee tables from the US to Japan.  Not surprisingly, Mr. Jackson was also one of the world’s great whisky writers.  Mr. Jackson had a number of health issues in his later years, and he passed away in 2007 at the age of 65.  N.B., there is a very good documentary on Mr. Jackson titled Beer Hunter The Movie, which was released in 2013.

General Reference/Introduction

The Oxford Companion to Beer (OCB), edited by Garret Oliver, Brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery, but with input from a number of industry professionals, is essentially 1000 page encyclopedia on all things beer.  If you need to know a little bit about brewing terms, styles,  history, or brewers, chances are it is in there and then some. It does not read like a narrative as it is arranged alphabetically, but there is a helpful topics section in the beginning that can help you navigate the book.  So, the OCB might make for a good reference volume to help you as you proceed through some of the books below, as well as other books you may pick up along the way.

For a general introduction to beer and beer styles, take a look at Joshua Bernstein’s recent effort, The Complete Beer  Course, which has been well-received by the beer community (and is currently in its third printing [April 2014]).  Mr. Bernstein divides his book into 12 chapters, each addressing either a “beer essential” (brewing process, yeast, etc) or a style (IPA, sour, Belgian, etc).  A very accessible book that should provide a solid introduction to a lot of the basics, and should help you find your “style.”  

BeerAdvocate and Ratebeer, the two websites I frequently refer to in my ratings, are two of the better websites on beer.  They have extensive beer listings/ratings, forums and events calendars.  

Beer Tasting

Easy enough: Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher.  For a very concise volume, Tasting Beer is very comprehensive, touching on most everything an individual would want to know about the sensory experiences that accompany drinking a beer.  Mr. Moser writes very clearly, and makes many of the technical aspects of brewing, especially the chemistry, easy to understand.  Of all the books on this list, this one is probably a must for those seeking to take their beer experience “to the next level.”

Beer Food Pairing
The Brewmaster’s Table by Garret Oliver is a particularly good overview of a number of beer traditions (British, German, Czech, Belgian, and “Modern”) and their various styles, plus ideal cuisines to match.  As with the other volumes on this list, Mr. Oliver writes clearly and with enthusiasm; he loves both beer and food, and wants you to love them as well.  (This volume has been particularly useful for me as preparation for entertaining company.)

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter and Untappd @RevoSpirits.

RSS Feed

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog