Beer Books – Reviewed by Tony Forder
Rediscovered and Recreated
By Patrick E. McGovern
Patrick McGovern is well known in the beer world for his collaborations with Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione recreating ancient brews, beginning with Midas Touch. In this book, the learned anthropology professor from the University of Pennsylvania, gives us some of the science behind his discoveries.
Not that this book is dry reading, far from it. Dr. McGovern takes the reader on an adventure trail through China, Turkey, Egypt, Italy, Scandinavia, Peru and Mexico, piecing together through molecular biology the types of fermented beverages that were consumed hundreds, or even thousands of years ago.
McGovern states his as his premise that “Drinking alcohol must have been quite literally in our genes from the beginning to explain such a range of physiological parallels between us and our hominid ancestors.” He even suggests our race should be known as Homo Imbibens rather than Homo Sapiens (drinking man instead of thinking man).
There’s a whole practical side to this book as well – Dr. Pat provides homebrew interpretations nine ancient beverages along with a culturally appropriate food pairing: spicy tofu, for example with his favorite Ancient Ale, Chateau Jiahu, the 9,000-year-old Chinese discovery brewed with rice, honey, grapes and hawthorne berries; Duck Mole paired with the chocolate/coffee/chile pepper recipe for the Mayan recreation Theobrama; or Peruvian Ceviche paired with a homebrew recipe for Chicha, fermented with chewed and spat corn.
This book will not only give you great incite into humans’ love affair with fermented beverages, but also the cultural evolution of human civilization. Not surprisingly, the foreword is penned by McGovern’s brewing and research accomplice Sam Calagione.
By Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb
“The world is full of beers. You can’t possibly drink them all. Why waste time on the mediocre?” ask authors Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb. By following their Indispensible Guide to the World’s Best Craft & Traditional Beers you can easily avoid the mediocre; they’ve honed the world’s best beers to a list of 2,000 – no mean feat since they estimate 20,000 breweries at work globally.
With a team of international contributors, they’ve covered the world, and having just been published it is at least now, as current as possible. As well as different nation’s “Iconic” and “Can’t Miss” breweries, it also lists “Breweries to Watch”, many of which it’s guaranteed you’ve never heard of.
In an earlier guidebook published in 2015, the dedicated duo published reviews of 3,400 beers. This new edition signals a new approach – a narrower focus as today’s beer savants become increasingly discerning. Armed with this pocketsized guide the beer traveler can land in any of the book’s countries and literally cut to the chase!
Hops, Barley, Water, Yeast and the Nature of Beer
By Pete Brown
In his latest book the prolific British beer writer Pete Brown delves into the magic of a beverage most take for granted – beer. He strips beer’s ingredients down to their naked basics – a grass, a weed, fungus and water – then proceeds to color and embellish each.
On hops, beer’s most famous ingredient, he waxes lyrically about the balmy scented breezes of the hopfield. Of beer’s backbone – malted barley – he quotes a farmer, “hops are just the lipstick on the beer, barley is its soul.” He exposes the true miracle of yeast’s fermentation; and even pays homage to water, beer’s forgotten ingredient, the only constant. Hops and malt have done their bit as well as the yeast, it is the water that is left, “a cocktail of compounds derived from raw ingredients, altered by alchemy”.
Brown explores the science of brewing in an artistic manner; his colloquial style and self-deprecating humor draw the reader into this historical and geographical journey into the very molecules of beer (a tangential diatribe at the book’s end into the German Purity Law, Reinheitsgebot, notwithstanding). Fellow British writer Roger Protz calls Brown’s book “magisterial” and “screamingly funny.” We agree.
Craft Beer for the People
By Richard Taylor with James Watt & Martin Dickie
The release for this book states it is Brew Dog’s first beer book – which I guess is true since partner James Watt’s Business for Punks release last year was all biz.
Based on the premise that, “craft beer is a force for all that is good in this world,” Craft Beer for the People takes a kinder, gentler approach than Watt’s in-your-face punk business book. Perhaps that comes with maturity…and success.
Not just a book for their crowdfunding disciples, this thorough hardback includes everything from the brewing process, ingredients and beer styles to cooking and matching food with beer. For those with a DIY bent, homebrewing is explained and a couple of pages are devoted to growing your own hops and hosting a beer tasting. A special bonus are 10 homebrew recipes for Brewdog Classics like Punk IPA, Elvis Juice and even Paradox Islay as well as 10 of their favorite beers from other breweries.
On the quirky (and interactive) side, they’ve include the Dog Spotter’s Guide where you can list the kind of dogs you saw at a beer venue as well as rate the beer you had. Droptick ratings encourage the reader to make a beer fingerprint to accompany ratings. The last page features poput out beer coasters and Brewdog bingo chips.
The Little Book of Craft Beer
By Melissa Cole
Hardie Grant Books
What strikes you first about this “Little Book” is that it’s fun, just like Melissa – if you’ve ever met her! As she says in the opening paragraph of her intro, “I want to be very upfront with you…this is not a book for beer nerds.” Rather it offers beginners a chance dip their toes in the now vast pool of craft beer instead of diving in the deep end.
Not that it’s shallow. It’s like she’s extracted a bore from the core of craft beer that illustrates the breadth of beer styles now available globally. Not all the beers listed will be available to any one reader – they represent encounters Melissa has had on her journey through the beer world, on several continents.
Pairing recipes reflect Cole’s passion for food; and beer cocktail concoctions for each style are definitely a bonus. There’s also a chapter on gluten-free and NA beers. The foreword is by John Keeling, respected Director of Brewing at Fuller’s of London.
By Jennifer Talley
This is the latest in the BA’s ongoing parade of beer style books, and as usual the publishers picked one of the most qualified people to pen it. Respected brewer Jennifer Talley honed her brewing skills at Squatters Pub Brewery in Salt Lake City, Utah where she brewed Session beers by necessity because of the state’s 4% limit on draught beer. Although she admits that session brewing “started out as a restriction…I soon discovered it to be an exciting challenge.”
While session beer may be relatively new term in American craft beer parlance (it became a style category at the GABF in 2008 after a 1-year run as Other Low-Strength Ale or Lager), they are probably the most traditional beers in the world since they can include almost any style that features a lower alcohol content.
In the UK, they refer to beers where you can have more than one or two in a session and are often less strong there than the generally-accepted US threshold of 5% ABV.
In the US, the term was popularized as a reaction against the trend to stronger and stronger brews (especially IPAs) and as an alternative to the “drinkability” touted by macro brands. With the birth of Session IPA’s – keep the hops and lose the strength – a new category was born.
Throughout this book Talley trumpets the necessity for quality in Session beers as their lack of strength leaves them more naked to flaws. As well as the history, Talley examines brewing practices, and includes homebrewing (test) recipes for 24 popular session beers along with her own personal window into the breweries involved.