The role of beer books (The Session #115)

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

This month’s Session is hosted by Blog Birraire (Joan Birraire in Barcelona) and is on “the role of beer books.

“The discussion at hand is “The Role of Beer Books”. Participants can talk about that first book that caught their attention, which brought them to get interested in beer; or maybe about books that helped developing their local beer scene. There’s also the -bad- role of books that regrettably misinform readers because their authors did not do their work properly. There are many different ways to tackle this topic.

The Session has been about books before just once, and it was about those that hadn’t already been written. I believe that their importance for the beer culture makes books worthy for another Session. To participate in the current Session just write a comment down here with a link to the article on -or before- September 2nd, so that I can include it on my Round Up.”

05 September 2016: Update posted below

Being me and being about books this is long and perhaps even rambling. Sue me. I’m a reader, a librarian and a cataloger.

The short version: the role of beer books is education to entertainment, and hopefully a bit of both at the same time, along with any other roles between or on other, orthogonal axes that people may have for any particular book in a time and a place.

First beer books

I doubt that it was my first “beer book,” as I had been collecting beer cans since the age of 12, but I received a copy of Michael Jackson’s The World Guide to Beer, 1st US ed. for Christmas 1978. As I was a 19-year-old US soldier stationed in then West Germany, this is the book that first opened my eyes more fully to the world of beer, as it did for many, many others.

Prior to that I was given a copy of Will Anderson’s, The Beer Book; an Illustrated Guide to American Breweriana, 1st US ed. by my parents for my 16th birthday (1975). Somewhere in and around here I also got copies of The Beer Cans of Anheuser-Busch: an Illustrated History (©1978 so one of my earliest “beer books”) and The Class Book of U.S. Beer Cans (©1982), both new. Somewhere in there I also acquired a copy of The International Book of Beer Can Collecting (©1977).

Of course I read all of these books, some, in particular Jackson’s World Guide, several times.

More Recently

For a long time my interest in reading about beer waned as did my can collecting. I am simply ecstatic that I never got rid of any of my early beer books, unlike many other books over the years or like the vast majority of my can collection that was actively worked on for almost two decades. Too many moves. Too many dollars spent on storage. Most of the cans had gone long before we moved to Oregon, although most were shed over a ~20 year period.

Books Owned

More recently since moving to Bend, Oregon my interest in all aspects of beer has been rekindled. According to LibraryThing—which until now has served as my personal catalog—I own 87 books having something to do with beer or brewing, plus there are a couple that aren’t in as they need manual cataloging and I haven’t yet.

Books Read

My Goodreads account has 118 books on my beer shelf. Bouncing that off of the read shelf I show 74 as read, 1 skimmed, 1 gave up on (had a better version), 1 on pause, and 3 currently being read. Many of those would have come from assorted libraries, both public and academic.

My beer blog

My blog is named “By the barrel; or, the Bend Beer Librarian.” Sadly, I have done a poor job at reviewing all of these books. There are many reasons for that, only a few of which are actually good/legit ones. I always strive to do better although I see seven beer books waiting for reviews on my review-these-damned-books-already (physical) shelf next to my desk. There are of course many more that aren’t sitting here needing reviews. Some of those currently waiting are:

  • Alworth – The Beer Bible
  • Acitelli – The Audacity of Hops
  • Zainasheff & Palmer – Brewing Classic Styles
  • Papazian – The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, 4th ed.
  • Amato – Beerology
  • Dave Miller’s Homebrewing Guide
  • Herz and Conley – Beer Pairing

Others waiting to be reviewed, not directly related to beer but of immense overlap and interest possibly, include:

  • Halloran – The New Bread Basket
  • McQuaid – Tasty

Of course, these are just those books still to hand. ::sigh::

The Role of Beer Books

So what do I consider the “role of beer books”? I may not be much of a reference librarian—my specialty is elsewhere—but as a reader (and a cataloger) that “role” is completely dependent upon the context(s) brought to bear by the reader and cannot really be given much in the way of an answer unless that context is included.

Education

Education is the simple and most relevant generic (and specific) answer. As you can see from just the above list, my personal beer book-enabled education covers a lot of ground from brewing to the history of craft beer to style knowledge to beer and food pairing to almost encyclopedic works and on from there to the revival of craft grain/malt production to the science of taste.

Early spring this year I went on a book buying binge to ensure I had most of the books in the BJCP Judge Certification Program “BJCP Beer Exam Study Guide” [see pg. 3-4] as I was involved in a 12-week tasting exam prep class and hoping to take the tasting exam [I did manage to take it on 23 July and now get to spend a few agonizing months waiting on my score]. I already had quite a few of the books listed but I got almost all of the others, except for the individual style books in the Classic Beer Styles Series from Brewers Publications I didn’t already own.

To backup, my very first beer books were books about beer can collecting and were for both education (history, production) and to see far more of the variety of what was out there (can porn) than I could encounter in my Midwest home town and surrounding environs. Will Anderson’s book is more generally about breweriana and so helped broaden my education beyond cans.

Michael Jackson’s book was given to me just a few months after I had arrived in Europe for my first tour of duty. I knew styles existed, of course, but this book was a real eye opener.

Nowadays my interests are far broader and I have a massive amount to learn! I want to be a competent and confident beer judge. I want to brew beers well that Sara and I like, along with understanding their historical and current cultural contexts. I want to be solid at beer and food pairing. I want to understand how we got to where we are culturally via archaeology, anthropology, ethnology and so on (across cultures). I want to understand as much of the science of brewing as I can. I want to enjoy what I read, at least some of the time. I could probably elucidate many other reasons for a desire to learn about beer and to be entertained by beer writers.

On Bend, Central Oregon and Oregon beer

If you are interested in the beer, breweries, and history of Bend, Central Oregon and Oregon then I highly recommend the following:

  • Jon Abernathy – Bend Beer: A History of Brewing in Central Oregon
  • Brian Yaeger – Oregon Breweries
  • Logan Thompson – Beer Lover’s Oregon: Best Breweries, Brewpubs & Beer Bars

For the larger region but covering Oregon also are:

  • Lisa M. Morrison – Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest: A Beer Lover’s Guide to Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia
  • Gary and Gloria Meier – Brewed in the Pacific Northwest: A History of Beer Making in Oregon and Washington

All of these books are a bit dated; some more than others. They are either primarily history (Abernathy & the Meiers) or Regional guidebooks (the rest; and the most dated).

“Beer books” is a non-category

I think beer books is too broad a “category” to consider as a whole; as in it isn’t really a category, far too amorphous. In 2013, I gave a talk on beer books during Central Oregon Beer Week and this is how I broke down what I talked about:

Those I addressed:

  • General
  • Beer porn
  • Reference
  • Beer business
  • Historical
  • Breweriana
  • Trivia
  • Regional Guidebooks

Those I did not:

  • Homebrewing
  • Brewing science

No doubt other categories could be named as no doubt some of these could be split further.

The role of a regional guidebook is generally going to be much different than a book of beer porn or one on the business of beer or one on brewing science and so forth. A book of beer can porn serves one role to a collector and another to a student of mid- to late-20th century commercial art.

Conclusion; or, a return

Thus, I am going to say that the role of beer books is education to entertainment, and hopefully a bit of both at the same time, along with any other roles between or on other, orthogonal axes that people may have for any particular book in a time and a place (context).

Update

I have received a few comments regarding the Brewers Publications Classic Styles series. I believe that I could have been a bit clearer in places in my post but let me offer some comments to take or leave as you please.

I believe that the only books I explicitly recommended were under the heading ON BEND, CENTRAL OREGON AND OREGON BEER. All of those are technically historical documents at this point; one always was and a second mostly was. But the first four are still close enough to the present to be useful even if lots of newer breweries are left out. Any other book(s) mentioned I meant to neither recommend nor not; many I would but that was not my point. I was attempting to discuss the role of books from my perspective and not which were good or bad. Perhaps I should have had a small section on the use/role of books that have bad or contested information. That would include pretty much every beer-related book ever written to some extent. The reason I mentioned the Classic Styles series was in the context of acquiring the recommended books to study for the BJCP exams. Clearly I did not believe that those style guides were necessary for my studying.

I am aware that there are some definite issues with the Classic Styles series books. I do not have enough brewing chops to provide much useful critique though, except in the rarest of circumstances and that would still be based on book learning. I do know that some of the “history” is definite bunk. I also realize that they still sell. I have even picked up a couple—all used—as primarily archival documents, if you will. Not necessarily to learn how brew the styles, nor to believe everything written in them—I do that with no book; do you?—but to take them as an artifact of a time and a place.

I do my best not to slog products here—especially those creative endeavors of one or two authors—but rather avoid them or discuss them in a context that hopefully doesn’t entail recommending them. Others far better qualified have addressed the deficiencies on the individual Classic Styles titles and I leave it to them.

I have read several books—some of them fairly new—by big names in the beer world and I thought them either not at all worth the paper they were printed on; there are more older books that fit in that category, thankfully. I gave them a low rating in Goodreads and moved on without writing a review. I do not believe in the “If you don’t have something nice to say …” school of thought but I also see little reason to be an ass for the fun of it. I get excitable enough, which turns me into something of an ass on occasion, that I do not need to pursue it as hobby.

Besides, I have too many outstanding reviews still to be written for books that I do want to recommend to bother writing reviews for ones I find lacking.

I apologize if I failed to pull apart some of these issues but they did not seem particularly pertinent to me in my thinking on the role of beer books at the time I was writing my post. That does not mean they couldn’t have, and maybe should have been, included; or, I could have been clearer about what I was recommending and what I was not. But that was also not my point.

My point is that use of any particular book is up to the individual reader. And while we may or may not be privy to the specific failings of any given book, that too is a part of the context that we need to attempt to bring to it, even before reading sometimes. That is often difficult after reading it. Makes life a little less uncertain to say the least but you should regard pretty much all of your knowledge as potentially fallible and kept open to actual experience anyway.

To decide if a given book is relevant to your own purpose(s) is a critical, complex, and, yes, often fraught undertaking.

That was an awful lot of words to say that “mentions do not imply endorsement.”

Central Oregon Beer Week Recap

COBW-Logo-Banner-Med

The 2nd annual Central Oregon Beer Week (COBW)—our first—was, in my humble opinion, a booming success. It was definitely a busy week and involved one or more beers most days but since that is often the case it kind of goes without saying.

I don’t even remember everything we did or every beer I tasted. My daily journal is missing a few details, as usual, and not every beer got recorded in either my paper beer notebook or in Untappd. So be it. Nonetheless, I will attempt something of a recap.

Monday, 20 May, began for us with my event, Beer & Books at Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café at 4 pm. We got there a little early and had some food and got set up. The time slot wasn’t the greatest so in the end there were seven people in the audience but I feel—and have heard—that it went well. Here’s the link for the bibliography for my talk.

Me giving my Beer & Books Talk at Broken Top for Central Oregon Beer Week

Me giving my Beer & Books Talk at Broken Top for Central Oregon Beer Week

I wouldn’t mind reprising it again on other occasions and also moving into other topics and informational resources related to beer resources. I definitely want to do it or something like it again next year. Maybe another venue and time a bit later in the evening would work better. We absolutely love Broken Top and they treat/treated us great but they have their Brews & Bands theme and activities already which takes up all of the prime hours of 5 – 9 pm. If I find other occasions to reprise the talk, though, I would definitely want to do it at Broken Top.

During my talk I had a pint of Vertigo’s Schwindel Alt which was quite tasty and refreshing. Afterwards I was talking with one of the audience and mentioned how much I loved hefeweizen so Dean of Below Grade, who was setting up for the free tasting, brought me some of his Volksvitzen South German Weissbock. I have had it before and it is quite tasty. Solstice Brewing from Prineville was also there and I tasted a couple of theirs including the Prinetucky Pale Ale.

After a short while we caught the Get-It Shuttle over to Worthy Brewing for the Beer Week Kick-Off Celebration. There we had 5 different SMaSH beers (single malt and single hop) from Worthy, Bend Brewing, McMenamins, Phat Matt’s and Deschutes. I thought BBCs, McMenamins and Deschutes were the best, and all quite tasty, with Deschutes getting my vote for overall best as it had the most complex taste. It had more going on, if you will.

As we left we picked up our commemorative COBW glasses—which are quite nice, and large—and caught the Get-It Shuttle back to Broken Top before heading up the hill to home.

On Tuesday we had dinner at Broken Top and I had a glass of Deschutes The Stoic from 2011. Freaking exquisite beer! Sara had a glass of Caldera’s Toasted Chocolate Coconut Porter which was also pretty tasty. Caldera and Deschutes were pouring for the Brews part of Brews & Bands so we sampled a few other things. Abe, from Deschutes, opened some bottles of Conflux No. 1: The Collage which is aging nicely. I have a bottle in The Cellar and plan on leaving it at least another six months or perhaps a year which I believe will continue to improve it.

Wednesday, we had been planning on going to Deschutes Beer-lesque at The Summit Saloon but we decided we weren’t in the mood for a crowd so we opted for the Brewers Reserve Night at Silver Moon and it was a great choice. We tasted five different and very special beers, several of which were barrel-aged. Actually, we sampled a couple more because our friend, Miles, was with us and we didn’t get the same five from the list of seven that he did.

Brewers Reserve Night Beer List at Silver Moon

Brewers Reserve Night Beer List at Silver Moon

Sara and I started with the Alpha Project #5: Uncle Jim’s Maui Wowie Double IPA which we both really loved. You won’t hear me often saying either of us love a DIPA but we both did and I gave it 5 stars.

Next, we had the Oak-aged Conquistador spiced Mexican brown ale, which is their Apocalypto “End of Days strong ale” aged in rum barrels for six months. Then we had the La Vengeance du Sorcier Belgian strong dark ale. Except it wasn’t. They had accidentally brought out a pitcher of their La Travail du Sorcier Belgian strong golden which we had had a week or so prior. It got straightened out and we got a glass of the Vengeance. Next up was the barrel-aged Demolition Man, a Northwest strong ale, which was very barley wine-like and aged in bourbon barrels for eleven months. Lastly, we had the Purgatory’s Oak Shadow, which is their Purgatory’s Shadow Belgian strong aged 6 months in Volcano Vineyards French white oak Shiraz barrels. It was darn tasty.

Thursday began with an early post-lunch stop at GoodLife to try their daily Bourbon & Barrel-Aged Tap of the day, the JAM!, which is a light pale aged with Oregon marionberries in a Syrah oak barrel.

In the afternoon we helped one of the organizers hang the COBW banner at Crow’s Feet Commons for the Ale Apothecary Sahati Bottle Release event that was taking place that evening.

That evening I had the first session of my Beer Sensory Analysis class through COCC with Amanda from Deschutes. Afterwards I met Sara and some friends at Broken Top and had another wonderful glass of The Stoic 2011. Thank you so much Broken Top for storing that keg since early 2011!

Friday, after work, we started at Crows Feet Commons for the Weekend Kick-Off Fire Pit Party but when I mentioned a CDA throw down at Platypus Pub to our friend it was decided we were in the wrong place. So off we went to the Platypus Pub for the Friday Fight Night between Boneyard and 10 Barrel. For $4 we each got a 4 oz taster of both of their CDAs and a ticket to vote on which was the best. After tasting these and voting I got myself a pint of Rat Hole’s–Bend’s newest brewery–Hazelnut Brown Ale.

Crux Bottle Release Party

Crux Bottle Release Party

Saturday morning we headed to Crux Fermentation Project early for their Bottle Release Party where we picked up three bottles of Tough Love Banished Imperial Stout 2013 and two of the Impasse Saison. I had hoped to have burritos for breakfast there and then get a small snifter of the Tough Love but after getting our bottles the burrito line was pretty long. Due to picking up Sara’s bike from REI and having the Cake concert in the evening we chose not to do any more beer events on Saturday.

Tough Love Banished Stout 2013 and Impasse Saison (4th bottle for Miles)

Tough Love Banished Stout 2013 and Impasse Saison (4th bottle for Miles)

Sunday we went out to Sunriver for the First Annual Sunriver Resort Brewfest which was the capstone event for COBW. We stopped at The Mountain Jug beforehand and grabbed a few things to bring home. At the brewfest we were able to taste a few things from Sunriver Brewing (our 1st from them), Full Sail, and GoodLife. Sadly, all of the breweries ran out of beer fairly quickly. Otherwise, it was a pretty good event but they’ll need more beer next year, or need to charge a small fee to hopefully rein in the suds suckers, and they could use another food tent in a different location on the grounds. On the way home we all—Miles was with us—stopped at Broken Top and continued our great conversations and had some more tasty beer.

1st Annual Sunriver Resort Brewfest

1st Annual Sunriver Resort Brewfest

Monday, the 8th and final day of COBW, found us at the Deschutes Pub in the evening for their Class of ’88 Imperial Smoked Porter Tasting Party. Let me just say that Deschutes does it up right! They had tasters available of their Smoked Bruin, Pub Smoked Porter and the Class of ’88 Imperial Smoked Porter. They also had plenty of tasty food. And all of it was FREE! We liked the Smoked Bruin, which bordered on being a dessert beer, and the Class of ’88 the best. We will certainly be picking up a couple of bottles of the Class of ’88 to cellar.

Thanks Deschutes for another classy party! We heard lots of great comments regarding your spread and hospitality from folks who were visiting you for the first time. Bravely done!

Deschutes Class of '88 Imperial Smoked Porter

Deschutes Class of ’88 Imperial Smoked Porter

We also stopped by the new Brew Wërks location twice for lunch and beers during COBW. It is hopefully going to be a better space for them. I kind of liked the previous space but it was NOT a good location for them at all. Mike made a very tasty mashup of his Audacious Amber by using a saison yeast that he called Amber Saison. It may sound weird but it was quite good.

In summary, I would say Central Oregon Beer Week was a great time for us. I participated as an official sponsor and held an event, which I would like to continue next year. I must say the organizers of COBW took great care of me—as a sponsor and as an attendee at numerous events—and I hope to be on that side of the fence going forward. Sara and I had a grand time attending many events, often facing hard choices of what to do versus what to skip, and we had quite a few very tasty beers and a goodly number of quite drinkable beers.