Tasting beerWorldCat•LibraryThing•Google Books•BookFinder
Read 6 – 26 December 2012
Reread 23 February – 15 March 2013
Synopsis: This is an excellent introduction to beer, beer culture and history, and the tasting (not simply drinking) of beer. Highly recommended!
Longer version: Randy Mosher “is a nationally-recognized author and expert in the field of beer and brewing.” He has written several books on brewing and beer, and contributes to many magazines on these topics. He also lectures and teaches on beer and brewing and “is active in the leadership of Chicago Beer Society, the American Homebrewers Association, and the Association of Brewers [Now the Brewers Association].” He is imminently qualified to write Tasting Beer. [Quotes from About the Author page at radicalbrewing.com]
Mosher infectiously demonstrates his knowledge and passion without once talking down to the reader. He covers the history of beer, tasting, and analyzing all of your sensory responses to beer, the proper serving of beer to include glassware and temperature, beer and food pairings, and the different styles—in a less technical, more narrative way than the BJCP guidelines—and their history, among a few others topics.
In the following more detailed commentary on the book I do not hold back on various quibbles I have with it. I intend to be forthright about what I conceive to be issues with any book I review while it is often harder to enumerate all of a book’s good qualities. Believe me when I say that this book as a whole stands head and shoulders above my complaints. They really are minor when the book is taken as a whole.
The book is well-designed as Mosher is also a designer. It features nice typography and great photographs and illustrations which clearly convey the knowledge they are intended to. The book is full of information, well-written and designed, and extremely affordable. It is a must-have for any beer lover!
- Acknowledgments vi
- Foreword (by Sam Calagione, owner of Dogfish Head) vii
- Preface viii
- Welcome to Beer 1
- The Story of Beer 5
- Sensory Evaluation 28
- Brewing and the Vocabulary of Beer Flavor 36
- The Qualities of Beer 63
- Tasting, Judging, and Evaluation 78
- Presenting Beer 96
- Beer and Food 115
- Anatomy of a Style 132
- British Ales 144
- The Lager Family 165
- Continental Ales, Weissbiers, and Ale-Lager Hybrids 180
- The Beers of Belgium 188
- Craft Beer in America and Beyond 207
- A Sip Beyond 220
- A Glossary of Beer and Brewing Terms 233
- Further Reading 240
- Index 241
“Tasting Beer tackles the experience of choosing and imbibing beer with just enough technical and scientific information to explain the events but not so much that the beer novice feels overwhelmed. Randy doesn’t preach his personal preference here. He celebrates the fact that our individual palates are as unique as snowflakes. … I am hopeful that Tasting Beer will find a home with professionals in addition to beer enthusiasts. I can think of no better single tool for brewers, bartenders, connoisseurs, chefs, salespeople, and everyone else in the beer trade for enhancing their beer IQ” (vii, Sam Calagione, owner of Dogfish Head).
“Don’t even consider starting this book without a beer in your hand” (viii).
Welcome to Beer
“That isn’t to say that learning to understand and appreciate beer is hard. It is among the most enjoyable things you can do. But to get the most out of beer you have to put a little effort into it. This book lays out the experience of beer in all its glory, in a logical and systematic way. Beer may be humble, but it is not simple” (1).
“In Tasting Beer it is my hope to help guide you to a better understanding of the many things that make beer and our relationship with it so magical. With effort and information, you can gain the power to peer knowingly into its amber depths, approach it with keener senses, and find within in the meaning of beer” (4).
Provides a sort of introduction to the book, with the sections: The Depth and Breadth of Beer, The Community of Beer, and Beer Today.
1 The Story of Beer
“Beer is the great family of starch-based alcoholic beverages produced without distillation” (5).
One minor quibble here. He miscites Michael Jackson’s groundbreaking The World Guide to Beer (1977) as World Beer Guide (25). I do have a 1st ed. of this book which I got for my birthday in early 1978.
Provides a history of beer and overview of the market today with sections entitled: A Little History of Beer, Hopped Beer, The Rise of Porter, Cold-Fermented Lager, Belgium and France, North America, Europe in the Modern Era, America 1970 to the Present, and The Beer Marketplace, and sidebars on Technological Changes in Brewing 1700-1900, and England’s CAMRA Movement.
2 Sensory Evaluation
“If you take the time to develop an approach and a vocabulary, even casually tasted beers may reveal themselves in greater depth, meaning, and eventually, pleasure”
Sensation is a mix of stimulation and perception. At one end, sensory nerves fire when stimulated, and at the other end, thoughts, memories, and images emerge. …
… These conscious thoughts are deeply affected by social, cultural, and highly personal histories, and of course are always changing. They are also influenced by how much we can focus on the experience” (29).
This chapter covers The Sense of Taste, Aroma and Olfaction, Psychological Factors, Mouthfeel, and the Visual; and includes sidebars on The Basic Flavors and Sensory Enhancement Practices.
If your view of the process of taste is based on the old tongue map then it is based on outmoded science. The Sense of Taste section is short and to the point and paves the way for the following sections to complement and complicate it.
The olfactory system is highly complex and is an area of rapidly evolving and hotly disputed science.
“No less than five separate mechanisms have been proposed to explain the functioning of the olfactory system, and the real explanation may turn out to involve multiple mechanisms. It’s a fascinating area with a lot of research yet to be done” (32).
“And lastly, compared to sight and sound, for example aroma and taste sensations take longer to register and linger longer. This is another reason to look at taste as having a time dimension—a beginning, middle, and end—rather than being just a single snapshot moment” (33).
Interestingly, even the time of day affects our sensitivity (34).
The important phenomena of “matrix effects,” “masking,” and “potentiation” are discussed (34-5).
I feel that mouthfeel got short shrift here. I really wish he had said a bit more and there isn’t much else about it later in the book either. Now, this applies to everything else I have read about mouthfeel also. It’s like everyone sort of dances around it because no one is exactly sure what it is or at least how to put it into words. I think my feeling in this case is because he does such a great job everywhere else and his explanation is much shorter than some other sources I’ve seen.
3 Brewing and the Vocabulary of Beer Flavor
This chapter does what its title purports; it describes the brewing process, in some detail, and provides a fair bit of beer vocabulary, particularly around sensory concepts. It contains sections on Water, The Magic of Barley, Making Malt, Malt Types, Adjunct Grains, The Art of the Recipe, Mashing and Runoff, Hops, A Rolling Boil, Yeast and the Magic of Fermentation, and Packaging and Beyond. Illustrations, callouts and sidebars cover Deconstructing a Beer, The Flavor Wheel, Two- vs. Six-Row Barley, Malt Type and Beer Color, Ingredient Tasting, Sense and Nonsense in Beer Advertising Claims,Terroir in Beer, Cleaning and Sanitizing, and quite a few Sensory Vocabulary terms.
On page 38 there is an excellent full-page, color reproduction of The Flavor Wheel.
This book is well-designed from a graphic design perspective. Its many illustrations, photos, charts, maps, etc. are nice looking, informative, and clearly understood, and there is a nice use of color. But. This chapter is slightly less so due to the “seemingly” random strewing around of the Sensory Vocabulary breakout boxes. There seems to be little rhyme or reason as to exactly where they are and they break up a lot of text, although they are generally placed near (or in) a relevant section; such as, Mineral sits in the middle of Water and Metallic is near the end of water where metals are mentioned. If you try to keep up with them as they appear then your reading of the main text will be highly disjointed. I am not sure what drove the decision on their placement but it should be rethought for a second edition.
I also have the Kindle version of this book, which I can use on my iPhone, iPad or Mac—we do have a Kindle but it is attached to my wife’s account and I bought this book. It has the same issue of breaking up the text, although the placement of the breakout boxes are slightly different.
Ingredient Tasting (46) – excellent suggestions for familiarizing oneself with the flavors of brewing ingredients.
4 The Qualities of Beer
Standard Reference Method (SRM) of the American Society of Brewing Chemists (ASBC) (68)
European Brewery Convention (EBC) is approximately double SRM (SRM x 1.97 – EBC) (69)
Hops, Bitterness, and Balance
IBUs – “the parts per million (ppm or mg/L) of iso-alpha acids in the finished beer” (71).
“As for hop bitterness, once in the beer it’s all pretty much the same. Hops express their considerable individuality through their aromas” (72).
Haze and Beer Clarity
Discusses sources of haze, whether unintentional or intentional.
This chapter discuss the qualities of beer and their associated measurements. Sections include: Gravity; Alcohol and Attenuation; Beer Color; Hops, Bitterness, and Balance; Haze and Beer Clarity; Evaluating Clarity; and Carbonation and Beer Foam. Illustrations, callouts and sidebars cover: Drinkability: What Is It?, Alcohol Strength by Beer Style, Beer Color Scale, Beer Color and Beer Styles I and II, Bitterness by Beer Style, Relative Bitterness, Filtration: Dream or Nightmare?, Pouring for Great Foam, Selected Beer Styles and Carbonation Levels, Pressure and Temperature as Related to CO2 Volumes, and Carbonation: Natural versus Artificial.
5 Tasting, Judging, and Evaluation
The Tasting Environment (79-82)
- Limit Distractions
- Consider Lighting
- Provide Water – bottled may be best
- Dump It – dump bucket
- Jot It Down – notes, no wooden pencils
- Keep Score – scoresheets
- Eliminate Unwanted Odors
- Provide a Palate Cleanser – plain water, crackers, saltines, or French bread
- Consider the Glass
Suggestions for Tasting Types (88)
This chapter is about tasting beers and all the various hows from casual to serious beer judging; sections include: The Tasting Environment, Tasting Types, Judging and Competitions, Non-competitive Evaluation and Taste Panels, Presenting Beer for Judging or Evaluating, How to Taste, A Sampling of Tasting Events, and Making the Most of Beer Festivals. The illustrations, callouts and sidebars are: a tasting record, Tasting Types and Their Requirements, ISO Standard Tasting Glass and Plastic Judging Cup, Common Spiking Chemicals, How Do You Become a Beer Judge?, and Suggestions for Tasting Types.
6 Presenting Beer
Sections include: Temperature, Bottles and Draft, Cask [Real] Ale, The Beer Glass, Proprietary Glassware, and Storing and Aging Beer. Illustrations, callouts and sidebars include: Checklist for a Well-Served Beer, Suggested Serving Temperature, Forms of Bottled Beer, Keg Theft, Send It Back!, Warm and Flat?, Historical Beer-Drinking Vessels, Modern Classic Glassware, A Proper Weissbier Pour, Aging Time for Various Beer Types, and Notes on Selected Vintages of Thomas Hardy’s Ale Fall 1997.
7 Beer and Food
Sections include: Getting Started, Staging a Beer Dinner, and Cooking with Beer. Illustrations, callouts and sidebars include: Foods in Order of Increasing Importance, Food and Beer Interactions, Beer and Food Commonalities, Familiarity-Based Pairings, Beers for Light Appetizers and Beers for Hearty Appetizers, Beer and Cheese Pairing Suggestions, No-Brainer No-Fail Beer and Cheese Pairings, Pairings from a Recent Chicago Beer Society’s Brewpub Shootout, and Dishes Prepared with Beer.
8 Anatomy of a Style
Sections include: a long intro (most are short); Technology and Beer Styles; Laws, Taxes, and Beer Styles; and Pressures of the Beer Business. The illustrations, callouts and sidebars are: The Grape Line (in Europe), The Year in Beer, A Few Notes on the Following Styles and Suggested Beers. This chapter serves as the preface to the next five chapters on beer styles.
9 British Ales
NB: (Almost) all styles throughout the book have the following information included in them: short paragraph giving history, where they fit in with other styles and similar information; following this they include location, flavor, aroma, balance, seasonality, pair with (foods for pairing), and a list of suggested beers to try. They then have a pale yellowish colored breakout box listing the gravity, alcohol, attenuation/body, color, and bitterness.
Local note: Deschutes Bachelor ESB (154) in Suggested Beers to Try
“Porter has changed every generation during its nearly three-century history” (161).
Local note: Deschutes Black Butte Porter (162) in Suggested Beers to Try
Sections include: Beer in the Dark Ages; Toward the Modern Era; An Exporting Nation; The Roots of Modern Styles; Real Ale, Rescued; The Taste of Ale; Pale Ale and Bitter (Classic Bitter, Classic English Pale Ale, India Pale Ale); Burton Ale [Historical style]; Scottish Ales (Scottish Light Ale, Scottish Heavy, Scottish Export, Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy) ; and English Brown Ale (Northern English Brown Ale, Mild Ale, English Old/Strong Ale, English Barley Wine, Porter, Baltic Porter, Stout, Irish Dry Stout, Sweet [London] Stout/Milk Stout, Oatmeal Stout, Irish Foreign/Extra Stout, Imperial Stout). There are only a few illustrations and sidebars in this chapter other than pictures of beer bottles, and the random quotes which are spread throughout the book.
10 The Lager Family
Local note: Deschutes Pilsner listed as in “American Craft Examples of Classic Lager Styles” (168).
Sections include: The Flavor of Lager Beer; Bohemian Pilsner; German Pilsner; Münchener Helles; Dortmunder Export; American Pre-Prohibition Pilsner; American Adjunct Lage; American Light Lager; American Malt Liquor; Oktoberfest, Märzen & Vienna; Munich Dunkel; American Dark/Bock [Historical Style]; German Schwarzbier; German Porter [Historical Style]; Maibock/Heller Bock; Dark [Dunkel] Bock; Doppelbock; Rauchbier; and Steinbier [Historical Style]. Again, there are only a few illustrations of note and callouts in this chapter: American Craft Examples of Classic Lager Styles, Pale Lagers Around the World, Kellerbier, and Some American “Heritage” Breweries and Their Old-School Brands.
11 Continental Ales, Weissbiers, and Ale-Lager Hybrids
Sections include: Kölsch, Düsseldorfer Altbier, American Cream Ale, Steam Beer, Sparkling Ale [Historical Style], Weissbier/Hefeweizen, Bavarian Dunkel Weizen, Weizenbock and Weizen Doppelbock, Berliner Weisse, Broyhan Alt [Historical Style], Grätzer/Grodzisk [Historical Style], Gose [Historical Style], and Lichtenhainer [Historical Style]. Callouts, again few, are: What’s in a Name?, and To Lemon or Not to Lemon?
12 The Beers of Belgium
Sections include: 5,000 Years of Belgian Beer, The Uniqueness of Belgian Beer, Belgian Pale Ale, Belgian Strong Golden Ale, Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Abbey and Trappist Ales (Belgian Abbey Dubbel, Belgian Abbey Tripel), Saison, Witbier/White Ale, Lambic, Sour Brown/Oud Bruin, and French Bières de Garde. The illustrations, callouts and sidebars are: Belgium’s Overlords 1477-1830, Belgian Beer According to G. Lacambre 1851, Classic Trappist Breweries and Their Ales, Turbid Mashing and Slijm, Lambics to Try, and A Few Belgian Eccentrics.
13 Craft Beer in America and Beyond
American Pale Ale
Local note: Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale (212) in Suggested Beers to Try
Amber & Red Ale
“basically a beefy session beer, so good drinkability is important. The key to this is using hops in a way that is assertive without being tiring; building a malt base that is profound but not cloying. The emphasis should be on bitterness rather than aroma, although some aroma is a good thing. …, malt aroma should have the upper hand” (214).
Sections include: Brewing with Purpose; Born in the Boneyard; An American Sense of Style; A Tempting Future; The Big, Bold Taste of Craft Beer (American Pale Ale, American IPA, Double/Imperial IPA, Amber & Red Ale, American Barley Wine, American Brown Ale, Porter and Stout, American Wheat Ale, Fruit Wheat Beer, and Pumpkin Ale); Up and Coming (Historical Re-Creations and Fantasies, Single-Hop Ales, Wet-Hopped Ale, New Belgian-American Ales, Barrel-Aged Beers, and Hyper-Beers). The few sidebars are: What Is Craft Beer?, Craft Beer Around the World, Other Imperialized Beers, and Some Newer American Hop Varieties.
14 A Sip Beyond
Beer on the Page is, of course, of immense interest to me as a librarian and book nerd. If you are interested in books on beer and brewing, especially those of a historical nature, then see this section for its recommendations.
Sections include: The Joys of Beer Clubs, Brew It Yourself, Breweriana, Beer on the Page, Beernog (and Other Concoctions)!, and A Final Word.
Further Reading on Beer, Styles, Flavors, History, and More
As I said above, this is an excellent introduction to beer, beer culture and history and the tasting (not simply drinking) of beer. Highly recommended!
Mosher, Randy. Tasting beer : an insider’s guide to the world’s greatest drink. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub., 2009. Print.