Let me tell you about beerWorldCat•LibraryThing•Google Books•BookFinder
Read 9 – 18 February 2013 via Deschutes Public Library – 641.23 Cole.
This is another one of those books that are primarily a list—albeit a fancy, ordered list of some kind—of beers to try. In this case, they are divided by style. This is an order that makes much more sense than the one used by Beaumont in The Premium Beer Drinker’s Guide.
The short story: All in all, this is a good book with a fair bit of information on beers, beer ingredients, brewing, beer styles and specific beers. But the vast majority of the book is descriptions of specific beers, within styles, to try. Useful for the adventurous and for the already converted to craft beer but wants to broaden their tastes into other styles or for someone who has had a great beer in a style they’re not familiar with and want to explore that style further.
Let’s get the Table of Contents out of the way:
- Introduction 6
- Part One: Introducing Beer in All Its Glory 10
- The usual?
- Basically beer
- Wonderful water
- Glorious grains
- Heavenly hops
- Yeast: it’s alive!
- Final flourishes
- Part Two: Appreciate Your Beer That Little Bit Better 28
- Buying Beer
- Storing and serving beer
- Beer jargon
- Taste beer like a pro
- My taste chart
- Beer and food
- Beer is good for you
- Part Three: Beer Styles and Brand Heroes 56
- Wild beer
- Wheat beer
- Golden and blonde ale
- Farmhouse ale
- Pale ale and India pale ale
- Trappist ale and abbey beer
- Barley wine, Scotch ale and old ale
- Porter and stout
- Fruit, field, spice and all things nice
- Vintage and wood-aged beer
- The lunatic fringe
- Where to find the best beer 208
- Beer festival 217
- Beer vocabulary 218
- Index 220
- Acknowledgments 224
As you can see from the pagination, specific beers and styles make up ~68% of the total. This is a definitely a book about beers to try. I am not saying that is a bad thing; just that you ought know going in. Seeing as this book is, in my opinion, more reasonably divided than Beaumont’s, you could easily jump around and read about the styles you are primarily interested in as they would actually map to the world of beer styles.
Part One is a short but good overview of the ingredients that make up beer and includes a chart of suggestions for “If You Like This” then “Try This.” For example, if you like “Aromatic dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc,” try “New World-style pale ale, well chilled” (10).
Part Two covers a lot of ground in a short space but does so efficiently. Buying beer in a shop or a pub/bar, seeking out great beer, cans?, storing and serving beer, cellaring, serving temperatures, glasses, pouring, common faults in beer, beer jargon, tasting like a pro, basic flavors, the author’s flavor/taste chart, beer and food pairings, and beer and health all make an appearance.
In her discussion of beer jargon she mentions “the most useless phrases in beer” as being ‘malty’ and ‘hoppy’ (39). Well, guilty as charged. And although I do agree with her, some of us are still trying to develop our palates so that we can do better than this. And as not every new beer is tasted in a perfect environment, we sometimes cannot do much better whether that is due to what also is being consumed with the beer or the fact that we’re drinking our beer in flights and have already tasted several others such that our palates have been temporarily suppressed, or for some other reason. I do promise to attempt to do better because, well, I am trying to do better but it isn’t like I can just tell my palate to develop itself immediately because I now care about describing the beers I drink to myself and to others.
As the author tells us, ‘malty’ “can mean any one of these flavours: dark chocolate, milk chocolate, toffee, caramel, raisin, smoke, whiskey, liquorice, tar, molasses” and ‘hoppy’ is about bitterness and aromatics and includes “lemon, lychee, coconut, orange, nettle, autumn leaves, geranium, …” (39)
As I said, I do better sometimes and am trying to do better always.
She provides an interesting taste chart on page 49 that is divided into fruits and flowers; vegetables and nuts; woods, herbs and spices; sweeties and pastries; wines and spirits; vinegars, spreads and sauces; Mother Nature and man-made; and mouthfeels.
If one hadn’t already noticed by this point, perusing this list would convince one that this is definitely a British book. This is not a bad thing, by any means. I read lots of books from the United Kingdom but this author’s language is a little more colloquial than many others. Again, not a bad thing but there are quite a few turns of phrase that might poke and tickle the American reader. Most are able to be easily figured out in context, though.
Let me add that the author seems like she’d be a lot of fun to hang out with and to talk (and drink) beer. I’d love to hear some of these turns of phrase in actual conversation.
Her beer and food pairings chart on pages 52-53 lists beers by type and includes three other columns: Great With, Three Best Friends, and Avoid.
Next up, the real meat of the book which is the style descriptions and histories and beers to try and their descriptions.
Deschutes The Dissident gets a shout out as being “a great New World take on the style [Flanders brown]” (63/67).
As does Destihl from “the wonderfully named town of Normal, Illinois” (63) (Flanders/Oud Bruin 67) I’m a little jealous that this British author has had beer from Destihl when I have not despite living in Normal for six years. Of course, it didn’t open until 3 years after I moved, although, I was only an hour away for a few of those early years but didn’t hear about it until we left Illinois. It seems she most likely had Destihl beer at the Great American Beer Festival (based on a post I found at her blog).
Golden & Blonde Ale
This section focuses on goldens from the UK (97).
Deschutes Cascade Ale is mentioned (97 / 103).
The author’s transition style – “And I also have this beer style to thank for getting me into great beer. Golden ales eased me into the world of cask ale and helped me understand how a beer can uplift you. To me, golden ales hold the promise of summer in every sip — and they have a huge place in my heart” (97). The specific beer that got her “into the world of beer” was Kelham Island Pale Rider (100).
Pale Ale & India Pale Ale
An example of her “odd” Britishisms – “the shenanigans of the Hodgson and Drane likely lads” (119). ‘Likely lads’?
The Wise (Elysian, Seattle, WA) (136)
Bachelor ESB (Deschutes, Bend, OR) (137)
Barley Wine, Scotch Ale & Old Ale
Outback X (Bend, Bend, OR) (154) – fresh root ginger
Fruit, Field, Spice & All Things Nice
Um, is it Robert Louis Stevenson or Stephenson as she has it? (185) It is definitely a “v” in Stevenson
Vintage & Wood-Aged Beer
Palo Santo Marron (Dogfish Head, Milton, DE) (199). We have had this recently based on a recommendation from a random guy reaching in to get one at the The Brew Shop/Platypus Pub in Bend while we were deciding on some bottles ourselves. He said it was the best brown ale he has ever had. I picked one up a few days later and O.M.G. is it an amazing beer. And quite affordable too. Highly recommended.
The Lunatic Fringe
Midas Touch (Dogfish Head, Milton, DE) (206) – recipe based on analysis of clay jars from Midas’ tomb. We have one of these in the fridge but have not tried it yet.
The author includes some very good tips on attending beer festivals. While some of them are common sense …, well, we know about how “common” it is and when combined with alcohol, let’s just say these tips bear serious consideration.
Comprehensive world-wide list – www.beerfestivals.org (217)
Perhaps I am displaying some lack of knowledge of United Kingdom practice but her use of place names bothered me some. First, it was kind of inconsistent within its consistency. That is, there are three levels of suggested beers. First are the beers that get a full page of description and they have the fullest geographic information. For example, Bison Brewing Honey Basil Ale is listed as Berkeley, California, USA (186). Next, are the “More to Try …” beers, which are shorter entries of about three per page, and also usually include as much detail. See for example, Buckbean Orange Blossom Ale which is listed as Reno, Nevada, USA (189). But over on the next page (190), we see Maui CoCoNut Porter listed as Hawaii, USA. But Hawaii is a state and an island within said state, and Maui is an island also within said state, and neither is a city. Where exactly is Maui Brewing Co. located? There are a couple of other examples of such inconsistency. Third up are the “Other to try” beers which is usually five to eight beers in a simple list on the last page of the “More to Try …” section. There they simply include country or for the US beers include state and USA. Listing a city wouldn’t have taken up that much room.
But the possible UK practice to which I referred above is as follows. If a beer was produced in Scotland or Wales then it says so. If in the full page section then the UK is dropped. See for example, Otley O-Garden brewed in Pontypridd, Wales (75) or Williams Bros. Fraoch Heather Ale from Alloa, Scotland (185). In the “More to Try …” section then the UK is appended. See, BrewDog Hardcore IPA, Fraserburgh, Scotland, UK (128) or also on same page, Highland Brewing Scapa Special which only says Scotland, UK (see the gripe about inconsistency above). But all of the beers produced in England are listed as UK, along with the other geographic data as appropriate. For example, Worthington White Shield from Burton upon Trent, West Midlands, UK (129) or Batemans Victory Ale, UK (129). Back to the inconsistency, in “Others to try” on page 137 we see Somerset, UK; Suffolk, UK; and Yorkshire, UK; although in most other “Others to try” sections as mentioned above we only get “UK.”
So my gripe is this. Wikipedia tells me (as I already knew) that the United Kingdom “consists of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.” If an author is going to specify (or leave off as they see fit) Scotland and Wales then why do they not need to specify England? Perhaps this is really a small issue but to me it seems—whatever the editorial or other reasoning—like an example of English superiority. England is by no sense equivalent to the United Kingdom. Heck, it isn’t even Great Britain but only one of three countries which make up the island. In many, if not most, of the English geographic locations I was aware that it was England being referred to. Burton upon Trent or London, anyone? But there were a few that I did not know for sure were in England and I only believe so do to the author’s (or possibly the publisher’s editorial team), often inconsistent, use of geographic naming practices. An argument that there is some inconsistency can be made. Whether or not the use of UK as a substitute for England is snobbish or something else might be debatable. But it rubs me the wrong way. [I am aware that this is probably much les of a deal than the characters I have spent on it.]
To offset my gripes about geographic place names and consistency in their use I want to commend the author for her great use of pictures—far better than in Beaumont—and she gives full credit in the Acknowledgments.
All in all, this is a good book with a fair bit of information on beers, beer ingredients, brewing, beer styles and specific beers. But the vast majority of the book is descriptions of specific beers, within styles, to try. Useful for the adventurous and for the already converted to craft beer but wants to broaden their tastes into other styles or for someone who has had a great beer in a style they’re not familiar with and want to explore that style further.
Cole, Melissa. Let me tell you about beer. Pavilion, 2011. Print.