Review: 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die

I was considering subcontracting this review to Jeremy Clarkson, the demin-clad hyperbole from Top Gear. Or perhaps Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap fame. Jezza would undoubtedly say that 1001 is a better book than Ben McFarland's World's Best Beers because this one has one more beer in it. Nige would concur; coz it's one higher. But surely the clincher is quality, not quantity? On a now-cramped 'must-try' beery bookshelf, groaning with weighty tomes that are thicker than a whale omelette, is there room for another?

I'd say so. Not only do you get coverage of a wide range of world brews, but it's written by an impressive array of over forty beer writers. Adrian Tierney-Jones does an admirable job as editor and contributor whilst roping in the expert opinion of reviewers from all over the world, such as Stan Hieronymus, Joris Pattyn and Jay Brooks. The book eschews a style-based structure and plumps for a colour-palette approach; that means shoe-horning those awkward beers into a 'speciality' section which rather unstitches the thread developed, although I'd doubt anyone would ever read the book section-by-section anyway.

The layout is clean and clear; brewery and beer background are covered in between 100 - 300 words along with concise tasting notes in a separate section. The accompanying pictures are bold and simple, perhaps a pump clip or a bottle and glass combo. What I really liked are the diverse collection of beer and brewery illustrations scattered liberally throughout; posters, stamps, watercolours, labels, signage, sculptures and a host of others that are as attractive as the text itself.

So if you've already got Ben McFarland's book, ought you make space on the shelf for this one? Absolutely. Both are complimentary; 1001 Beers has some great reference detail and backstory, World's Best Beers has an idiosyncratic approach and dry wit. I still think the format could do away with any kind of forced structure and just go with an A-Z approach; similarly, I'd like to see some seemingly sacred-cow beers left out to pasture rather than be reviewed just because they have near-iconic stature. But perhaps we'll see that if we ever get to '5000 Beers You Must Try But Probably Won't Live Long Enough To Drink Them All'.

For those of us who like a well-written reference work that you can happily meander through whilst enjoying a beer, 1001 Beers is a must-have addition to your beery bookshelf.

1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die is published in the UK by Octopus Books. In the US, it's titled 1001 Beers You Must Taste Before You Die and is published by Universe.

Many thanks to Octopus for the review copy.

1 comment:

  1. I don't care how good it is (although i doubt I'd agree with 50% of it) - if that dick morrissey has scrawled an intro then they can kiss my money goodbye.

    Who the hell, after that atrocious tv show then the pub (and brewery's) subsequent closure, can still have any respect for him in the beer world?

    Grade A knob. And I can't even watch Bob the builder to letch at Wendy now as his voice drives me mad...