Big papery things tied up with string

In the summer issue of CAMRA's magazine 'Beer', Andrew Pring chooses ten books that "no self-respecting beer lover's shelves should be without". Here's nine random recommendations of my own.

Cellarmanship - Patrick O'Neill

I'm the bugger that likes to ask questions. This slim volume is packed full of answers when it comes to the science and engineering of how to store, keep and serve cask ale. Clean line-drawn illustrations, cogent text, keen observations borne of experience. If you drink cask ale and you want to understand fully how it ought to be served, this book is essential.

Widely available. CAMRA members can buy at a discount via the CAMRA shop.

Merry-Go-Down - Rab Noolas.

Difficult to resist any book that's subtitled "A Gallery of Gorgeous Drunkards in Literature from Genesis to Joyce. Collected for the Use, Interest, Illumination and Delectation of Serious Topers". A collection of prose, poetry and lyrics all intimately concerned with drinking and drunks. "We are entirely unconcerned with morality", writes 'Rab Noolas' - pseudonym of the composer Peter Warlock - in the Preface. I'll drink to that.

You should be able to pick up a 1970's reprint for about a fiver from the likes of Amazon or ebay.

The Brewer's Tale - Frank Priestley

From the laboratory at Tennant Brothers in Sheffield to becoming a master brewer at Castle Eden, County Durham, this is a genial autobiography of a man who had brewed through a time of huge upheaval in the industry. When you've read the excellent 'The British Brewing Industry 1830-1980', turn to books like this that put the brewer's flesh and blood onto the bones of statistics.

Widely available online.

Beer Is Proof God Loves Us - Charles Bamforth

Biography, philosophy, travelogue. Reflection, conjecture, anecdote. Religion, science, politics. Beer, beer, beer. Bamforth's book is a darting needle through beer's rich tapestry. And it has an appendix almost as long as the main text itself, for reasons that are readily apparent. And it contains this quote: "... may I tolerate those folks who like their beers smothered in hoppiness just as I would hope they tolerate the skill devoted by the big brewers to making bland lagers so consistently well".

Widely available online.

Real Ale Walks In Norfolk - Warren Wordsworth (ed).

Frankly, I could have picked any of many walks + beer books. But this one is beautifully presented, has hand-drawn maps, clear photos of pubs, just enough interesting history and it's got sensible walks around Norwich in it. If you haven't been to Norwich, go. Go now. A splendid city with a great variety of pubs.

Widely available online.

Good Beer Guide Belgium - Tim Webb

One of the most keenly-observed travel books I've ever read. The last time I was in Belgium, if I didn't have a beer in my hand I had my head in this book. Sensible layout, definitive content. And the advertising blurb on the inner back cover is clearly the work of an erudite genius who ought to be commissioned immediately to write a whole range of work rather than getting pissed and writing this trite tripe for his blog.

Widely available. CAMRA members can buy at a discount via the CAMRA shop.

Beer: Tap Into The Art And Science of Brewing - Charles Bamforth

The most accessible book about brewery science that I know of. And that's all you need to know.

Widely available online.

Brewing / A History of Beer and Brewing, Ian Hornsey

For when you need to know just a little more about anything to do with brewing history or science. Superlative books that, one day, I'll actually own copies of rather than just borrowing dog-eared copies from mates and libraries.

Available from the Royal Chemistry Society online shop. And they would make an ideal surprise gift for the favourite beer blogger in your life...

And may I suggest trying your local library for some of these titles? Here in Derbyshire we get to reserve stuff over the tinterweb for free. You are all members of your local library, aren't you? You do take advantage of the service that a sliver of your council tax goes towards? Here's hoping...


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  2. "Tap Into The Art And Science of Brewing - Charles Bamforth"

    I have a personally signed and dedicated copy of this. I use it extensively when arguing my points.

  3. So, while there's some beer worth writing about outside of the UK, one should only approach it under the guidance of a British CAMRA member?

  4. Peter Warlock is itself a pseudonym, his real name being Philip Heseltine.

  5. Reluctant Scooper24 May 2011 at 07:44

    @The Beer Nut - not sure where you're coming from.

    @MadAleAMan - ooops, my bad, I should have pointed that out. Heseltine had a fascinating life but seems to be cruelly under-appreciated.

  6. It's very narrowly focused list.

    I think I'll manage to maintain a modicum of self-respect as a beer-lover without owning a walking guide to Norwich.

  7. Reluctant Scooper24 May 2011 at 12:23

    As I said, the Norwich book is an example of several beer-walking books that I like. I've included it here as an example of a good book that features a good beery city.

    Narrow focus? Science, history, authbiography, travel, technical? I'll repeat a little more of my OP - it's a random selection.

  8. A wide range of subjects, but focusing almost entirely on British beer and brewing. Where it isn't, it's from a British perspective.

    Hornsey hits neolithic Britain on page 193 and stays there for the next 4,000 years and 500 pages. How can he call it A History of Beer and Brewing if there's almost no mention of modern brewing anywhere else in the world?

    Apologies for having a go at your personal selections, I don't mean to. It's the inclusion of the line (not yours) about "ten books that 'no self-respecting beer lover's shelves should be without'" that has my hackles raised against the notion that the only beer worth knowing about is British beer.

    If you tell me what was on Pring's list, I'll bitch about that instead.

  9. Reluctant Scooper24 May 2011 at 16:33

    To clarify: I'm not saying that these are my choice of books that any self-respecting beer lover ought to own. They're just random recommendations of books I enjoy. I could have worded things better/

    Pring's recommendations were:

    The World Guide to Beer: Michael Jackson
    Michael Jackson's Beer Comapnion
    The Great Beers Of Belgium - Michael Jackson
    300 Beers To Try Before You Die - Roger Protz
    The Brewmaster's Table = Garrett Oliver
    Radical Brewing - Randy Mosher
    The British Brewing Industry 1830 - 1980 - Gourvish & Wilson
    Beer And Skittles - Richard Boston
    Ambitious Brew - Maureen Ogle
    Man Walks Into A Pub - Pete Brown

  10. Ahhh. That's a good list. Thanks. I don't own many beer books but I do have a whole two of those. And definitely feel guilty about not having read a couple of the others.

  11. Reluctant Scooper25 May 2011 at 07:19

    @The Beer Nut - I can confess to only owning one book by Michael Jackson, 'Great Beer Guide'. I'd look for the others but I'm not sure how relevant they'd still be. Are they timeless classics?

    @Tandleman - I've got several podcast lectures and the like featuring Bamforth. I could listen to him all day.

  12. Dunno, I've never read anything by Michael Jackson. It does strike me that reference books like that would date badly.