Beery book review roundup

It's Boxing Day*. You've got a platter full of cold turkey sandwiches, a hangover that would scare a pig and a stack of vouchers to spend. You like beer. You like beer books. If you're rabidbarfly you like beer books with big pictures in that you can point to and grunt.

So, if you're sat on your sofa in just your pants, turkey in your navel, muttering to yourself "I wonder if there's a handy and impartial internet guide to buying the kind of books that I wished I'd asked for so I would have ended up with better presents than novelty socks and some out-of-date Toblerone?" then

a) you really need clinical help, but

b) here's a round-up of some books wot people wrote about beer this year. Ish.

IPA: brewing techniques, recipes and the evolution of India Pale Ale - Mitch Steele

Let's cut to the chase: buy this book. If you haven't any vouchers, sell other stuff so you can buy this book. Diligently-researched history, fascinatingly-detailed recipes, insightful prose, clearly illustrated. Destined to be the cornerstone reference work on IPA.

Beer, food and flavour - Schuyler Schultz

A classic example of how to make one not-great book out of four potentially good ones. There's very little about flavour; what there is hints at the importance of sensory elements but seems to lose itself before it's started. Forty pages of fine dining menus and recipes start to get rather repetitive. The beer and cheese chapter is OK - although I don't need eleven pages of cheese photos, I know what it looks like. But then a third of the book is no more than a guide of US breweries along with regular features about Alesmith. An opportunity lost.

Shakespeare's Local - Pete Brown

I visited the subject of Pete's book - the George Inn in Southwark - a couple of weeks ago. It was difficult to conjure up an imagine of how this galleried pub would have hustled and bustled over the last six centuries. Mainly because I was looking out over a courtyard of skinny hipsters drinking pinot grigio. But this book does the trick. Pete has a canny knack for engaging narrative and so the tales and tribulations of the George seep from the pages. It's not a straight-up historical tome; put it this way, if you don't think references to the Sugababes and Trigger from Only Fools And Horses are suitable for a beer book, take your vouchers elsewhere. And maybe buy a sense of humour.

Let me tell you about beer - Melissa Cole

Yes, I know it was published last year but it's still the most cogent and entertaining book about beer on the market. One that I buy for others. And read myself. Just for fun. Like you should.

Beer & Philosophy - ed. Steven Hales

Yes, I know it was published in 2007. But I only found it this year. A collection of fifteen papers by a brewer or two and a fair few philosophy professors. Oh, and a Canadian attorney. I sat under the leaf-dappled sun by the walls of Nottingham Castle reading this during this year's CAMRA beer festival. After reading Peter Machamer's piece on beer evaluation, vocabulary and context I put the book back in my bag, drained my glass and did nothing but think about what I'd just read for a good twenty minutes. Particularly about the last line, in relation to offering others your evaluation of beer:

"We all like to play Pygmalion. We just have to learn when to stop".

Thanks to the Brewers Association and Skyhorse Publishing for review copies of the first two books. Thanks to Derbyshire Libraries for running a sterling reserve-and-collect service and for stocking brand new books like Shakespeare's Local in the face of egregious cost-cutting.

* this may or not be the case. Like beer itself, this blog is context-dependent


  1. Great round-up and very useful - have you read "For the Love of Hops"? Think I'm going to be buying this today with my vouchers!

  2. Stan's Hops & Chris White's Yeast are both in my basket. As it were :-)

  3. I thought the more recent history of the IPA book was the best thing about it. The homebrew recipes are pretty sloppy though, quite a few don't give amounts of hops, and some don't even list the times. It reads like it's just been copied straight from the brewer - which is interesting but not particularly useful.