RateBeer Weekly Magazine > Craft Beer Introduction
A Variety of Books About Beer
A SAMPLE LIBRARY
February 26, 2004
Here are a selection of books on beer. They are presented in no particular order.
World Beer Guide - Andrea Gillies – Bloomsbury
Published in 1995 and now out of print. Gillies is a beer writer who was editor of The Good Beer Guide in the late 80’s. The book starts with a few short items on such things as How Beer Is Made and Beer With Food before going into the main section which is a country by country listing of bottled and canned beers which were available in Britain in the late 90’s. Each country has a short and useful introduction, followed by the listings of beers with a very individual opinion on each. A typical example is her comment on Budweiser: “It’s hard work to describe much in the way of flavour and character at all in this ghostly pale beer ... a deeply mediocre finish, faintly sticky with adjuncts and outstaying its welcome ... But gosh, they have a good advertising agency.” The final section is a directory of British breweries. Although out of date, it is still a pleasure to read such open and honest opinions.
Great Beers Of The World (And How To Brew Them At Home) - Laurie Strachan - Simon & Schuster
Published in 2000 and still available. Strachan is a writer on home brewing and one-time editor of Australian Home Brewer. The book starts with a general history of brewing. Then it gives some explanations and details of the various beer styles around the world. His views are questionable and not accurate at all. Then he looks at the ingredients used in making beer, and again makes questionable comments, such as “the stronger a beer, the more bitterness it needs”. Finally he gives recipes for making the various beer styles. If you like making beer with corn syrup then you might like his recipes. This book might be useful for propping up the leg of a wobbly table.
Beer Glorious Beer - Barrie Pepper & Roger Protz (Editors) - Quiller Press
Published in 2000. This is a collection of articles by members of the British Guild of Beer Writers. The range of subjects is wide and eclectic - ranging from “One Yank’s View of British Beer” by Benjamin Myers to “Dray Horses” by Roy Bailey. The articles are not in depth - “Scotland’s Cask Ale Revival” is dealt with in less than three pages - but they are readable, informative and reasonably accurate. A handy little book to read while sitting on the loo.
The Great Beers Of Belgium - Michael Jackson – MMC
First published in 1991 and updated every few years. This is a classic. Jackson has had numerous awards given to him by Belgium for writing this book which displayed to the world what was available in this small North European country. Jackson splits the beers up into style groupings sometimes of his own creation, and then with lavish illustrations and much praise proceeds to enthuse over almost everything he samples. Informative, authorative and always readable, but sadly the opinions sometimes lack a critical edge.
The Good Beer Guide - Roger Protz (Editor) – CAMRA
Published every year since about 1973. Always opens with a few short articles before getting into the two main sections. The first section is a list of pubs around Britain that local CAMRA branches have selected as decent places to drink cask ale. There is some controversy about the pub selection procedure, and the pubs selected are not always the best that are locally available. The second section is a directory of all the cask ale breweries and the regular beers they produce that CAMRA were aware of at time of publication. Because of the slow nature of publication, this is not always completely up to date, but is fairly close. For many people this is the beer bible, and nearly every beer enthusiast in Britain has a copy.
Beer - Ronald Atkins - Collins Gem
Published 1997. Revised 1999. This is a pocket sized book. It starts with brief articles on the history of beer, how beer is brewed, beer traditions in various countries, etc. Whilst not detailed, the articles are accurate and useful for a novice beer enthusiast. The main section is a directory of beer styles with a few examples to try. The information is again concise, but useful. This is an extract from the piece on Pilsener: “...and pilseners have been produced worldwide. In the process, the term has been more than somewhat abused by being applied to almost any pale lager. To justify the name, the beer should combine a golden colour with a fairly full body and a soft texture, and be sufficiently well hopped to impart a dry, bitter tang.” The examples given of each style are sometimes surprising, but mostly go for the big names. For porter he has chosen Shepherd Neame’s Original Porter and Koff Porter by Sinebrychoff, while for Gueuze he has selected Mort Subite and Cantillon. This is a handy and cheap introduction to beer for someone who doesn’t want to get too serious.
Pocket Beer Book - Michael Jackson - Mitchell Beazley
First published in 1986, this is updated every one to three years. This is Jackson’s opinions on the best beer and the best places to drink around the world. After flicking through it for half an hour and raging about how wrong he is about some of the pubs and beers, but how right he is about others, you put it aside and never use it again. Ratebeer provides the same sort of information, but with a wider range of opinions. Totally useless, unless you want to see how much your opinions match those of Jackson.
Great Beer Guide (500 Classic Brews) - Michael Jackson - Dorling Kindersley
First published 1998. Updated at least once since then. I love this book. I once had the ambition of trying every beer mentioned. Not all the beers are good beers, and there are certainly many great beers he hasn’t mentioned, but as a book to whet your appetite and get you interested in the many different beers available, this is first class. Each page is devoted to one beer, which has a picture of the bottle, the beer in the right glass, and basic information like ideal serving temperature. There is then an average of 100 words write up on the beer, giving its history, place in the beer world and some tasting notes. The word “classic” needs some understanding - Jackson mixes famous beers with quality beers so the word has a double meaning. To get a flavour, here’s five pages in a row: Murphy’s Irish Stout; New Belgium Old Cherry Ale; New Glarus Wisconsin Cherry Beer; Newcastle Brown Ale; North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout. Fascinating! And he does get to mention Bud, though it gets mixed in with Budvar: “The Czech Budweiser beers are generally more assertive in flavour than their American namesake.” A great book. Strongly recommended.
Mild Ale - David Sutula - Brewers Publications
Published 1999. This is one of a series of home brewing books that concentrate on different classic beer styles. Sutula is head brewer at Quarry Ridge Brewery, Ohio. Even if you are not a home brewer this is still a fascinating book about one of the classic beer styles. This is an in depth study of Mild, which covers its entire history and then gets to grips with the flavour profile, ingredients and brewing methods. There are sections on conditioning and dispensing, and complete brewing specifics of some selected milds before giving some recipes to try at home. Not as technical as some of the home brewing guides, this is a pleasure to read, coming from the personal angle of a real mild enthusiast. Everything you need to know about Mild - all in one book. A great book for the real beer enthusiast.
The Bedside Book of Beer - Barrie Pepper (editor) - Alma Books
Published 1990. This is a collection of snippets of writing about beer from such diverse writers as William Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas, George Orwell and Michael Jackson. Some pieces are just a few words, while others extend to several pages. The snippets are grouped under themes such as Poetry and Songs, and Inns, Pubs and Taverns. Some of the stuff is very dull, but now and again there will something of interest. A book to keep in the bathroom to read whilst on the loo or in the bath.
Classic Bottled Beers of The World - Roger Protz – Prion
First published in 1997. There is a very brief history of bottled beer before Protz gets into the discussion of a variety of bottled beers. Most of the beers mentioned are also mentioned in Jackson’s Great Beer Guide, but here they are grouped by country rather than alphabetically. The layout is not as user friendly or attractive as Jackson’s book, nor is there as many beers (I’ve not actually counted, but there are about 150 beers mentioned). Protz does give more information about the ingredients of the beers than Jackson, but apart from that their write ups follow a similar format and length. It might be of interest if someone wants to compare the opinions of these two famous beer writers. Jackson on Traquair House Ale: “...a lightly oaky aroma; touches of fresh earthiness, pepperiness, and nutty maltiness in the palate; and some woody, rooty tartness in the finish.” And now Protz: “... a spicy and hoppy aroma with a hint of chocolate, there is rich vinous fruit in the mouth and the finish is dominated by hops, pineapple fruit and chocolate.” Is this the same beer? Interesting to compare the two books, but if only getting one, get the Jackson
The Real Ale Pub Guide - Anon – Foulsham
Published 2003. Beware of pub guides that are written anonymously! This one includes some quite dreadful pubs that have clearly not been inspected. If you want a pub guide, buy the CAMRA Good Beer Guide. The CAMRA guide is not perfect, but it’s miles better than this thing. A book to keep in the loo as toilet paper.
Stout - Michael J. Lewis - Brewers Publications
Published 1995. Written by a biochemist whose favourite beers are Guinness and Budweiser, this is a highly technical book with pages of data on the chemical composition of water. A typical extract read: “Ca++ forms an insoluble salt with PO4- - . If Ca++ is added to the mash in the water or to the kettle in the form of Burton salts (gypsum), insoluble Ca3(PO4)2 forms to disturb the equilibrium to the right which releases H+ (acid) as follows: 2HPO4 - - + 3Ca++ = Ca3 (PO4)2 (precipitates) + 2H+” If any of that makes sense to you then this is the book for you - if it doesn’t then the brief and uninformative skip through the history of stout will not compensate, nor will the great tasting notes which are introduced with these comments: “We first discarded all the adjectives for stout - Irish, milk, imperial, oatmeal, extra, oyster, and others - as meaningless in analytical or sensory terms.” He is also unable to note any difference between “porters and stouts and other black beers”. Someone who can’t tell the difference between an Irish Stout and an Imperial Stout, and whose favourite beer is Budweiser is not the man to write a book on stout. One of the worse beer books I’ve encountered. Mostly unreadable, and the rest mostly daft.
Man Walks Into A Pub - Pete Brown – Macmillan
Published 2003. Awesome book! Written by a beer loving advertising copywriter rather than a beer geek, this is a breath of fresh air. This is not scientific twaddle, nor stodgy beer notes, this is simply great fun. CAMRA hates this book because Brown just loves drinking beer (especially lager - and loads of it!), and is not in favour of CAMRA. The book is a history of beer, mostly focussing on beer in Britain, especially the pub culture. It is a very down to earth, approachable, witty and informative book that would be enjoyed by anyone who has ever drunk a beer or two. Typical examples: “And we choose different pubs for different occasions ... the Australian bar when you want to get pissed and throw up on a Friday night (Because, as we all eventually discover, this truly is a sure-fire way to impress the opposite sex.)” And: “Simple porter ... it’s like a cross between modern stout and bitter ... if you can’t find any, pour a can of Guinness and a bottle of Bass ale into the same glass (Shit, now I’ve done it. At this point all the aficionados are spluttering and having coronaries as they reach for their green pens to write angry letters to my publishers. I should probably be ashamed of myself.)” The most relaxing, informal and fun book on beer I’ve ever read. Get a copy!
Porter - Terry Foster - Brewers Publications
Published 1992. Foster is a chemist, brewer and writer, and each of those qualities comes through in this acceptable little book on one of the trickier beer styles. It provides information, but sadly leaves the reader wanting to know a little more than Foster has uncovered. It covers the same format as the other Classic Beer Style books - History, Flavour Profile, Materials, Brewing, Recipes and Commercial Examples. He often hesitates and qualifies, lacking authority throughout, and after a while you wish that someone else had been entrusted with the task of dealing with the Porter style. It’s not a bad book, just that it ain’t that good either. If you can find nothing else on Porter then this will have to do.
Beer And Britannia - Peter Haydon – Sutton
Originally published in 1994 as The English Pub: A History, this was revised and republished in 2001. The sub-title is An Inebriated History of Britain. Haydon is a member of the British Guild of Beer Writers. This is a thoroughly well-researched book, serious and sober, it serves as a useful grounding in the history of beer, pubs and drinking in Britain. Though by attempting to cover so much ground it does feel thin in places. Very handy to read this in conjunction with Pete Brown’s Man Walks Into A Pub. A worthy book, though a little dull.
Beer, The Story Of The Pint - Martyn Cornell – Headline
Published 2003. Cornell is a beer writer. This book covers much the same ground as Haydon’s Beer And Britannia, though with a closer and more detailed focus on beer rather than pubs. It is a serious study, and does closely examine the historical evidence for the development of such styles as Porter. This is the most informative and authoritative book on British beer that I’ve yet encountered. If you only buy one serious study of British beer styles, then this is the one.
Good Bottled Beer Guide - Jeff Evans – CAMRA
Published 2001. Evans is a member of the British Guild of Beer Writers and has edited CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide. The book starts with some brief but useful pieces on the history of bottled beers, how bottle conditioned beers are made, how to store bottle conditioned beers, etc. Then it gives a list, sorted alphabetically by brewer, of all the bottle conditioned beers brewed in Britain at the time of publication. What is most valuable about the listings are the details on the ingredients and sometimes indications of the bottling process, such as this for the Bragdy Ceredigion brewery: “Each beer is siphoned into bottles direct from the fermenter or from a cask and is primed with raw demerara sugar.” Or this for Hogs Back: “The brews are filtered and then injected with fresh yeast prior to bottling.” There are also some tasting notes. My copy is seriously out of date - there are many British bottle conditioned beers not mentioned, while some of those listed are no longer made, but this is a very handy guide, especially if you get the most current version.
The Encyclopedia of World Beers - Graham Lees & Benjamin Myers - Bramley Books
Published 1998. Lees is one of the founders of CAMRA; both Lees and Myers are beer writers. This is a large format book designed for browsing at home. It starts with an A-Z of beer styles and brewing terms before getting into a country by country discussion of various brewers with a selection of some of the beers they offer, interspersed with brief articles on such matters as The Origins of Pilsner and Hop Growing in the Northwest of America. The brewer selections for California are Anchor, Anderson Valley, Bison and Gordon Biersch. The introductions to each brewer are succinct, but useful if you know very little. A nice book, but if you have Jackson’s Great Beers then you don’t need this.
Beers Of The World - Gilbert Delos - Colour Library Books
Published 1994. Delos is a French writer, and this book has been translated by Simon Knight. It’s a large format, coffee table book. It starts with the usual brief history of beer and an explanation of the brewing process before getting into sweeping essays on the beer styles from each country. It is lavishly illustrated with an average of five big, top quality photos of beer bottles on every page. The writing is clear and to the point, and is useful enough if just a little out of date (the nine pages on North America concentrates on American Standard). This extract reveals an example of his referencing to American craft brewers: “In the Western states, the most interesting beers are as a rule produced by micro-breweries and can be had only on the premises. Exceptions are the many - very British - beers brewed by the Grant brewery in Washington state, in the heart of the hop-growing region.” If you see it cheap, it’s worth getting for the pictures and for the general round-up of beer styles around the world.
The Taste of Beer - Roger Protz - Weidenfield & Nicolson
Published 1998. Large format book. The usual beer history introduction is done here with considerable flair and understanding, backed up by (in 1998) the latest research: “The Egyptians used more varieties of barley and emmer than the Babylonians and they malted both cereals. They baked their malt cakes a dark brown and made no light-coloured beers. Plants including mandrake with its powerful leek-like flavour, and salt were added to the sugary solution.” The sections on beer ingredients and beer styles are equally well informed - Protz always being keen to give as much information as possible on the beers he discusses; as here: “Thomas Hardy’s Ale is brewed from 100% Pipkin pale malt. The russet colour of the beer is the result of a long copper boil which darkens the wort and caramelizes some of the sugars ... Hops are a complex grist of Challenger, Goldings and Northdown whole flowers with dry hopping in cask with Styrian Goldings.” And that’s just an extract. He goes into wonderful detail on the recipe changes of the American Budweiser over time (the rice was added in 1908 if you wanted to know). And just to round things off he has four pages of recipes for food prepared with beer, including Carbonnade Flamande. If you see it, grab it! An excellent book.
The World Guide to Beer - Michael Jackson - Mitchell Beazley
Published 1977. Large format. The ultimate beer book! Hopelessly out of date. So much has happened to the beer world since Jackson wrote this masterpiece, and much of that positive change can be directed at this book. Read his survey on the breweries of the United States - 80 breweries, and that’s counting all 10 of Anheuser-Busch’s breweries! But as soon as this book was published and people read it, things changed. This was the book that kick-started the American craft-brewers revolution. This was the book that got British and Belgium beer imported into America. And talking of Belgium. Well, you may not recognise some of the names that Jackson uses for beer styles we now take for granted - Lambic is in the section on “Wild Beers”, and Kriek is under the section on “Cherry Beers”. At this time no one had attempted to categorise the beers of Belgium. In fact Belgian speciality beers were not often seen outside their home country, and “Veteran drinkers in Belgium may regret the passing of many fine brews, the victims of mergers and closures.” In fact with the popularity of English and Scottish ales, and with 70% of the beer market being pils, the speciality beers were in decline. “The triumphs of lambic may be limited today, faro may be barely visible..”. Of Hoegaarden: “the local white beer is an elusive pleasure.” And on Bruin: “The future of these beers may be in doubt.” Next time you have a Cantillon Gueuze or an Arrogant Bastard, raise a glass to the man who made it possible: Michael The Beer Hunter Jackson. Sell your grandmother - get a copy of this book and put it in a sacred place in your home. You are not worthy to be called a beer geek without it!
Beer Companion - Michael Jackson - Mitchell Beazley
Published 1993. Large format. A much updated version of the classic World Guide, this time the beers are sorted into styles rather than countries. Everything is freshly written with new pictures, and there is a section on “the renaissance of beer”, for which Jackson seems keen to give CAMRA sole credit. This is a solid piece of work, but Protz’s The Taste of Beer does it slightly better. They often cover the same ground, and Protz just has the edge. Though if you can’t find the Protz, this is an excellent book.
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