American philosopher Mortimer J. Adler once wrote, “In the case of good books, the point is not how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.” Of course, Adler’s observation is no less profound for the knowledge-seeking beer drinker than for anyone else. Virtually every micro-aspect of beer’s epic saga has been probed, deciphered, cataloged and stored away in a sea of books for eternal reference. But, for even the most rabid of beer lovers, a good personal library of beer books does not have to, well, fill a library.
Beer Appreciation & Style Guides
If there is a single book that has masterfully illuminated the beauty of all things beer in the minds of laymen and experts alike, it is Michael Jackson’s New World Guide to Beer—the undisputed best-selling beer guide of all time. The colorful, oversized volume takes you on a dizzying tour of global beer culture and heritage, leaving you not only with a superb education, but a renewed excitement for your love affair with beer. Information on all of Jackson’s books is available at his website, www.beerhunter.com.
Not the romantic type? Maybe you prefer a more systematic approach to your favorite indulgence. Roger Protz’s latest release, 300 Beers to Try Before You Die!, will help you ply your way through beer heaven. The beautifully-illustrated portfolio of brews gives expert tasting notes for each beer, as well as a little history, a little brewing info and space for the taster’s own notes. Michael Jackson’s Great Beer Guide: 500 Classic Brews delivers a similar experience. Simply put, it is the culmination of Jackson’s life-long globe trot in search of the world’s best beers.
Want to mount your own beer expeditions? For the beer trekker and pub crawler, handy guides have been published for virtually every beer-producing corner of the globe. In the U.S., Lew Bryson has launched a series of books (including Pennsylvania Breweries, New York Breweries and Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Breweries) that have set the standard for trekking handbooks. Paul Ruschmann and Maryanne Nasiatka have recently published Michigan Breweries in the same series. Across the pond, CAMRA (Campaign For Real Ale) annually publishes its Good Beer Guide—Britain’s granddaddy of pub guides edited by Roger Protz. The 2006 edition, as well as CAMRA’s long list of other books, is available at www.camra.co.uk. Taking a trip to Europe? Naturally, the German beer mecca, Munich, has its own guide. The Beer Drinker’s Guide to Munichis now its 5th edition and popular as ever.
There are almost certainly more books on the history of the amber fluid than on any other facet of beerdom. Historians Gregg Smith and Carrie Getty give us one of the more whimsical and entertaining histories in The Beer Drinker’s Bible—Lore, Trivia & History: Chapter & Verse. For a more in-depth study of beer’s role in civilizations from Egypt to colonial America, have a look at Origin and History of Beer and Brewing—initially published in 1911 but reprinted in 2005 by BeerBooks.com. For a fantastic journey through German brewing history, get a copy of Horst Dornbusch’s Prost! The Story of German Beer. www.beertown.org.
For U.S. brewing history, Stanley Baron’s 1962 book Brewed In America: The History of Beer and Ale in the United States remains unmatched in breadth, depth and insight. You’ll have to hunt a little online to find a copy, but it’ll be well worth the effort. Conveniently, the book Beer Blast: The Inside Story of the Brewing Industry’s Bizarre Battles For Your Money picks up the story just about where Baron leaves off. Industry insider Philip Van Munching gives an incredible account of the big boys’ competitive battles of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Be sure, also, to look for Maureen Ogle’s opus, Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer, released last fall.
The Business of Beer
Thinking of starting a brewery? The Brewers’ Association is happy to get you started with its Brewery Planner: A Guide to Opening and Running Your Own Small Brewery. Once afloat, you’ll also need the BA’s annual North American Brewers Resource Directory, now in its 18th edition. But, for safety’s sake, perhaps it is best to begin by taking a walk in the shoes of those who’ve already trod the path of brewery ownership. Have a look at Beer School: Bottling Success at the Brooklyn Brewery and Brewing Up a Business: Adventures in Entrepreneurship from the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. The “how I did it” genre also includes Pete Slosberg’s entertaining story, Beer For Pete’s Sake: The Wicked Adventures of a Brewing Maverick.
Food and Beer
When brewmaster Garrett Oliver of the Brooklyn Brewery decided to share his expertise on beer and food pairings in a book, he gave us an instant classic. The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food fast became the leading guide on the subject. Charlie Papazian, author and Brewers’ Association president, deservedly called Oliver’s tome “a book that’s going to improve the quality of your life.” True, there are few greater pleasures than good beer with a good meal. But how about good beer in a good meal? Have a look at Stephen Beaumont’s Brewpub Cookbook and learn how to make such hops-and-malt delights as Carrot Lager Soup, Real Ale Stroganoff, or Jalapeno Beer Bread.
There is hardly a gizmo or gadget associated with beer that hasn’t been collected at one time or another. And what is a collection without a guide to tell you what it is, what it’s worth, where it came from and how old it is? In 1973, beer historian and collector Will Anderson published the first bona fide breweriana guide, The Beer Book: An Illustrated Guide to American Breweriana. It would be another twenty years before renowned collectors Herb & Helen Haydock would publish their landmark work, The World of Beer Memorabilia. The book is a showcase of the best of the Haydocks’ amazing collection—touted as the largest private assemblage of breweriana in the world. Today, breweriana guides are available for a variety of specialized areas of collecting: beer trays, beer tap knobs, beer bottle openers and the like.
Where To Get Them
OK, so you want to begin building your beer library. The online resources are virtually endless. Let’s start with the obvious: Amazon.com. Not only will you find all the latest beer books at great prices, but you’ll also have a hit-or-miss shot at some good out-of-print books. Search for Stephen Beaumont’s A Taste For Beer, for example, and you’ll be thrilled to find copies available for under $3.00! That’s right, the book itself will cost less than shipping!
But Amazon doesn’t have it all. For the rare, the obscure and the just plain hard to find, you’ll need to trek a bit further. BeerBooks.com (this author’s website) is a good place to start your journey. For rare beer books from the U.K., nothing beats Beer-Inn Print. Make sure, also, to visit the Brewers’ Association bookstore. You’ll find some good “bundle” deals and an assortment of not-so-easy-to-find titles.
Finally, make frequent use of non-beer sites like Ebay and Half.com, and used book networks like Alibris.com and Powells.com. Some of your best finds and best deals will come from outside the beer arena.