Heavenly Beers: a Taster’s Guide to Monastery Tradition Ales and Lager
Hardcover, $18.95, 128 pp.
Heavenly Beers: a Taster’s Guide to Monastery Tradition Ales and Lager is an interesting book, the first I have seen that has attempted to cover all or most of the subject of monastic brewing. The book is informative and goes into intimate detail on some of the breweries covered, though not all: enough to get the reader interested in visiting without dragging on.
The introduction is a good read for the novice of abbey and monastic beer and brewing, with a short history of this tradition and explanation about how beer was brewed long ago by monks. It is written in such a way that non-brewers and casual readers will have a rudimentary understanding of the subject.
The book has numerous photographs, with a fair balance between shots of Monks, Abbeys and breweries, and of people enjoying beer at bars and cafes.
Award-winning beer writer Roger Protz certainly covers most of the best known monastery/abbey beers, such as the Trappist ales of Belgium. He also covers some of the more obscure breweries, such as the Klasterni Pivovar in the Czech Republic, associated with a cloister where beer was brewed beginning in the 12th century. He also gives detailed tasting notes for all the beers mentioned.
I did find a few mistakes in the book (such as incorrect listings of the alcohol content of some beers) and also found it curious that he recommends Chimay Grand Reserve as a Christmas beer (Christmas beers in Belgium are traditionally only available during the Christmas season, and the Chimay beers are year round brews.) Why not mention a true Belgian Christmas beer, like Het Anker Gouden Carolus Noel?
The book is a good read overall, both for the casual beer lover just learning about the subject, to more seasoned types with libraries full of beer books.