Another source of great help and information is Jeff Evans’ Good Bottled Beer Guide. The Brits drink most of their beer on draft and 10 years ago bottled beers were falling off the cliff. In a crowded beer writing market, Jeff chose to carve out his own niche, concentrating on bottle-conditioned beers. At first, sales were slow, but as bottled beer has revived and is growing by more than 10 percent a year, Jeff’s book has flourished and is now an annual publication and a vade mecum. With great attention to detail, he not only lists all naturally conditioned bottled beers in Britain, but also gives fascinating information about ingredients along with his own measured and thoughtful tasting notes.
My real appreciation for fine beer began back in college in La Crosse, Wisconsin. There was a liquor store in town that carried a couple of dozen imports, several taverns that had Hacker Pschorr on draft, and a beer bar that boasted 86 different beers, including a biere de garde. This was in the late 70s, mind you. Wallet willing, I tried whatever I could. Dark German beers, stouts, and English ales were my favorites. About 10 years later, I got my hands on an early edition of [Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion]. The title was apt, and the beer world now made perfect sense. I couldn’t even guess how many times I have read the tome, and each time it seems just as fresh as before. My first edition was completely worn out, and I am on edition two, which is no less tattered. I started homebrewing in 1987, doing all-grain almost immediately. The Companion provided as much information, for me anyhow, as any homebrewing book on how to concoct traditional, stylistic homebrew. There were no recipes, yet enough information for savvy interpretation. I still refer to it often for my columns, and I would have to say that my homebrews are usually close to my intentions thanks to The Companion. The world of beer-lovers owes a lot to Jackson, the man who made sense of the whole thing.
K. Florian Klemp
This is a tough one, because they are all my favorites. But in terms of what’s valuable to my writing, I can give you a short list:
100 Years of Brewing, published by the Western Brewer, a trade journal, in 1903. It is my single most valuable resource in understanding the history of brewing both in the U.S. and everywhere else in the world. A thumping great book I’ve consulted dozens of times.
Thomas Cochran’s The Pabst Brewing Company: The History of an American Business is a gem, and very useful in understanding what has happened to American beer as the country has grown. Probably the best single company history you will ever find.
Another good look at brewing early in America is Beer: Its History and Economic Value as a National Beverage written in 1880 by Frederick W. Salem.
For history of brewing in Canada, I turn to The Barley and the Stream: The Molson Story by Merrill Denison.
For England, The Brewing Industry in England, 1700-1830 by Peter Mathias is an incredible resource. Also useful is H.S. Corran’s A History of Brewing and Roger Protz’s The Ale Trail.
And for Ireland, Guinness’s Brewery in the Irish Economy, 1759-1876 by Patrick Lynch and John Vaizey.
For understanding beer styles, Fred Eckhardt’s The Essentials of Beer Style is terrific, as are all the volumes in the Classic Beer Styles Series from the AHA.
For pure pleasure, I confess to a love of pub porn: Victorian Pubs by Mark Girouard, The English Pub by Michael Jackson, The English Pub by Andy Whipple and Rob Anderson and Classic Town Pubs: A CAMRA Guide by Neil Hanson—all delicious armchair pubcrawls.
And probably the book that started it all for me, and still a great read, Michael Jackson’s The World Guide to Beer.