Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink
“Don’t even consider starting this book without a beer in your hand.” Why would you not want to read a book that starts like that? And buy it you will, if you enjoy beer.
As the American beer world takes a quantum leap forward, with craft beer sales soaring, new beer styles pouring out of breweries, imperials and sour beers thrilling consumers, media attention a constant, we need to revisit our understanding of the fundamentals of beer. How we actually taste it. Where it really came from. How to understand the categories of beer. The constituent elements of our new beer world. But most importantly, how to enjoy it in all its many formats, venues and presentations.
Randy Mosher has written just such a book, bringing our understanding of our beer world up to date. Mosher’s passions are far ranging. He’s equally adept with a blowtorch as with a computer. Designing a brilliant label is as masterfully executed as formulating an intricate beer or dinner recipe.
Regardless of the medium—and he has conquered many—Mosher embraces his charge with gusto. His latest book, Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink, is long overdue and very much needed.
Tasting Beer is oriented completely around taste—well, not completely. While he explores the full world of beer, approaching everything from a sensory vantage point, he also takes shots at virtually every beer sacred cow you can imagine. Not only is Tasting Beer a guidebook on the aesthetic pleasure of beer, but a lot of accepted truths fall beneath Mosher’s relentless scholarship.
Take the tongue, for example. Mosher blithely explains how the same camp that espoused phrenology as a science promulgated our knowledge of the geography of tongue. He goes on to demonstrate how there are six basic flavors, not four, and the tongue doesn’t really have geography at all!
You think that’s radical, wait till you read what he says about the origins of porters and stouts. Mosher also has a list of kooky beers—ales, spiced, even sour—from those stalwarts of technological brewing perfection and conservatism, the Germans. His survey of Belgian beers, while giving the reader a great review of the classic beers, reveals links to other countries’ brewing traditions. He also points out today’s Belgian brewing doesn’t go back that far, but is a relatively recent creation.
These debunking gems spice his comprehensive survey of the world of beer. For example, Mosher goes over beer making totally from a sensory perspective. Every step relates to how you are going to perceive the outcome in the finished beer. It isn’t enough that he tells you about these intended and unintended consequences, he goes on to show how you can learn to recognize them. When Mosher takes on beer and food, it is with an eye to pass on tools for you to enjoy.
People generally take one of two avenues in discussing taste. They will either assert their preeminence by declaring something universally good or bad, or they will take a more cautious approach expressing their opinion as to liking or not liking. However, what is indeed rare is that individual who eschews judgment and accurately describes a taste, its origins, scholarship that surrounds it and how you can participate in that experience. This is the essence of Mosher’s work, Tasting Beer. If you enjoy beer, you will want to learn to taste beer.