I’m happy to bring news and a review of a new beer book coming out The Complete Beer Course: Boot Camp for Beer Geeks: From Novice to Expert in Twelve Tasting Classes (buy on Amazon) by Joshua M. Bernstein. Continue reading “Book Review: The Complete Beer Course”
Before even cracking open The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution, just judging it by the cover, I’m psyched. I dig the play on Obama’s Audacity of Hope book (not trying to get political), turning it into Audacity of Hops. It’s also an applicable title as well because this is the story of the American craft beer movement and how American hops have pushed that movement.
The author starts with a skim through the ancient history of beer, early American beer, and prohibition in a few paragraphs. This is good for two reasons: others have covered this info extensively elsewhere and it allows him to get more in-depth with the people, places, and most importantly stories of the American craft beer movement. The Audacity of Hops goes into significant, but not overwhelming, detail about the various reckless gambles around the founding, or expansions, of many breweries as well as the contexts of the time for people and beer. The author makes this retelling enjoyable and engaging, there are plenty of facts sprinkled throughout but not page after page of yearly quantities and revenues I’ve encountered in other books.
However, the book tends to be heavy with hyperbole, especially with the early home brewers. The author makes it seem that these men, Jack McAuliffe and Fred Eckhardt, birthed a brand new discovery to the universe with herculean effort. While in reality they only did what people around the world had done for millennia, brew beer at home. Now I don’t want to diminish their efforts, they certainly broke the law of the land at the time and did something few had done in 30 years and those who had done it recently hadn’t done it well.
The book could, at a few points, do with better editing. The author has a tendency to run on about random breweries that didn’t survive beyond a year or two. Should they be mentioned? Certainly, otherwise there could appear a nonstop success with no failures. However, they don’t each need 3 or 4 pages. We also don’t need 2 paragraph biographies of every single brewer nor do we need them repeated often. I think by the end of the book I’d read a description of Fritz Maytag (owner and resuscitator of Anchor) at least 10 times.
At first I was doubtful but the structure of the book has proven itself to work well. That structure is mainly chronological but also, more importantly, geographical. We move through the years hoping across the United States and occasionally overseas. From San Francisco to New York, Juneau, Boulder, Baghdad and back. This works to tell how the craft beer story is an American one and isn’t just in California (though they can rightfully claim the birthplace).
I enjoyed reading this and think that many fans of craft beer will enjoy it as well. It’ll gives you a long list of new beers to try and a concise history of American craft brewers and breweries that I haven’t found elsewhere. Plus some fodder for arguments over contract brewing, the importance of brewery X vs brewery Y, and “How dare he not include [insert favorite local/regional brewery here]!”.
Lastly, I have a new favorite beer quote & motto for what I try to do with the blog:
“I still see people buying and swilling terrible beer. I sometimes think my job is like farting against a gale, but I just keep moving forward”
– Michael Jackson.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I reached out to the author and his publisher was kind enough to hook me up with a free copy. To our readers, and any companies interested in sending me stuff, giving me free stuff impacts the review in only 2 ways. That I WILL review it and that and I WILL write a blog post about it. Giving me free stuff does not guarantee you a favorable review or that I will tell everyone to go buy it.
Part of the Stone media pack I received was the book The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and unbiased arrogance. The book is broken down into sections and I’ll follow that breakdown for my review.
The Nature of Beer
- Excellent break down of what beer is. They go into detail about the core ingredients of beer and what difference they make. Of interest to home brewers and beer nerds is a breakdown of many styles of hops with name, alpha acid level, and flavor profile. They do the same thing with malt and even various chemicals in water! This is a resource I’ll hold onto for a while and I’ll use it as a basis for an eventual blog post(s) on this subject.
Beer Through The Ages
- Re-read this section because it was that good. OK, so I wrote that note to myself while doing an initial draft of this post. Then I decided to keep it there because it’s true and everyone should do it. This is by far my favorite section of this book and is full of great info. There is a 4,000 year old recipe for beer which includes brewing instructions called “the Hymn to Ninkasi” from what is now Iraq, no word if anyone has recreated it recently (get on that Dogfish Head!). That kinda fact just blows my mind. From there they skip ahead a few thousand years and mainly focus on the results of ending prohibition. That is to say the crushing of small brewers and the following slow rise of craft beer ending in the world we have today.
A Story Called Stone
- This section is really for hard core Stone fans. It goes through the history, founding, problems, and fortune and fame of the company. There isn’t a lot of great info for people looking to start small breweries or small breweries looking to grow. It’s still a fun story and an interesting ride. Plus like the book as a whole it’s told in a very engaging way.
The Beers of Stone Brewing Co.
- This is a huge section with detailed info and stories on all of the Stone beers. At least all of them as of 2011, which is a lot! This includes all the anniversary and collaboration beers as well as the regular round up. Again it’s really for Stone super fans, but it’s also an excellent resource for anyone interested in Stone beers… like a blogger who is in the midst of writing posts about the beers.
Dr. Bill’s Beer How-Tos
- This is a rather quick section that talks about serving, cellaring, and pairing beer. For the serving section it focuses on choosing the correct glass and getting a good pour. Then a very cursory discussion on enjoying and tasting. The cellaring section just goes through what kind of styles are best to age and good places to store the beer. Pairing is just what you think, talks about why beer works great with food and what foods work with what beers. The how-to section is overall alright but I’d prefer the tasting section to be a bit more in depth. Also in aging it’d be nice if they said age X style for Y years to achieve optimal results. I realize this is very difficult for anyone to say, but still they could give it a shot.
Recipes from the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens
- As I’ve stated many times I’m no foodie and I’m a horrible cook. As such this section was lost on me. There are about 15 or 20 recipes for food served at Stone’s brewpub. They look tasty but are pretty complex, at least from my perspective.
Home brew Recipes
- The first portion here is a nice overview of the entire home brew process. I wouldn’t use this as my only guide for my first brew but it gives you a decent idea of what you’re looking at and could be a good starting place. Following that is beer recipes for a somewhat odd collection of Stone beers. Pale ale, smoked porter, and levitation make sense then there are a scattering of anniversary’s and collaborations. But no arrogant bastard which I think may disappoint many people. Though as most home brewers already know that’s just a Google search away.
In the end this is a good general beer book and a fantastic book about Stone. If you know any Stone fanatics this would make a great present for them. If you’ve been reading my reviews you’ve seen that I’m no Stone super fan so the Stone-centric portions of this book only held mild interest for me. Despite that I thoroughly enjoyed the general info like the nature and history of beer. Regardless of all that it’s not a huge book so you can pop through it pretty quick unless you want to memorize all the recipes by heart or something.
FULL DISCLOSURE: This
beer book was sent to me for free by Stone. To our readers, and any breweries interested in sending me stuff, giving me free stuff impacts the review in only 1 way. That way is that I WILL review the beer whatever and I WILL write a blog post about it. Giving me free beer swag does not guarantee you a favorable review or that I will tell everyone to go buy it or anything like that.