Even in the span of two and a half months, I have realized how difficult it can be to write about beer. On one hand, being too detailed about beers and their styles can be off-putting to more casual beer drinkers who may have no clue what I’m going on about. But it also can be frustrating when you’re trying to differentiate two very similar beers and one is clearly better than the other, but indescribably so.
That is why I have a lot of respect for Randy Mosher and his book Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink. For the most part, Mosher does an outstanding job of making beer accessible to a wide range of drinkers, covering not only the major styles of beer, but also the history of beer, the importance of each ingredient, how to judge and taste beers. The use of charts and graphs as a visual accompaniment serves the book very well, especially when illustrating the different colour ranges that may be found in certain beer styles or that International Bitterness Units (IBUs) do not fully explain how bitter a beer tastes. The design of the book in general is a big plus, which help sets it apart from others.
In library school speak, the book definitely filled my masculine need for information. It is also a very unusual beer book in that it does not focus on particular beers for the most part, but only giving some recommendations to do along with each style. As someone who lives in a province with limited access to beer, it was nice to move the emphasis away from must-have beers to a deconstructed discussion about beer. It left me really wanting to do a style tasting to dissect the particularities of certain beers, which may sound geeky and probably is.
Some of the information can be very scientific in the early parts of the book, such as how certain beers can acquire off flavours, which is my one complaint. It is important to know and recognize signs that a beer has gone off, but do I need to know what bacteria causes it? Nope. Maybe throw that in as an appendix, but not a full snore-inducing chapter.
Up next, Cheers!: A History of Beer in Canada by Nick Pashley (author of the highly enjoyable Notes on a Beermat: Drinking and Why it’s Necessary). Thanks to my employer, the public library, for having all of these wonderful books (and, no, I am not in charge of purchasing).