My heart goes out to anyone trying to write a beer book these days. For starters, it seems that beer has been covered from every possible angle – history, styles, social aspects of – that it is nearly impossible to cover new ground and not tread over another book. The beer scene and culture is also changing at such a rapid pace that attempting to unearth the latest breweries will make you and your book seem outdated very rapidly. While I have admiration for Joshua Bernstein’s Brewed Awakening in its attempts to be different, the overall effect is a book that misses its mark.
Brewed Awakening is a book that is obviously aware of the problems in trying to be different from others on the market. It tries to be different by imagining the reader as a new beer geek, one that has a general idea of beer basics but hasn’t taken their obsession to the next level. At least I hope that is the group the author is targeting, because the first fifty pages largely focus on hoppy and sour beers, not exactly two types of beer that are usually recommended for the beer novice. The book then goes on a tour of recent brewing phenomena (nanobreweries, organic beers or one with locally sourced ingredients, the resurrection of cans), meandering through subjects that are interesting at times, but often tedious and not really necessary to the enjoyment of beer. It also prays to the evils of listing beers that fit within each category, which often have a limited range of availability even for someone living in the States.
The book may be a nice gateway for those who have discovered Stone or Dogfish Head and are looking to expand their knowledge, but most of the information in the book could easily be found online through forums or blogs (yes, this could hold true for many subjects, but the dominance of Ratebeer and Beer Advocate make it especially true for beer). Some sections, like beer and food pairings, take up space without really saying anything at all. Bernstein would have been much better off injecting the book with more personal flair and opinions, rather than name dropping breweries, bars and restaurants.
If you’re looking to kill some time in a book store before a movie or have a public library that owns a copy, the book is worth a quick flip through. There are much better books out on the market that provide much better information, even if they are not as current.