Hi. My name is Lauren Lerch, and I am an addict. It started with just a few books. First it was Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher. Then it was How to Brew by John Palmer. And well, now I’ve got books I don’t even remember buying.
I sometimes dote on one or two. Like a selfless, neglected lover, they forgivingly open up and give me what I want – all their beer soaked secrets: mash temperatures, nearly forgotten beer styles, the latest hop strains. I sop it all up, page after highlighter tagged page, until it happens. Mistress Life walks by and I’m whisked away like a childless balloon in the wind. The next book to find me is rarely the same as before, and so the cycle persists.
I am addicted to buying beer books. And the worst part? I don’t always read them. The Japanese call this “tsundoku”. It is the act of letting books pile up unread on shelves. This is a part of myself I hate, and I’m sharing it with you in hopes I might change – stop buying books faster than I can read them. The only real option here is to read faster, because not buying a good beer book at the thrift store for $2 is a damn sin.
In an effort to encourage myself to finish some of the books I’ve started to read, I have decided to tell you about them here. From one beer-minded bookworm to another, these are some tasty reads you’d be happy to bite into… even if it’s just a nibble.
My latest love in literature is The Beer Bible. I was first tipped off to its existence while listening to the Beervana Podcast hosted by Jeff Alworth, author of The Beer Bible, and Patrick Emerson, professor of economics at Oregon State University. I greatly enjoy their podcast content and presentation, and figured this might extend to The Beer Bible. Boy, was I right!
While it might seem intimidating to beer neophytes with its 644 thin, Bible-like pages and small type font, it truly has something to offer for experts and dabblers alike. The book starts off with history from ancient to modern times, carefully noting and explaining the historical factors that shaped the beer in our glass today. It continues with the brewing process, ingredients, and evaluation before getting to a thorough lowdown on over 100 styles. Supplemented by detailed pictures and “did you know?” style side paragraphs, the contents are easy to digest, even more so with a beer in hand.
The only time I’ll be putting this one down is to go get another beer.
Ok, so I don’t technically own this book. I’m borrowing it from the library, and I’ve already renewed it once. Honestly, this book scares the living shit out of me. Of all things beer, it’s the chemistry and micro-happenings that I know the least about. This is the very reason why I
bought borrowed this book.
Many homebrew books only scratch the surface of what’s happening in the mash tun, kettle, and fermentor. If you ever wanted to go deeper, literally down to the atoms of brewing chemistry, this book is for you. And if it’s the basic stuff you’re looking for, that’s in here, too. Don’t know anything about chemistry? This book has it covered. It reads like a college textbook and can be a bit dry, but I doubt you’ll have many questions about beer on a molecular level if you can understand everything that’s going on between the front and back cover. I’ll let you know when I get there… in 10 years.
History buffs, look no further for your next read. The current state of craft beer is a beautiful, revolutionary thing. But how did we, a country that for decades was under the tyranny of nearly flavorless beer, go from a handful of beer options to the limitless supply we have today? The answers are told within, one momentous story at a time.
This book fleshes out the early beginnings of industry giants like Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing and Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada Brewing, among many others. It paints a picture of who these people are/were, why they did what they did, who it inspired, and how all of these events and decisions brought us to where we are as a craft beer community in the present. With enticing chapter titles like “Because Wine Making Takes Too Long”, “Unhappy Meals”, and “Five Hundred Miles In A Rented Honda”, you’ll make it through this book before history has a chance to write another chapter.
I didn’t know what I was buying when I put Cellarmanship in my virtual shopping cart. I saw it was on the list of suggested reading for Advanced Cicerone study, so I clicked my mouse a few times and it eventually made its way to my front doorstep. This book is supported by CAMRA, Campaign For Real Ale, an organization created to preserve the traditional British style of serving ale from a cask. This is not a guide to cellaring beer in a modern production brewery. This is a guide to all things “real ale”, from creation to care to service.
The beer discussed in this book is naturally carbonated and matured within the cask it is dispensed from, just like they did in the old days. Americans may know this service style by the term “firkin”, which is often served as a once-per-week specialty in craft beer bars. Cellarmanship is written from the perspective of an English person, so if you’re an American, keep in mind an English barrel (36 gallons) is not the same as an American barrel (31 gallons). This is one of several potentially confusing situations you might come across. Quirks aside, you won’t find a better book from which to learn all about the English beer tradition.
I am somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of the way through each of these books, with the exception of The Chemistry of Beer, which I have only fearfully thumbed through. Go out and read these. Buy them, borrow them, steal them from people who leave them sitting neglected on a bookshelf (just kidding about the last one). Then read them aaaaaaaall the way through.
By that time, I promise, I’ll have a brand new list of hardly read books ready to collect dust.
This is the life of a beer book addict.