This whole review project has been embarrassing to me, unfair to the publishers and authors who provided me with review copies and surely annoying to you regular attendees here who have a right to expect me to follow up on promises. Nothing I can about it now but feel bad, I guess. So here we go, in one massive post (with another to follow, see the very last paragraph of this at least should you not care to read the whole thing):
The American Craft Beer Cookbook, John Holl, Forward by Garrett Oliver, Storey Publishing, Full Color Trade PB, 244 pages, 2013, $19.95.
This is a beautiful package, well written and well illustrated and into its third printing at this point. Holl, who made his bones in real journalism before bringing his talents to the beer writing game, has gathered 155 recipes from brewpubs, breweries and beer-focused restaurants around the country into this beautifully designed book. For anyone who enjoys beer and especially cooking with good beer, adding it to the kitchen book shelf should be a no brainer, and it would certainly make a perfect gift for any friends who share that passion as well (especially if you can work out regular invites to dinner). If you’re into local chauvinism, and who isn’t these days, that there are nine recipes using beers from Philadelphia regional breweries: Barley Creek Brewing, Earth Bread + Brewery, both Fegley Brew Works, Sly Fox Brewing, Susquehanna Brewing, Tröegs Brewing, Victory Brewing and Weyerbacher Brewing. There are several quite good beer cookbooks out there; this one lifts the overall standards of the genre to a new level.
The Pocket Beer Guide, Stephen Beaumont & Tim Webb, Sterling Epicure, Full Color Standard PB, 320 pages, 2013, $15.95.
The subtitle for this modern day version of Michael Jackson’s ground-breaking Pocket Guide to Beer (1982,with several editions since) is “The Essential Handbook to the Very Best Beers in the World.” Works for me. More than 3000 beers are evaluated with the help of an international group of contributors (Jay Brooks, Stan Hieronymus, Lisa Morrison and the aforementioned John Holl in the U.S.) The entries are organized by country and there are tips throughout of various good beer venues in each country. The Pocket Guide was first published in Great Britain (if you’re not aware, Webb is a highly regarded beer writer who lives there and covers on international brewing, with a particular focus on Belgium. I presume you are all familiar with Mr. Beaumont, who resides in Toronto). In this high-tech, social media world where even mature men are driven to record their latest pint online lest someone, somewhere be unaware, this volume might seem almost quaint, but for those who still prefer informed and comprehensive guidance–insight and personality as well as basic information and perhaps a bit more than 140 characters–it should be just the ticket.
The World Atlas of Beer, Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont, Sterling Epicure, Full Color Coffee Table HC, 256 pages, 2012, $30.00
Because these reviews were supposed to be posted pre-Christmas and serve as a gift guide of sorts, I wanted to include this big, fully-illustrated (including maps) and quite lovely volume from last year. It still seems appropriate to do so at this point. This is a comprehensive and solid overview of the world beer scene (which changes so fast these days that I should probably qualify that with “at the time”) and is a great gift item, or equally appealing treat-yourself item. For that matter, the price alone makes it an almost requisite purchase.
The Complete Beer Course, Joshua Bernstein, Sterling Epicure, Full Color HC, 320 pages, $24.95
The subtitle on this one is “Boot Camp for Beer Geeks: From Novice to Expert in Twelve Tasting Classes,” and while that certainly sums up what the format and intent of Bernstein’s work, I think it actually gives short shrift to what the package offers. The 12 Classes (read Chapters), the first of them a broad overview of brewing and the next ten each devoted to a particular style or category of beer and the final one focused on cellaring beer and pairing it with food, do offer up a plethora of information for anyone just beginning to explore the world of good beer. Whether or not such readers can consider themselves “expert” is surely a question to be asked. There are also brief (three pages) features about various breweries around the country (Victory Brewing is one such) throughout and brief notes Beyond its value as an introduction to beer, The Complete Beer Course should appeal to veteran beer lovers as an engaging and informative read. That’s where the “short shrift” comment comes from and I’ve been pleased to discover in recent days that a few other reviewers have made the same point, albeit in different fashions. Personally, I’ve put it within easy reach on my reference shelf.
The Audacity of Hops: the History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution, Tom Acitelli, Chicago Review Press, Trade PB, 2013, $19.95
This was actually the most interesting of all these new books to me, a volume that has long needed to be written. I learned many, many things I didn’t know in its pages, as well as finding back-stories which strengthened things I thought I knew and tales which fill in all sorts of details to make the picture clearer. I can’t wait to compare it with Steve Hindy’s The Craft Beer Revolution: How a Band of Microbrewers Transformed the World’s Favorite Beverage, which is due out this April and which I’ve been thinking about regularly since Steve promised me a review copy as soon as they are available.
I have a problem with the how Acitelli treats Philadelphia, indeed Pennsylvania itself, in his recounting of the early days of craft brewing, especially since a story I wrote a few years back is cited as one of his sources in the footnotes (thankfully, that input is used to somewhat rectify what I consider to have been a very strange editorial decision).
Rather than deal with that here, I’ll do another post this coming week (promise, he said, and cringed as the audience began tossing things onstage, not nice things at all).