I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.” – Abraham Lincoln
Anyone that follows me on Twitter, reads my blog, or knows me in “real life” knows my love of books, beer, and their occasional intersection. In that spirit, I’ve created a list of a few of my favorite books that discuss one of my favorite subjects. All title links direct to goodreads.com, where you can read what others thought and click on to purchase the books from indie or non-indie bookstores. So grab a pint, grab a chair (or barstool), and start reading!
The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charles Papazian
While there are many other brewing books that claim to be the best introduction to the hobby, don’t be fooled – you can’t do any better than Charlie’s book. Of all the guides I’ve read, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing is the best in ever category that matters. You simply will not find a guide to brewing your own beer that is better written, more informative, more entertaining, easier to follow, or more packed with recipes. Thankfully, the guide assumes no prior experience with brewing and takes you from the science, art and history of the craft, through your first batch of beer, all the way to scores of intermediate and advanced techniques and recipes. Throughout, Papazian has an uncanny knack for anticipating and answering the questions that the reader (this reader, at least) comes up with. If you’ve ever even had a whiff of interest in brewing your own suds, you owe it to yourself to pick up this book. If the habit sticks, this is a book you’ll be happy to have on your shelf for years and years.
He Said Beer, She Said Wine by Sam Calagione and Marnie Old
Pairing food and wine has been a popular topic of books and among chefs and sommeliers for years. As craft beer increases in popularity, however, pairing beer and food has become more and more popular; indeed, many are claiming that beer is the new wine. While I wouldn’t make that argument (for a number of reasons), I do agree that beer deserves a place at the table next to wine. Sam Calagione eloquently makes this argument in He Said Beer, She Said Wine, while Marnie makes an equally strong argument for pairing wine with foods traditionally coupled with beer – burgers, pizza and the like. The book is beautifully produced in full color, and has examples of specific brews and wines to pair with almost any food you can think of, along with guidelines for style and flavor if that particular libation isn’t available in your area. Part cookbook, part drink guide, and part history lesson, He Said Beer, She Said Wine is an awesome book to have in your kitchen, and fun to leaf through when trying to come up with a meal to pair with a drink (or vice-versa).
The Beer Book, edited by Tim Hampson
The Beer Book is nothing less than an encyclopedia to some of the best beer in the world. While I’m not sure I agree that the book details “every good beer in the world” as the back cover claims, the volume does have a hefty 800+ breweries and details more than 1,700 different brews. The US isn’t the only nation covered (although it does get the most pages), with hefty sections for Germany, the UK, Belgium, the Czech Republic and the “Rest of the World.” In each section, each brewery is briefly summarized, along with reviews of some of their better beers and an occasional “brewing secret” shared. Some giants in the industry, like Guinness and the growing Brooklyn Brewery, are profiled in more depth. Maine is well-represented, with beers from Geary’s, Gritty’s, Allagash and Shipyard kindly reviewed. Mixed among the (thankfully alphabetically ordered) profiles are notes on brewing, beer/food pairings, beer history and other fun subjects. Tim Hampson and DK have put together the best beer “reference” book I’ve seen, and this tome has more than enough information to warrant a place on the shelf of any beer-lover.
The Good Beer Guide to New England by Andy Crouch
While the other books on this list can be read in the comfort of your home, The Good Beer Guide to New England practically demands that you go out and tour the breweries of the Northeast. In fact, Crouch’s book was one of the inspirations for a beer tour of Vermont I went on last fall. While The Beer Book mentions some of the breweries in my region of the US, this book discusses every brewery and brewpub in detail, along with discussion of the location’s history and interviews with founders and brewmasters. Crouch is obviously an enthusiastic beer-lover, and this combines with his experience as a journalist for an entertaining and well-written read. Although he can be a bit generous with his reviews of beers and breweries (he didn’t go so far as to even call a beer mediocre in the book), this book is an indispensable resource for beer-lovers in New England, or for those planning a trip to the region at some point. With the industry growing at the rate it is, I hope that Crouch can continue to update this book with further editions.
Brewing Up a Business by Sam Calagione
Sam Calagione is well-known as the founder and president of one of the country’s most successful craft breweries, Dogfish Head. Luckily for us as readers, Sam spent his college years earning a degree in English rather than business. This ensures that Brewing Up a Business is not only a well-written story, but that the biography is not that of a typical company founder. Calagione covers his life in brewing, from his years homebrewing to his founding of a successful large-scale brewpub and brewery. Although the book leans towards memoir, it doubles as a solid business guide for entrepreneurs. Although a bit light on the lingo of other business books, Sam offers examples from the early days of Dogfish Head as a guide in areas from employee relations to marketing. While this is a must-read for anyone that has aspirations to take their brewing hobby into the public, it is still worth reading for anyone interested in brewing or entrepreneurship. Anyway, who wouldn’t want to read about someone so passionate about their company they deliver beer out of the back of a U-Haul and attach labels to bottles with rubber bands?