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Books, books and more books

Oxford Companion Guide to BeerBook publishers seem to have caught on to the fact that increasing sales of specialty beer reflect an overall growing interest in beer. There are plenty of new books for the season.

* The heavyweight — both in terms of its own weight (4 pounds) and the attention it has attracted — is the The Oxford Companion to Beer. Nine-hundred and sixty page, with more than 1,100 A-Z entries written by 166 contributors.

* Stone Brewing co-founder Greg Koch has his name on the front of two books. The Craft of Stone Brewing Co. is the one fans of the brewery will prefer, with plenty of company history, presented Stone style (another words with the “Unabashed Arrogance” the sub title promises). The full lineup of Stone beers gets equal attention, with both beer recipes and food recipes included. The Brewer’s Apprentice is more of an around-the-world adventure, with 18 international (that includes the U.S., of course) brewers sharing philosophies and brewing tips.

* Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest. Lisa Morrison (@Beer_Goddess) leads a tour through breweries and brew pubs in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. She suggests using the book as a compass, and in this case the compass comes with great maps and engaging commentary.

* The Book of Beer Knowledge. A little book with a lot of beer facts. Just the right size for a Christmas stocking.

* Let Me Tell You About Beer. Simon Johnson calls it “the best book about beer since Michael Jackson’s ‘Great Beer Guide.’ And then some.”

* What the Hell am I Drinking? Don Russell provides checklists for more than 1,500 brands and 50 essays on beer styles.

* Brewed Awakening. Previously reviewed here.

* Brewing Better Beer: Master Lessons for Advanced Homebrewers. Technical, practical and creative homebrewing advice from Gordon Strong, three-time winner of the National Homebrew Competition Ninkasi Award.

* The Great American Ale Trail. A guide to the best places to drink craft beer in America. Hundreds of entries, including top-ten lists for “Best Dive Bars for Craft Beer Lovers,” “Best Beer Festivals,” and “Best Beer Cities.”

Joe Sixpack’s shopping list

Joe Sixpack, otherwise known as Don Russell, has assembled quite the list, with suggestions from books to beer. Plus some unusual items.

“FOR THE WALL FLOWER: The Lagunitas Brewing Butterfly Bottle Opener. Guaranteed to turn the recipient into the life of the party. Either that or he’ll poke his eye out.”

Russell modestly waits until the end to mention his own new release for the holidays, “What the Hell am I Drinking?” It’s a major guide, with checklists for more than 1,500 brands. But it’s also fun. Russell provides 50 essays on beer styles, along the way probing the questions you really want answers to. Such as:

* The beers of Chaucer and Charlie Sheen.
* What Guinness tasted like 100 years ago.
* The real Champagne of beers.
* The medicinal value of Scotch Ale.
* How American beat the Brits in the IPA war.

‘Brewed Awakening’: We’re not talking coffee

Brewed AwakeningThe full title — Brewed Awakening: Behind the Beers and Brewers Leading the World’s Craft Brewing Revolution — is a mouthful, but properly describes the tour author Josh Bernstein takes readers on in this recent release.

As Bernstein explained in an interview at Zester education has been a cornerstone of craft beer growth, and that includes “learning by drinking.”

The challenge for the novice is not only figuring out where to begin, but where to go next. Bernstein provides easy directions, for instance, first explaining what hops contribute to beer and then introducing cutting-edge varieties. Bernstein considers where beer is going as much as where it has been, and no review is likely to complain the book is “so 2008.”

The topics covered — from gypsy brewers to session beers to old styles made new — are current enough for blog posts. And most often come with tasting notes.

A book for both beer and wine drinkers

What to Drink with What You EatThe 2006 Georges Duboeuf “Wine Book of the Year” also features a surprising amount of information about beer and food. What to Drink with What You Eat suggests what beers to drink with particular dishes, as well as offering menu choices to go with special beers.

Read a review of what happens when sommeliers meet beer, including a Q & A with James Beard Award-winning authors Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page.

Book review: The Naked Pint

This review originally appeared at

Alan McLeod totally nailed it with his review of The Naked Pint: An Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer, answering the two biggest questions I had while reading the book.

- First, why are there homebrew recipes in this book? Can’t even a book for beginners be a bit specialized or must every introduction to craft beer tell us a little bit about everything? Look, I’m not exactly complaining because (disclaimer alert) they recommend Brew Like a Monk and it’s a good thing when a book that is going to rank ahead of yours at says nice things about it.

I like the analogy that Alan draws to The Yachtsman’s Week-end Book, writing that Naked Pint “harkens to a day when a book could purport to be an omnibus filled with everything you practically need to know to get from novice to pretty well capable.”

- Second, were you to give this book as a present who would you give it to? Again, quoting Alan, “This is a book for beer nerds to give their friends. It will tell the nerds a lot about good beer but it will also tell them a lot about their beer nerd pal.”

Indeed. Any copy coming from me would come complete with Post-it notes correcting a variety of niggling errors. I can’t help myself. I’ve already whined about “candi sugar,” though because almost everybody seems to get that crooked I’m giving them a pass. However you wonder who was in charge of editing when you see the phrase “bottom-fermenting ales.” Or why on page 130 they get it right in explaining misconceptions about dubbels and tripels after getting it wrong on page 23.

So you probably aren’t going to use this book to study for the Cicerone exam. But it’s easy to like. Authors Hallie Beaune and Christina Perozzi write in a breezy and sometimes brassy manner. (“A 5% ABV beer can make you friendly; an 8% ABV beer can make you French kiss a tree.”)

They consistently explain things about beer that can seem overwhelming at the outset. Consider their approach to presenting styles. They always begin with an easy-to-read blurb. Like this:

Bitter, but Not Angry: Bitters

This beer’s for you if you like: being surly but not mean, long discussions about Shakespearean themes. Notes of toffee. Staying on your stool. Evenings at the pub.

Far more interesting than any style guidelines you’ve ever read.

Alan got it perfect, but before you give it to your friends ready for a bit of beer education read it over yourself. You might find yourself better prepared to talk with them.