Archive | Books

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.

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‘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.

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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 AppellatonBeer.com.

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 Amazon.com 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.

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Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

This review originally appeared at Appellation Beer.

Last CallDuring a recent episode of the television series “Mad Men” newcomer Faye Miller told the iconic Don Draper, “I don’t know how people drink the way you do around here. I’d fall asleep.”

Miller serves as a proxy for those in the twenty-first century who are astonished at the amount of alcohol consumed during working hours on Madison Avenue in the 1960s. But why would we be? After all, as Daniel Okrent explains in Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition president James Madison drank an entire pint of whiskey daily. America and booze have always been on a first name basis, even during Prohibition.

Prohibition books come along quite regularly, but Okrent combines the sense of a historian with a great eye for detail and and ability to to entertain. For instance, one story about a sequence of events in the remote upper Michigan mining town of Iron River ultimately makes it clear why many hard working, middle class Americans would never obey the laws of Prohibition. It’s a little long to recount in detail here, so one paragraph from page 123:

Mostly, though, the press contingent got indoor pictures of Dalrymple staring down the thrity-four-year-old Mcdonough in the lobby of the Iron Inn or exterior shots of him out in the frigid February weather, sledgehammer in hand, smashing open the barrels of wine his men had managed to intercept. As vivid gouts of Dago Red saturated a nhearby snowbank, turning it a deep, grapy purple, a camerman from Pathé News gave a local man called “Necktie” Sensiba fifty cents to drop to his knees and eat the snow. The high school kids who joined him didn’t have to be paid.

His is a tale of politics — every beginning political science class should study how a collection of minorities managed to get a congressional amendment (nothing as simple as a law) passed that a clear majority clearly opposed — and thus politicians and other bigger than life characters. Grade schoolers today may not learn about Anti-Saloon League honcho Wayne B. Wheeler but Philip Seymour Hoffman would be mighty fine playing the part in a movie.

(The cover of the book says, “To be featured in a forthcoming Ken Burns documentary on PBS,” and that Okrent uses these characters to advance the plot surely appeals to Burns.)

Last Call is all encompassing — though it’s greatest strength is the chapters describing what happened during Prohibition itself — with plenty of before, during and after.

This seems almost like an aside, but although there’s plenty of beer inside it’s not really a beer book. Yet it fits quite neatly on the shelf next to Maureen Ogle’s Ambitious Brew. Okrent doesn’t detail how beer changed because of Prohibition, since, as Ogle explained, it didn’t. The road toward consolidation and a beer monoculture (dramatically reversed in the 1970s and ’80s) was paved before Prohibition.

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