Building Your Beer Bookshelf
A month after starting this series, there’s been a lot to books to read about beer. We’ve read about traveling with beer, traveling for beer, and seeing what beers to drink before dying. We’ve read about pairing beer with food, designing beer, and brewing your own beer five gallons at a time.
So, that covers making beer, finding beer, and drinking beer. What’s left?
Well, a lot! There are still TONS of books out there that dig into amazing niches in the beer world. Not every book about beer is good, of course – the excellence of the subject matter can only elevate a book so far. Still, there are at least a few more must-reads out there for the discerning beer lover.
I couldn’t come up with a unifying theme for this batch of books like I did for the last few columns. Instead, I’ve split the list into a few disparate groups. This really is a collection of odds and ends – books that didn’t fit in any of the other lists but still deserve a place on your bookshelf.
If you want to really get your beer geek on, Froth should be on the top of your stack. In Froth – The Science of Beer, author Mark Denny gets into the science of beer with more depth than any other beer guide. The book actually covers a lot of topics – basic homebrewing, beer history, brewing tech and techniques, among other things – but the main thrust is the science behind every part of beer. Froth gets gloriously nerdy, with physics, calculus, thermodynamics and tons of equations taking up page real estate. Despite all this big science, Denny manages to write in an accessable and even humorous manner. If you’re a fan of layman-friendly science books like A Short History of Nearly Everything or Physics of the Impossible, this is one book that should be right up your alley.
Cooking with Beer
In my mind, the gold standard among beer-centric cookbooks is Lucy Saunders’ Best of American Beer and Food. The book dives into beer and food in two distinct ways, exploring pairing beer and food as well as incorporating beer into recipes. Recipes cover every course, and most were definitely within the cooking abilities of an amateur cook like yours truly. From simple breads, salads and puddings to complicated, beautiful centerpieces (Bacon-Wrapped Bluefish with Brown Ale Hot Sauce! Shallot and Stout-Glazed Steak!), there are enough recipes in this book to keep a beer-loving cook entertaining for month without repeats.
Also worth a mention is Saunders’ Grilling with Beer, a jam-packed book of hopped-up recipes for the grill.
For a slightly more specific beer cookbook, I’d recommend the recently released Cooking with Alaskan Beer. When I was living in Alaska right after I turned 21, Alaskan Brewing was largely responsible for turning me on to craft beer. Obviously, I jumped on a book that gave a chance to be nostalgic about the beer in the 49th state.
The tiny spiral-bound cookbook collects over 100 recipes “perfected by the employees, family and friends of Alaskan Brewing,” which the author culled from hundreds of submissions. Recipes range from traditional Alaskan fare (Amber Poached Salmon) to the more eclectic (Stout Crème Brûlée). If you, like me, aren’t in the distribution area for Alaskan Brewing, you’ve got to make some creative substitutions to make the recipes work. Don’t let that deter you, because there are some great recipes to be found in Cooking with Alaskan Beer.
Finally, I’d like to squeeze in Garrett Oliver’s wonderful Brewmaster’s Table. Garrett, the famous brewmaster for the Brooklyn Brewery, writes eloquently about seeking out good beer and pairing it with good food. This isn’t a cookbook - The Brewmaster’s Table doesn’t contain any recipes – but is a look at how beer can elevate food and how food can elevate beer. RateBeerian Balzac was kind enough to point out that I missed this book when I wrote my list of must-have beer guides, and I’m glad to have a chance to rectify that mistake.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to yada yada yada. If you’re looking to get some serious knowledge about the history of beer, A History of the World in Six Glasses and Ambitious Brew offer two unique perspectives.
A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage charts the history of the human race through the invention and rise in prominence of six beverages; beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola. Beer is celebrated by brewers and drinkers as the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage, and Standage’s book therefore starts with the lovely suds. Even though beer only takes up the author’s attention for the first sixth of the book, he takes a longer look at beer’s history and place in society than the other books I’ve mentioned. It’s also worth noting that the rest of the book is worth reading – using alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to chart the history of the world is a fascinating way to look at the past.
Finally, we’ll shift the focus from brewing worldwide to craft beer here in the US. Maureen Ogle’s Ambitious Brew charts the history of American beer, “from the immigrants who invented it to the upstart microbrewers who revived it.” It’s hard for me to oversell the importance of this book if you’re interested in American beer history, as it’s simply essential reading. Ogle delivers on the promise of the book’s subtitle and delivers a comprehensive book on the story of the beers, craft and macro, of the good ol’ US of A.
26 of my favorite books about beer is certainly a good start to anyone’s beer bookshelf. Hopefully, this four-part series covers the breadth, if not the depth, of beer books kicking around in print. For some reason, I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of the great beer books out there.
Tell us, RateBeerians – what else is worth reading?
Leave a Reply