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Book review: Tasting Beer

Tasting BeerAt the end of the Preface to “Tasting Beer,” right before you head to Page One, there’s a picture of a glass of beer with a command: “Don’t even consider starting this book without a beer in hand.”

Since you have the book in the other hand you probably aren’t going to ask yourself if, since you are already drinking a beer you like, you really need this book. So I will. Do you think more knowledge about beer will make that beer taste better? If you answered yes then you should own this book.

(Before going on, a bit of a disclaimer. Author Randy Mosher and I are friends, and he asked me to to the “technical edit” of the book. Yes, that sounds as laughable to me as it must to you; like Malcom Gladwell calling me up to ask for story ideas. I don’t get any royalties from the book, so there is no incentive for me to give it a review that boost sales. Because I don’t know of another beer book to be published in 2009 that should be of as much interest to you I’m going to write about it.)

I thought about “Tasting Beer,” but wasn’t ready to write this review, when I posted “The tyranny of the tasting note” last month. Quite honestly, there’s more here than many of you are going to want. Perhaps you don’t feel the need to be able to turn to your dining companion and whisper, “I believe I’m getting a touch of autolysed yeast.” More than you might want now, that is, since once you head down the road of beer knowledge stopping ain’t easy. Because everything in this book is presented in easy to bite off chunks you can grab what you want now and come back later for more.

Mosher makes it deceptively easy. Consider this: “Every sensation found in a glass of beer has its origins in the decisions of the brewer and malstster made druing its manufacture. For instance, the tangy, green perfume of hops? That’s the result of the careful choice and deployment of prized aroma hops in the brewhouse or perhaps the fermenter. The light nuttiness and hints of raisiny fruit? That lightly kilned pale ale malt and a dab of crystal. And all of this is shaped by the mysterious workings of a particular strain of yeast under certain conditions.”

Whether that looks terribly simple to you or densely confusing it will all be clearer 27 pages later in a chapter called “Brewing and the Vocabulary of Beer Flavor.” You’ll be ready for “The Qualities of Beer” and looking forward to it.

I hate quoting book covers, but I’m going to point out that the subtitle for the book is, “An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink.” That’s certainly true, but you exit knowing you don’t have to be an insider to enjoy the beers Mosher writes about. Further, the back cover claims “Tasting Beer” is “The Portable Beer Expert.” Indeed.

Still with me? Then you’ve reached the part of the review where the reviewer offers a profound thought. I’ll pass and give the author the final word:

“Beer is only as good as the people who seek it out, support it, keep it honest, and, most important of all, enjoy the genuine pleasures of it.”

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Order from BeerBooks.com (and support a business that cares as much about beer as you do).

Order from Amazon.com.

Or drive to the bookstore and buy it right now.

8 Responses to Book review: Tasting Beer

  1. Damien March 19, 2009 at 11:35 pm #

    Thanks for the post Stan. I stopped in at the local bookstore on a whim on Wednesday and, as is my habit, took a peek at the food and drink section. I’d not heard mention of Tasting Beer until then, but when I saw it and flicked through it I knew I wouldn’t be leaving the store without a copy. This weekend should be the start of some fun reading :)

  2. SteveH March 20, 2009 at 5:19 am #

    I knew this book was on its way and wondered what direction in “tasting” beer it might take. Thanks for the review Stan, I imagine TB will find a spot in my library.

  3. beerinator March 20, 2009 at 5:32 am #

    I got my copy a few weeks ago and have really enjoyed reading it so far!

  4. helena March 20, 2009 at 11:50 am #

    Stan, is it not a book for a beginner? I love Mosher and read his Radical Brewing cover to cover but i wonder how much new one who drinks and brews beer for several years would learn from the book. It’s an honest question and i hope you will give me the reason to get the book, seriously.

    thanks much helena

  5. Stan Hieronymus March 20, 2009 at 2:38 pm #

    Helena,

    How can you not buy a book that sets the record straight on the tongue tasting map?

    Seriously, when we get home and I return books to the shelves in my office this one will be on the “go to first” shelf.

  6. helena March 20, 2009 at 4:00 pm #

    thanks Stan,

    as i said i just needed some good reason – you gave it to me. The book is on its way from Amazon!

  7. Rich June 30, 2011 at 3:34 am #

    I’ve been working on developing my taste to pursue judging. This book has been extremely instructive and encouraging.

  8. Josh Short January 24, 2013 at 8:26 pm #

    Great post, Stan. I currently reading the book (on chapter two) and am learning so much. I’m a beginner and feel that it’s a definite read.

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