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Book report: ‘Beer is for Everyone’

Once you’ve condensed what might be an entire post to a blurb that fits on the back of a book it may not rehydrate easily, not even with a healthy dose of beer.

So this is what I wrote about Beer is for Everyone!:

“The value of a fresh pair of eyes — or in this case a fresh pair of glasses — is apparent on basically every page. The author, who doubles as protagonist, foregoes making beer formidable and instead invites a newcomer to be comfortable. To adapt a line from page 89, ‘This book was meant for fun.’ ” I wish that I had included Jay Brooks’ suggestion that “it won’t be until later that you realize how much you learned about beer.”

But I think what remains most important is that the book is just plain fun. Author/artist Em Sauter is plenty serious about beer, which is obvious when her character speaks objectively about beer and brewing. It is equally obvious when she speaks subjectively. For example, see pages 104 and 105, where she describes Firestone Walker Pivo. “The beer bombards the senses in an utterly wonderful way. Bready. Spicy. Floral. Woody.” (Appropriate artwork accompanies the words.)

She also offers pairing suggestions: “From sushi to swiss cheese.” No surprise there. But then comes this: “Or from karate to knitting.” Not the way I’d think about Pivo, and maybe something that doesn’t even make sense to me. That’s fine. A discussion about the need for different voices broke out a while back. Listen to one of those voices.

The rehydration of thought stops there, but for more about what is in the book, and additional pages, see what Jeff Alworth had to say.

Miracle Brew: Continuing beer education

Miracle Brew by Pete BrownBeer writer Pete Brown was conducting a tasting of IPAs when a woman in the audience raised her hand to ask a question.

“If these beers have got so many hops in, are they still suitable for celiacs?”

He replied that hops don’t contain any glutens.

“Ah, so they’re not barley hops then?”

He offers this story as a footnote in his latest book, Miracle Brew, writing that “ironically, she could only misunderstand beer so dramatically because, compared to most people she was better informed and more engaged.”

Brown is currently visiting the American northeast in support of Miracle Brew and he’ll likely get similar questions. Plenty of beer consumers are playing catch up, keen on learning the basics but also something that goes beyond. Consider a recent story from NPR about “how sour beer is driving a microbial gold rush.” That’s a conversation several steps removed from barstool discussions about if bock is really just beer left over from the bottom of the barrel (a myth, but it lives on).
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Pay no attention to the man with the big moustache

Jim Boyd, Roy FarmsI apologize, because what follows is strictly American hop industry inside stuff. But I’ve reached the hops section of Miracle Brew: Hops, Barley, Water, Yeast, and the Nature of Beer, which has left me a bit giddy.

In the introduction, Pete Brown writes, “I’ve made it very easy for you to dip in and read first about the ingredient that interests you the most, which is probably hops, but I wouldn’t recommend that.” So I started with barley, read about water, and now I’m surrounded by hops. And page 245 a bigger-than-life character is introduced. Pete never gets around to using his name, but industry types will recognize who it is immediately. And the whole exchange makes me laugh.

Excerpt from

If nobody adds the name in the comments I will in the next day or two.

While you are here, a reminder you might want to sign up for Hop Queries, a newsletter that should appear in your email box once a month. It will contain more useful information than the identity of Giant Moustache.

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Two essential beer books remain essential

How to Brew - old and new

“Brewing technology does not stand still.” – John Palmer, 2017.

Amen.

Author John Palmer prefaces the fourth edition of How To Brew with an explanation of not only how it is different than the version published 11 years ago, but why. He wrote the first edition, which appeared online in 2000, for people brewing beer in order to enjoy styles that otherwise were not available. In contrast, “Today’s homebrewer is brewing for the pure pleasure of creating a beer, rather than to fill a void in availability. Therefore, my focus in this latest edition is to help you understand how to brew the best beer.”

How to Brew is one of two thoroughly revised essential beer books published this spring. The mission of the other, Tasting Beer remains the same. “In a concise and visual way, this book aims to introduce you to the wide world of beer and to give you the tools to understand and, more importantly, enjoy it,” author Randy Mosher writes on the second page of each edition. He also provides more tools, and more visuals. The beer aroma spiral on the right is an example. If you’ve ever spent time with the Beer Flavor Wheel you know it is complicated and focuses as much on faults as words that help you identify the aromas and flavors you like. I prefer concise and visual.

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A journalist, an entrepreneur and a sociologist walk into a bar

Untapped: Exploring the Cultural Dimensions of Craft BeerPete Slosberg devotes a chapter in Beer for Pete’s Sake to his brewery’s battles with Anheuser-Busch. He tells a series of amusing stories, including one pitting his dog, Millie, against Budweiser’s Spuds MacKenzie, and in each of them Pete’s Brewing Company was David. Anheuser-Busch was Goliath.

In the early 1990s Pete’s was the second largest of a new wave of breweries that had outgrown the micro tag and now were described as craft. Its sales peaked at 425,000 barrels in 1996, but it was still the second largest craft brewery in 1998 when the Gambrinus Company bought it. Slosberg remained for two years and it would be another dozen before the brand eventually died. On the jacket of the book, published in 1998, he is described as “a brewing maverick, a brilliant entrepreneur, and iconoclast, and a marketing icon.” As important, he took “a path that led him from (my emphasis) a corporate career to doing what he loves.”

This was, and in many cases still is, a familiar story. Hate your job? Become a brewer. This is an example of why J. Nikol Beckham writes in a new collection of essays that “the microbrew revolution’s success can be understood in part as the result of a mystique cultivated around a group of men who were ambitious and resourceful enough to ‘get paid to play’ and to capitalize upon the productive consumption of fans/customers who enthusiastically invested in this vision.” The title of this fourth chapter in Untapped: Exploring the Cultural Dimension fo Craft Beer is a mouthful: “Entrepreneurial Leisure and the Microbrew Revolution: The Neoliberal Origins of the Craft Beer Movement.” Not surprisingly, there’s a considerable amount to define and discover en route to Beckham’s conclusion.

It is worth the time to get there, because it broadens our understanding of the culture and business of beer— where its been, where it is, where its going. In Untapped’s foreword, Ian Malcom Tyson writes, “As sociologists examine these trends, they bring insights that journalistic interpretations often gloss over. They provide nuanced answers to far-ranging questions of how seemingly commonplace products such as beer can have such a fascinating esoteric heritage.” As a journalist I am sure how I feel about that, but I appreciate reading what somebody else sees when they tilt the glass sideways.

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