I don’t do lists normally, but working on a recent project (now hit by the ubiquitous credit crunch) that involved lists of beers I started to do films and then thought books and then thought beer books. It didn’t take me long and is just a bit of fun, but here are my top five favourite beer books (not to be taken seriously — these are books that currently call out to the beer-sodden wraith that haunts my soul). They’re not in any particular order either.
The Book of Beer — Andrew Campbell: published in the 1950s and a thorough celebration of beer, including a wonderful section that suggests how the beerman (and let’s face it this is a book for blokes) can get through the day with beer as companion. ie a glass of mild perhaps with breakfast to aid with digestion…
Radical Brewing — Randy Mosher: published several years ago; I’m not a home-brewer but this is a riveting and rollicking journey through the happy soul of home-brewing along with much information about beer, including many lost beers; exceptional useful for spotting faults; I took it down to the pub the other day to show the barman why the beer he was selling was phenolic.
New World Guide to Beer — Michael Jackson; my first ever beer book, bought as a Christmas present by a then girlfriend’s mother; this is the late 1980s edition and even now it still manages to enthuse and entertain in equal measure; however, there’s also a poignant element about it, a sense almost of a lost world when even Interbrew were not the behemoth they have become. I love the colour pic in the British Isles section of drinkers in Adnams’ Harbour Inn, Southwold, with a caption, part of which says (referring to the fact that the pub occasionally got cut off by high tide), ‘Students of these brews have sometimes been stranded for days’.
The Brewmaster’s Table — Garrett Oliver: makes me hungry and thirsty at the same time; he makes great beer, conducts wonderful tastings and writes like a dream, a true Renaissance Man; this is a gorgeous odyssey through some of the greatest beers in the world.
Travels With Barley — Ken Wells: an entertaining journey through the world of American beer culture that takes in yeast rustling, extreme beer, retro beers, craft beers, A_B and so on; a fantastic book.
As I say, this is just my opinion, there are other great books, Ambitious Brew, Three Sheets to the Wind, Brew Like A Monk, The English Pub (both MJ and Peter Haydon), The Ale Trail, Prince of Ales, The English Inn, An Inn-Keeper’s Diary, Tim Webb’s Belgian series, but this is just a bit of fun.