In the post the postman brings a copy of The World Atlas of Beer by Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb, their attempt to cover what’s happening in the world of craft beer (I would have added ‘at the moment’, but things are moving so fast that the book can only provide a snapshot of a moment in time, something that Webb acknowledged when he wrote about the book in the British Guild of Beer Writers newsletter last month here).
It’s a gorgeous production, luxuriant and lush with photos of fields of barley caught in the sway, men and women on the mash and bronzed, Adonis-like streams of beer flowing with a Gambrinus-like sense of freedom. Webb and Beaumont are for my money two of the best beer-writers on the planet — forensic in their attention to detail, wry stylists and both imbued with years of traipsing round breweries, talking to people and drinking the beer. If Michael Jackson rediscovered Belgium’s great brewing heritage, then Tim in the manner of a Pointillist painter filled in all the dots; Stephen’s elegant brushstrokes of colour on beer, gastronomy and travel sometimes reminds me of Van Dyke or Reubens.
As the book’s title suggests, it covers the world, shining a spotlight on 35 countries and their beers. As with most books of this nature there are sections at the front about the raw materials and brewing modes, a couple of spreads about craft beer plus one spread about ‘High Volume Brewing and Convenience Beers’, which has long been missing in beer books (when I edited 1001 Beers I included several beers of this ilk because I felt they needed to be there, they couldn’t ignored).
|Here’s Tim Webb second from left at the
British Guild of Beer Writers awards in 2005 with
Michael Jackson, John Keeling (far right) and
Alastair Gilmour (left)
A page is also given to styles and it’s clear that the authors are not fetishistic about this subject. This para is a good summation of their beliefs: ‘Unfortunately this (beer styles) approach has evolved into a morass of confusion and obfuscation, with it seeming at times as if every new beer is awarded its own unique style descriptor’.
It’s a delicious book, over which I have been drooling over and delving into for several days. If I have only one criticism it’s this: modern publishing likes photos, usually at the expense of text, it’s about connecting with a modern audience we’re told. Given the two writers’ expertise and pleasing manner of expressing themselves I could have done with more of their words.