Six Must-Reads for a Great Year of Beer

By Kristi Switzer

As a craft beer enthusiast, I am always on the lookout for diverse and exciting beer selections locally and when I travel. Professionally, I spend a lot of time reading about the technical aspects of beer ingredients, process and science. This year, I’m focusing on some personal reading for pleasure in the world of beer. I asked friends, authors, and industry insiders for recommendations for my 2011 list as I continue seeking to expand my beer knowledge. If you are discovering and enjoying craft beer, these books will expand your beer horizons as they inform, educate and entertain.

Great American Craft BeerGreat American Craft Beer: A Guide to the Nation’s Finest Beers and Breweries by Andy Crouch
Oregon-based writer and soon-to-be book author, Lisa Morrison, enjoyed this book. It is part personal guide to the world of craft beer sandwiched together with travel, food, and some of the great stories of the craft beer revolution. “I am finding that I am using it more now than I ever did when I first got it,” says Morrison. “I think that’s the mark of a good book!”

Amber Gold and BlackAmber, Gold & Black: The History of Britain’s Great Beers by Martyn Cornell
UC Davis professor Charlie Bamforth has authored numerous books about beer and brewing science, including Standards of Brewing, and Beer is Proof that God Loves Us. He convinced me to add Amber, Gold & Black to my list. “I greatly enjoyed this book,” Bamforth wrote. “It was well-researched, lucidly written, and mouth-wateringly descriptive about the enormous range of beers that have emerged from the British Isles.”

Last CallLast Call: The Rise & Fall of Prohibitionby Daniel Okrent
Stan Hieronymus, author of the new Brewing with Wheat and bestseller Brew Like a Monk, surmises that Last Call is the best beer book of the year. “Prohibition books come along quite regularly, but Okrent combines the sense of a historian with a great eye for detail and an ability to entertain. Every beginning political science class should study this book to understand how a collection of minorities managed to get a congressional amendment passed that a majority clearly opposed.” Author of the upcoming Indiana Breweries, John Holl, agreed. “I found it to be well researched, thought provoking and one of the clearest pictures of one of the country’s darkest times.” Sure to be a great read about a colorful part of America’s history.

Tasting beerTasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink by Randy Mosher
This book is at the top of my list to re-read this year and I am sure I’m not alone. Mosher, author of Radical Brewing, is an inspiration for appreciating the complexities, culture and creativity of beer. The fact that it touches on pairing beer and food is a bonus. Each time I read it, I pick up something new and find myself enjoying craft beer with an improved awareness and appreciation of the creativity and complexity of what is in my glass. John Holl stated, “When all is said and done, his book will be one that I believe will stand the test of time and be used by future generations.” If you enjoy beer, you’ll appreciate it even more with this guide.

Beer TrialsBeer Trials: The essential guide to the most popular beers by Seamus Campbell and Robin Goldstien
A prime example of the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, this book has been cited by several authors as “thought provoking” even if the cover seems a little bland. Containing 250 reviews of craft and macro beers, the “brown bag” blind tasting strategy provides an insightful look into actual taste perception of beer, minus the marketing and packaging meant to influence our purchases. This should be a good read for a no-nonsense review of what is in the bottle. Compare the reviews with your own notes to see if you agree.

Uncorking the pastUncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages by Patrick E. McGovern
I find archeology, paleontology and anthropology fascinating stuff, but could I scarcely imagine reading a book on the subject during what little leisure time I have. Enter “Dr. Pat”. This has been on my list for over a year, so no excuses this year. McGovern has worked with Dogfish Head Brewery to recreate several historically inspired brews from his research, including the infamous Midas Touch. I can’t imagine a better way to delve into civilization and cultural development than by following the development of alcoholic beverages throughout the centuries.

These are just a few of the many books available to craft beer fans who wish to arm themselves with more information or discover new beers and ways to appreciate them. Educating ourselves on where we’ve been and where we are presently leaves me with a thirst to ponder where we are going in the future…over a pint of course. So curl up with a good book and a favorite beer and tell me what beer books are on your list this year.

Kristi Switzer

Kristi Switzer has spent over 15 years in the craft beer community starting her career at the Alaskan Brewing Company as director of marketing communications. Most recently as Publisher for the Brewers Association’s Brewers Publications, she shepherded both Brewing with Wheat by Stan Hieronymus and Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation by Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff into print last year. Switzer is also a certified beer judge as well as a fan of cooking with beer and pairing craft beer and food.