It’s October, the unofficial month for beer, and I thought you know what will be cool to learn? How to make my own beer! And there’s arguably no better book to learn about this (and anything else about beer, for that matter) than one that is bold enough to claim to be its bible, with a whopping 657 pages of everything you need to know about beers, ales, wheat beers, lagers, tart and wild ales.
And when I said everything, I mean everything. The bible tells us all, from different brewing methods, different styles, and regions that create different taste. It list all the ingredients for making different types of taste, and for how long and at what temperature we should brew them, and which glassware or aluminum can to use to store them, and so on. It covers key activities such as lautering, boiling, chilling, fermentation, filtering and packaging. And it teaches us ways to taste beer like an expert brewer, which includes the intriguing explanation of retronasal smell and the difference between flavour and taste.
The book even trace back the history of beer to as far as 10,000 years ago. It’s really fascinating how many civilizations that presumably had no contact with each others can each separately develop techniques to create what later becomes beer. From Mesopotamia to Mayan to Egypt to China to Scotland and Scandinavia, where at one point after the birth of Jesus Christ and the rise of Christianity, monasteries once became centers of brewing activities.
Charmingly, the book also provides the explanation to many drinking games and how to say cheers in many different languages. It lists all the beer festivals happening around the world. And if we want to go for a “beer tourism”, aka visiting breweries, the book provides the proper route, explanations, and links to the recommended places.
Of course the book would not be complete if it doesn’t provide the names and labels that the author, Jeff Alworth, think as the best of the best beers. And the long list is mighty specific, spread across many different location in the world, covering many local breweries (none of those mass-produced brand names), which includes their ingredients, methods of brewing (what the hell is a stream beer?), and their backstories (such as why Indian beers ended up using more hops). And to be fair Alworth also tells the fascinating stories of the biggest brand names in the world and how they got so big and why they each taste the way they uniquely taste.
And just in case you somehow skip the early pages and only start reading from the middle, note that “Michael Jackson” is a respectful and legendary writer in the industry, and no you’re not drunk for thinking that THAT Michael Jackson is secretly a beer expert (it’s not he-he-em).