Ratchet’s Reviews: Beer Books Edition.

Hey there readers, today’s post is about beer and books. Specifically books about or related to beer or brewing. Most of the books I’m going to tell you about, I have acquired within the last 6 months. I have found that beer books are like most beers, they have a shelf life. Sure some of these books will age well for decades, but some will be outdated in just a few short years. This is why when I am shopping for beer related books, I always check the year they were published. If you buy a ten year old guide book to the “world’s best beers”, chances are a few of the beers and breweries featured are no longer in existence. Same thing with books on brewing. The basics of brewing haven’t changed for centuries. However, there is near constant evolution of equipment, ideas, styles, and ingredients. These older books might not have reference to newer hop varieties such as Citra, Simcoe, or newer “styles” such as Dark IPAs. I’m not saying that you should ignore all older books on the subject. For example, Charlie Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewing is every bit as relevant as it was when it was first published in 1984.

That being said, here are some of the books I have and my thoughts on them.

The Craft of Stone Brewing Co. by Greg Koch, Steve Wagner and Randy Clemens. Published September of 2011.

Ratchet Rating: 5 (out of 5) Pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: Arrogant Bastard.

I picked this up in Asheville during my Christmas Beercation. I ended up with a signed copy that I purchased at The Thirsty Monk. This is a really slick book. Nice glossy full color pictures and well written. This book is a combination of things. First it’s a complete history of Stone Brewing Company. From the early days of homebrewing to one of the most respected craft beer producers and everything in between. If you’ve ever wondered how Greg comes up with the rants on the sides of the 22 ounce bottles, this book has that. Each beer that has ever been brewed by Stone has a description beyond just the style and ingredients. They go into the thought process and history of such famous beers such as Arrogant Bastard, Stone Smoked Porter and their Vertical Epic series. The book is written in a relaxed and no holds barred conversational tone. It’s just like sitting around talking to your friends over a few Stone IPAs. The book also features clone recipes to brew your own imitations of their well loved beer. It also has a section  on beer and food pairings by “Dr.” Bill Sysak aka Master Pairings. This is in addition to incredible food recipes from Stone’s own World Bistro and Gardens. Whether you’re a Stone Brewing Company fan, a home brewer, a foodie or a craft beer novice, this book has something for you. If you haven’t picked up this book yet, switch over to Amazon, ebay or better yet Stone’s own website and order it now. You’ll be glad that you did.

The next two books I’m going to tell you about are beer style specific. First up is Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition by Phil Markowski. Published 2004.

Ratchet Rating: 3 (out of 5) Pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: Fantôme De Noel

I borrowed this last fall from my buddy Shanezilla, who is a big fan of saisons. I just recently in the last few years started acquiring a taste for belgium style beers. I’m not really a big fan of farmhouse style ales, but I can appreciate them from time to time. This book is a pretty good attempt to trace the history of farmhouse brewing in both the North of France and in Belgium. This book was a little long, and I thought that the material could have been covered in fewer pages. However, I did enjoy learning about traditional farmhouse brewing and how the Saisons and Belgium style ales of today probably bear little resemblance to those historically brewed on farms in the Wallonia and Flanders regions of Belgium and France. There are a few recipes included for homebrewers, and the author encourages experimentation when it comes to brewing this type of beer. If you are a big fan of Saison, Sours, Belgium or Brett beers, this is your book. I did come away from reading this with an idea for a saison that I want to brew this summer.

The next style specific book to tell you about is Smoked Beers: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes by Ray Daniels and Geoffrey Larson. Published in 2004.

Ratchet Rating: 3.5 (out of 5) Pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen.

I purchased this book online. I got it to help me with my research to brew the best possible Rauchbier that I could. Previous to reading this book, I was already aware of the Bamberg style smoked beers as well as the peat smoked Scottish ales. Reading this book really opened my eyes to how many types and styles of smoked beer there actually are. The book is primarily a history and discussion of the style, going back to the early days of brewing beer when most malts were dried using smoke. Those early brews undoubtedly must have had some smoky flavors as part of their profile. As malting techniques advanced the smoked flavors in beer vanished except for a few regions keeping to the traditional ways. The Bamberg region in Germany is the most well known of these. After reading this book, I really want to visit there someday. This book is written in part by Geoff Larson, founder of Alaskan Brewing Company. They are known for their smoked porter, which I have not yet had the pleasure of trying. This book is well written, reads easily and also includes a few recipes and tips for homebrewers. I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in this style. Beer historians, homebrewers, smoke lovers will all appreciate the history, types and techniques for smoking malt. I just hope that my Rauchbier turns out as good as this book did.

Great American Craft Beer: A Guide to the Nation’s Finest Beers and Breweries by Andy Couch. Published August 2010.

Ratchet Rating: 4.5 (out of 5) Pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: Your favorite anything.

I picked up this gem at McKays in west Knoxville. I was given a gift card for Christmas and used it wisely on this book. Great American Craft Beer is very well written, stylish and informative. More than just a guidebook, it has sections on beer and food pairings, stories from some well-known brewers, a bit of beer history and profiles of some of the best brew pubs in the country. This book cover only American breweries and beer. There are more than 80 styles of beer covered and 340 beer profiles featuring full-color photographs and illustrations of the beers and beer labels. Some of your favorites beers are surely featured as were mine. Because of this book, my beer “wish list” has grown substantially. If you plan on reading any beer books this year, this one should be near the top of your list.  Expertly written by Andy Couch of Beerscribe.com. Get this book, seriously.

The Beer Book, Your Drinking Companion to Over 1,700 Beers edited by Tim Hampson. Published October 2008.

Ratchet Rating: 4 (out of 5) Pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: Any imported craft beer.

Another great find at McKays. I’ll let you in on a secret. I have a friend that works there and get books for the price McKays pays for them. Every once in a while, I’ll go over there, pick out a few things and hand them to this person to buy. This person comes over to my house after work where they are compensated with, you guessed it, beer. Alright, so yeah, this book. It’s primarily an encyclopedia of beer. Not just craft beer, it has history and information about the big corporate beers too. This is a beautifully produced coffee table book with full-page photos. Beers are arranged by country and geographical area. Anyone who is lucky enough to travel overseas should consult this book for craft beer choices.  I wouldn’t call this a comprehensive guide, just for the fact that the brewerys that are included, only 2 of their beers are featured. There are a few examples of it’s age (it came out in 2008) because some beers might no longer be produced by the brewers and some of the beer labels might have changed. This should not count against it however. It’s a great book with a lot of relevant information. This book is currently only $16 on Amazon. At that price, there is no excuse not to pick this up. Last I checked McKays had another pristine copy marked at only $10. That is well worth the price. Get this and you’ll be happy you did.

The Oxford Companion to Beer edited by Garrett Oliver. Published October 2011.

Ratchet Rating: 5 (out of 5) Pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: ANY beer.

This is the definitive encyclopedia of all things beer. I heard about this book before it was available. I first got to see it for myself at a Knox Beer Crew tasting in January. I knew right away that I had to have it. The next day I got online and scored a copy. This book has a cover price of $65, but you can get it much cheaper than that. I scored my copy for $30 shipping and all, from eBay. I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!! I mean seriously. Pretty much anything you wanted to know about beer can be found in it. Want to know the true history of IPA? It’s in there. Want to know what type of acids are in a hop cone? It’s in there. When I first got this book, I was determined to read it from cover to cover. It really is an encyclopedia in alphabetical order. I got mostly through “A” before I was overwhelmed with information. I had to put it down and read something else. I do still plan on reading it all the way through, but not all at once. For now, it’s a great guide. If I want to look up a certain type of hop, a brewing technique, or a yeast strain this helps immensely. Anyone who is into craft beer should have this book. It is worth it’s weight in gold.

The last one is NOT a beer book, but I want to tell you about it anyway. Suttree by Cormac McCarthy. Published 1979.

Ratchet Rating 5 (out of 5) pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: something cheap from a can.

Ever since I first heard about Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern, I wanted to go back and reread this book. When I broke the news, I knew I had to get a copy. I first read this book back around ’96 or so when I moved to Knoxville. I was living with a bunch of guys in the Fort Sanders neighborhood and there was a well-worn copy kicking around the house. Honestly, I remembered very little of what I read back then. I also didn’t get the street and neighborhood references being that I was new to town. I picked up my new copy at Central Street Books that is in the building that use to be the Corner Lounge. It’s fitting since that I got it there since “The Corner” is mentioned a couple of times in the book.  The city of Knoxville is pretty much the star of this novel. I won’t comment much on the story other than to say I really enjoyed it. It’s written in typical Cormac McCarthy style with periodic long and almost hallucinogenic flowing descriptions. When I read it I could picture what Knoxville looked like back in the 1950s when the story takes place. Also from the sounds of it, certain parts of this town were a real shit hole back then. This book also spurred my curiosity of what Knoxville use to look like back in the day, to the point that I went to Union Avenue books and looked through the old Knoxville photographic history books they have for sale there. If you want an entertaining story, and a window back to Knoxville of old, read this.

I have 2 more beer books I’ve gotten recently that I look forward to reading.They were found at McKays. The first is The History of Beer in America by Yenne Bill. Flipping through it so far, it’s very intriquing. I can’t wait to throughly digest it. The next book is The Naked Pint an Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer by Christine Perrozzi and Hallie Beaune. I haven’t even cracked this book open, but it looks good so far. I will report back on both of these books at a later date.

Well that’s my post for now. I do want to give a big shout out to everyone that came out to infusion night at The Casual Pint last Wednesday. It went over really well, and we do plan on doing it again in April. We picked one date already, but I realized later on that I already have plans that night. As soon as I talk with Nathan and nail down another date for our infusion of Woodruff’s Blonde ale run through fresh cut strawberries, I will let you know.

Until next time,



One Response to Ratchet’s Reviews: Beer Books Edition.

  1. […] bar-b-que heavy menu. I decided to brew a Rauchbier. I have mentioned this several times in previous […]

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