Monday, 27 May 2013

A whole world of beer out there

The last thirty or so years have seen a dramatic upheaval in the world of beer, with huge numbers of new breweries springing up and often pushing the boundaries in terms of strength, flavour and ingredients. This began with the micro-brewery movement in this country, but has found its spiritual home and greatest expression in the United States.

Now this “craft beer revolution” has been celebrated by Mark Dredge, author of the Pencil & Spoon blog, in his new book Craft Beer World – a Guide to Over 350 of the Finest Beers Known to Man, published by Dog’n’Bone Books at £16.99, although you can get it at a substantial discount on Amazon.

This differs from well-known beer bibles such as Michael Jackson’s New World Guide to Beer in unashamedly passing by the classic beers from established breweries in favour of an emphasis on “evolution, creativity and interpretation”.

It’s an attractive, chunky hardback lavishly illustrated throughout in colour. It begins with forty pages looking at the brewing process and other general topics such as beer and food matching, and then goes into a detailed look at examples of the various beer styles to be found around the world. For some of these, the author picks classic beers which in a sense epitomise the style, before going on to the various ways modern brewers have interpreted them, but there are some styles that are so new that classic examples simply do not exist. The descriptions are often enlivened by accounts of the occasions when Mark found himself drinking the beers.

At times the style may come across as a little gushing and over-enthusiastic, but it’s meant to be a celebration of beer, not a dispassionate survey, so that is part of its appeal. It is also, it must be said, very much oriented towards US craft brewing, and I’d say at least half the beers listed come from the States.

If there’s one criticism, it’s that the world of craft beer moves on so quickly that in a few years’ time it will seem out-of-date, while Orval, Pilsner Urquell and Adnams’ Southwold Bitter will still be going strong. But the constant spirit of innovation is in a sense key to the concept.

You may think “this isn’t really your bag, Mudgie, is it?” and you might well be right, as I’m a great respecter of tradition who tends to see beer in its wider social context and has never really “got” American craft beer at all. But it’s an attractive, intelligent, stimulating book that is well worth reading in its own right. If you’re someone who has got into the appreciation of beer via the world beer shelves and the BrewDog bars rather than quaffing murky pints of Old Snotgobbler in some bare-boards alehouse, it will be right up your street.

It’s interesting how the world of beer blogging is now translating across into the printed word, with Boak & Bailey also having their own book on the slipway ready for a launch next year. Don’t hold your breath for The Decline and Fall of the British Pub by yours truly, though.

Oh, and I bought this with my own money...

9 comments:

  1. Lord Egbert Nobacon27 May 2013 at 21:15

    Heh,heh,heh - keep it real Mudgie old cock.

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  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgMgkl-gRxk

    Int craft beer brilliant !

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  3. "Don’t hold your breath for The Decline and Fall of the British Pub by yours truly, though."

    Shame - I'd read that.

    There is, in fact, a need for exactly a book like that, detailing how in the 20th century the image of the pub changed from den of iniquity to centre of the community, so that no soap opera is complete without its pub-as-a-hub, and how that image became mythologised as it became increasingly less true.

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  4. It's certainly true that in TV series people are often seen using pubs in a way that was commonplace twenty or more years ago, but is much less so now. The country pub with its group of inquisitive/suspicious locals gathered around the bar is an endangered species.

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  5. A few thoughts:

    'Shame - I'd read that.' Seconded.

    'It's certainly true that in TV series people are often seen using pubs in a way that was commonplace twenty or more years ago, but is much less so now.' Eastenders seems to be set in the nineteen-forties. We knew hardly any of our neighbours in Walthamstow.

    'The country pub with its group of inquisitive/suspicious locals gathered around the bar is an endangered species.' Alive and well in Cornwall....

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  6. I look forward to Baileys book, looks a good one.

    No mention of my books? You can only get them on Kindle. Go to amazon and search for "spank fetish". No beery content, but every penny helps and all that.

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  7. @Cookie, I look forward to Brewdog bringing out a beer called "Spank Fetish"

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  8. I wouldn't get writing yet, Curmudgeon: Christopher Hutt wrote a book about 40 years ago called "The Death of the English Pub", which I read at the time and still have somewhere. 40 years on, I still often go to pubs.

    As Mark Twain is supposed to have said: "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

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  9. Hartley Blenkinsop29 May 2013 at 00:20

    The problem with bringing out a book called " The Death of the English Pub " is that there are few pubs where a fellow could read it in peace these days.
    Incessant loud music, caterwauling womenfolk and uncomfortable wooden furniture on bare floorboards apparently fashioned to look authentic.
    Authentic my arse which in its early drinking career was happiest perched on a velour-covered bar stool which itself was situated on a carpet.
    It certainly wasn't like drinking in the equivalent of a Methodist Chapel.
    Mind you , I quite like the sound of this Spank Fetish woman. Does she cater for the older chap ?

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