Written by Jay Brooks for Mercury News and The Contra Costa Times
The obvious gift for any beer lover is a selection of special brews. But if you’d prefer a gift not prone to breaking or leakage, 2012 has been another banner year for books about beer. Here are a few of my favorites.
Written by my friends Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb, who circled the globe putting this tome together, “The World Atlas of Beer” (Sterling Epicure, $30, 256 pages) is a worthy successor to the late Michael Jackson’s “New World Guide to Beer.” Covering the entire panoply of beer across six continents (there are no breweries in Antarctica) is a herculean task, but the book accomplishes it elegantly. The book, appointed with detailed maps, beautiful photographs, tasting notes and an impressive range of information, is a great choice for both beginners and seasoned beer geeks.
If you’re as fascinated by the big breweries as I am, you’ll want to pore over William Knoedelseder’s “Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America’s Kings of Beer” (HarperBusiness, $27.99, 416 pages). It’s an engaging history of the St. Louis family dynasty from its 19th century beginnings to the very end, when InBev bought the brewery in 2008.
The hottest beer style right now is hoppy India Pale Ale and its offshoots, such as Black IPAs and Double or Imperial IPAs. Mitch Steele, the brewmaster at Stone Brewing in San Diego, has written the definitive account of the style in “IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of
India Pale Ale” (Brewers, $24.95, 350 pages). The book includes techniques and recipes along with the history and evolution of today’s most popular beer. It’s a must read for any true hophead.
Finally, there are two local books that belong on any Bay Area beer lover’s shelf. The first is “Lagunitas: The Story” (Charles Pinot, $17.95, 238 pages), a lively account of the Petaluma brewery’s history written by founder Tony Magee, and sardonically subtitled “So, You Want to Start a Brewery?” If you’re familiar with the iconic stories on all of Lagunitas’ beer labels — also written by Magee — that should give you an idea of what’s in store. It’s a roller-coaster ride through the 1990s beer scene, including the trials, trips and tribulations of launching a brewery and creating a successful brand of beers. Magee’s literary heroes, Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson, would be proud.
The other local treasure is “Teachings From the Tap” (Beer Trekker Press, $16, 442 pages), by another friend, Merideth Canham-Nelson, who traveled the world with her husband, Chris “The Beer Geek” Nelson, to visit breweries and drink beer. Having already visited more than 700 breweries, the pair embarked on yearlong trip in 2008 with an itinerary that included a major beer destination each month, and many smaller ones in between. The result, subtitled “Life Lessons From Our Year in Beer,” is her account of that journey. Don’t be surprised if I make a few cameos throughout her tales.
There’s no better way to celebrate the holidays than sitting down to enjoy a good read, with a terrific beer as your companion. Happy holidays!