A Good Beer Blog


Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


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Alan -

What's the word? Miscellany. Not so much an encyclopedia as a miscellany.

Craig -

It seems to me that someone more qualified in writing about beer should have been the Editor-in-Chief on this one. No offense to Garrett, but do you think the Oxford Press would have Al Pacino as the EIC on the The Oxford Companion To Shakespeare, just because he had good run in the Merchant of Venice.


Hold on a minute I’m looking straight at one of the best beer books to be published in the past 10 years, The Brewmaster’s Table. Author: one Garrett Oliver.

Alan -

Well, I would not to consider the individual in such a mass effort but might point out that one of the great things about The Brewmaster's Table it the accessibility and ordering of the information.

The Companion does have a helpful tool at the front, a topical outline of entries, which allows for entering into the bulk of pages from another angle. When you think about alphabetization, its is actually done twice - in the body of the work and the index.

Reading it again after posting, I realized I was surfing. Moving from embedded link to embedded link. Dreaming of the internet of 1945.

Craig -

Again, no disrespect to Garrett, and I agree, the Brewmaster's Table is a great book, but my point is, authorship and the work of an editor-in-cheif are separate beasts.

Craig -

Apparently, I could have used an editor—chief rather than cheif.

Craig -

I'll wear that name with pride!

Ethan -

I am looking forward to my copy arriving, so I too can bicker about minutae. No, I mean the contents of the Companion, not your points, Alan. Well, maybe both :)

Garrett Oliver is, in my opinion, not that amazing an author (he is an amazing person and brewer, though). I like The Brewmasters Table, but let's be honest: it is almost as much a book of anecdotes about Garrett's clearly awesome life, dining & drinking habits as it is a thorough guide to putting food and beer together, and could be half as long without loosing any critical informational value. Frankly, I think Randy Mosher does it better in Tasting Beer.

But none of that has much to do with the Companion, where his writing is less the point than his editorship So... I'll wait to gripe when I know what to gripe about.

Alan -

I have to say, I like his writing just fine as well as how he places beer in the market - unlike most other players. But I take Craig's point as to the difference between a writer and editor seriously.

Yet - who else could pull off this book? With respect, not Mr. Mosher. His work is lighter than this.

Secret: I don't think Michael Jackson would have done nearly as good a job as Oliver either. His work is already of a different era.

Ethan -

For sure, editing and writing aren't the same thing.

And, I agree that MJ is of a different era- though as well, he had plenty of editing experience, which we agree is the point here. So he might have done as good or better a job, but this is pure speculation.

I don't think Mosher would have been a better editor of the OCB; my claim was just that he provides a more succinct (and highly visual) description of the principals of pairing where Garrett is more about anecdotes. Don't get me wrong, I like The Brewmaster's Table quite a bit. But I eventually found myself skipping over the "I once had a dinner at X with chef Y and sommelier Z and my pairings blew his away" bits. Probably mainly out of jealous resentment.

Jeff Alworth -

On the editor/writer distinction: huge. An editor's job is to assemble the best writers on a subject and somehow corral, coax, and ride them until the piece is the best they can write. Most writers make crap editors because they are the kinds of people who want to do the thing itself, not make sure others do it. There's a subsidiary role that the publisher has to clean up the manuscript, check for accuracy, and--though this is now very rare--fact-check. (Indexing may be te author or publisher's responsibility. So it's hard to say who's responsible for those dead-end citations.)

On your review itself, Alan, I smell a rat. In what was a most entertaining consideration of the book's faults, you managed to identify no raison d'être for its existence ("miscellany" is a further indictment). Yet here's this happy final paragraph. Lose your nerve?

Alan -


A miscellany is an excellent thing, like a gazetteer. It is a compendium of useful information. What I really wish is that I could reorder the information to my wishes, along the line of the topical index as well as alphabetically or any other way that might strike me at any moment. I think companion is exactly the right word for this. I might have even named it The Oxford Concise Companion... to imply a greater and bigger non-existent book awaits.

Jeff Alworth -

I wouldn't have been convinced with a mere three exclamation points, but the fourth seals it. I'm sorry I doubted you.

(I do wonder if the folks at Oxford would relish "miscellany" in the same way you do, but I guess that's their call.)

Alan -

Pete Brown makes a defense of the book that I might suggest is a wee bit overly ripe:

"Let's get the quibbles out of the way first: in today's world of forensic pedantry surrounding beer, some people are bound to find errors. Others will take offence at subjective entries. Others still are bound to find glaring omissions, and some bits will have been out of date by the time the book went to press. It's impossible to capture every single fact, statistic and morsel of wisdom about beer into one book, but this is as close as anyone is going to get."

I was both shocked and saddened by this passage even though I am sympathetic to what I believe he was trying to convey about the excitement of the books release. It will be a very useful book but to contrast it to "today's world of forensic pedantry" is more than unfortunate as a statement.

Bodies of knowledge are built upon and the path is not always smooth - contrary to what we hear about the co-operative community of beer. To suggest those who may have a forensic eye in matters beery are pedants is, well, taking sides and a very odd side indeed. Had he taken this sort of advice himself, Pete should never have started writing about beer or at least been dissuaded from getting on those boats to India.

We are far too early on in the process of describing good beer to accept that one book - however thick and whatever the name of the publisher - has achieved a point that it gets to be smugly self-satisfied. If entries were not peer reviewed and show it then they will be and must be reader corrected.

Alan -

By comparison, this interview of Garrett Oliver is far more interesting in how he places the book - a step in an evolution. He even suggests the heretical thought that it might be a step past Jackson.

Best line: "If you have wondered about [a beer topic], there is probably something interesting about it in here." That is exactly what any compendium, miscellany or companion book should profess to achieve.

Craig -

To Jeff's initial point about editor vs writer—how much of that coaxing and corralling was actually being done by Oliver? Admittedly, I have absolutely no idea, but it seems that (and this is perfectly fine) the Oxford Press might be using his name and notoriety to sell the book. If I were in their position, I'd do the exact thing. He is without a doubt the best possible salesman for this kind of volume. That being said, again, a pitchman and an editor are not the same thing either,

Alan -

Great summation in the NYT:

"The “Oxford Companion” is simply a wonderful resource for what, even when it’s complex, unusual, unfamiliar or strikingly different, is still just beer, regardless of how it is dressed up."

Alan -

Wonderful discussion at Stan's.

Ethan -

Finally got my copy.... stunning. Just amazing. What a resource!

Imperfect? Sure... but there's no other book like it, either. I'm hooked.

dave -

Congrats on your review showing up on the OCB's Oxford Press's website. Not all of it of course, just a cherry pick.

The Beer Wrangler -

Much needed but with some shoddy references as well as some inaccuracies. A chance missed to create something text book worthy. There are however many interesting entries that I have been glued to, but unfortunately when i come across a mistake or some woeful refrencing (the author's own article in a magazine some years earlier for example) it rather spoils my enjoyment

for a accredited beer historian's view on his initial glances read on!


Dave -

The first brewery in Western Canada, in Victoria, was established in 1858 by a German Immigrant.

I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't brewing a lager back then.

Alan -

Sneath! Let's check Sneath. He calls the Victoria Brewery in 1858 "a small log brewery" but says in the same year, 1858, John Walz built Toronto's first lager brewery. In 1844, there is lager brewery in Preston.