I am a lucky guy. I now get books I ask for sent to me so I can review them for you. I like to think that I only review the ones I have a great deal of respect for but, still, the others do pile up...even if it is a little pile as there still are not that many books about beer being written. So here are some books I did not love but which may have good value for specific uses.
- Beer -Domestic, Imported and Home Brewed by Eve Adamson: The first thing you notice about this book is how poor its grey pulp page paperback format is. It is unfortunate that it is being published in such a cheap quality way as it is a decent enough attempt at a global guide to beer, not far off the concept of a Hugh Johnson annual guide to wine. The problem is it approaches that noble plagerism at too high a level. Facts are in general, descriptions are regional like the fact that Japanese craft brewers perfer sweet stouts while Seadog of Maine is referenced without mention that (as I believe is still the case) their beer are contract brewed at Shipyard. This means the book does present an effort to systematize information but, unlike the famous wine guide, we learn about alleged trends rather than the nerd knowledge we crave. This is bound to fail as few of the interesting aspects of fine craft beer are in regional characteristics. In fact, it feels like it was researched off the internet and we all know how reliable beer information on the internet is.
Rating: a decent and affordable stocking stuffer for the newbie beer nerd who should move beyond it rather quickly.
- Brewing Up A Business by Sam Calagione: This relative blockbuster of a book (for beer related books anyway) by the co-owner of Dogfish Head Brewing of Delaware may surprise you in being reviewed in this company. The thing is it is way more about business than brewing, it is way more about Sam than brewing and it is way more about Sam's approach to branding than beer. This is not bad at all. I am inclined to recommend the book to a couple of very enthusiastic entrepreneurs I know. But I would not recommend it to my beer club pals in particular as it would provide more assistance to an owner of software start-up than someone wanting to learn about beer. And if the author tried to work the motto of Dogfish Head more into the text I would not be surprised as "off-center beer for off-center people" seems to be on every page, assaulting you with the branding message. I have difficulty with this as I do not consider myself off-center. It may have actually put me off the brewery a bit as opposed to drawn me closer to it. But I am not a young entrepreneur - which is the real subject of the book.
Rating: a book for the person keen to learn some lessons about business.
- Craft Brewers of Ontario by Bill Perrie: I was really disappointed by this book. It is an uncritical look at certain members of the Ontario Craft Brewing Association which I would not be surprised to learn was a patronage piece. It is so positive and upbeat that it simply lose me with the boosterism. Consider these final words from the section on Ontario's beery history provided by beer writer Ian Bowering:
The best microbrew beers are made by the members of the Ontario Craft Brewer's Association, many of which are in this book. The market for quality microbrewery beers has now been solidly established in Ontario.Sadly, craft brewings is only now becoming recognized as a product in the two available retail outlets in Ontario - the Beer Store and the LCBO - and has none of the general community support in the bars of the province like you would find in Portland, Maine or Syracuse, New York. And many of the best Ontario craft beers are simply not in the book as they are not part of the organization or were overlooked - and, frankly, some of the breweries that are in are really not that interesting. You will not learn about that in this book because, unlike the works of Lew Bryson or Andy Crouch there is no effort to actually assess quality with the result that there is little useful guidance in the book as to what is out there to be found and what is to be avoided. This shows up in one really irritating aspect. Each brewer's chapter concludes with a "tasting notes" section, many of which are not even notes about the taste. Consider Brick Brewing's Bambay which is described in this way:
Bambay is a secluded cove in the Out-Islands of the Bahamas known only to those who can find it. Bambay is a unique citrus-brewed beer that is unbelievably refreshing.This is simply advertising copy and the use of "unbelievably" is indicative of the overly ripe spray of superlatives and hyped-up adjectives that bear no relation to the product or place being described. Another example is the first few lines on the chapter on Church-Key (or rather the incorrectly hyphenless Church Key) contains the words "nestled", "picturesque" and "quaint". The effect is rather like a tourism brochure. And while this is rich coming from me, there are a lot of other typos as well, more than I would expect from a published work. On the upside, the book is attractively presented with great photos and good basic information about the breweries - where to find them, who is involved and their range of products.
Rating: this book will provide something of a snapshot of the craft brewing industry in Ontario in the mid-00's of the 21st century. Have it in the library if you want a complete library of beer writing from Ontario. Greg thought more of it and you can find his review here if you think I am too harsh.