Best beer books of 2020

For your reading pleasure!


Beer in the Netherlands 2

by Tim Skelton. Skelton Ink. £14.99

If you enjoyed reading Issue 54 of Ferment “The Netherlands” and liked the Dutch beer selection then you will love this book. The Netherlands has over 350 craft breweries plus 350 “gypsy” brewers (who brew using the facilities of other brewers). This book which is similar in scope to CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide Belgium has a brief history of the Netherlands, information about travel and some advice on Dutch food and drink. The bulk of the book is taken up with a detailed survey of over 700 breweries with listings of their main beers and recommendations (rated 1 - 5 stars). The second part of the book is a region by region guide to the best bars, cafes and taprooms in the country. There are 10 beer museums listed in the book along with beer festivals, books, websites and trade bodies. It really makes you want to book a trip to the Netherlands.

A Brief History of Lager

by Mark Dredge. Kyle. £14.99

This fine book is a well written, entertaining and comprehensive history of the world’s most popular beer. Lager is German for “to store”. Beers have been slow fermented in caves in Germany for hundreds of years. This is where Mark begins his book by looking at the birth of commercial brewing in Munich in 1280. He traces the development of German brewing to include the Reinhietsgebot (purity laws) and the start of the Oktoberfest in 1810. The book looks at the growth of lager in Europe through case studies of significant lager brewers: Spaten (Munich); Klein-Schwechat (Vienna); Pilsner Urquell (Pilsen); and Carlsberg (Copenhagen). The isolation of a pure strain of lager yeast by Carlsberg was a significant development in the move towards ensuring quality control and consistency in beers. Mark studies the growth of lager in the UK from a speciality beer (only 7% of the market in 1970) to 76% of all beer sales in 2018. The rise of lager in the UK was mainly due to Canadian firm Carling whose lager is now Britain's best-selling beer.  

The Guide to Craft Beer

Brewers Publications. £10.65

This pocket sized book has been compiled by the US craft beer trade body, Brewers Association. It is a directory of the main types of beer which have been broken down into 15 family groups giving a total of 81 distinct styles. You might think that you know your way around the beer world but what is the difference between an American Brown and English Brown ale? The answer is that the US version can be darker and more bitter that its UK counterpart. Lager may be just lager to many beer drinkers but this book will help you appreciate: American lager, Bohemian style pilsner, German style Pilsner, German style Helles, and European export beers. And that is just pale lagers. Dark lagers can be American Amber, Dunkel, Marzen, Oktoberfest, Schwarzbier or Vienna Lager. 

Each style gets a full page with suggested food pairings, glassware, serving temperature, ingredients, IBU and ABV range. Unlike many style guides this book does not make any recommendations or focus on any specific brands. This may be due to the fact that in the USA there are over 7,000 breweries, many of which are only distributed locally.

Beer: Taste the Evolution in 50 Styles

by Natalya Watson. Kyle. £15.99

This is much more than just another style guide. This well researched and stylish book explores how different beer styles have evolved over the years. Natalya focuses on 50 distinct beers such as Rodenbach Grand Cru and Hop Back Summer Lightning and traces back the history of each style. There are useful chapters on barley, water, hops and yeast together with a very clear explanation of how beer is brewed.  She states that the idea of beer styles began with the writings of British beer writer Michael Jackson and his 1977 publication, World Guide to Beer. This book seems to have had more recognition in the USA that it did in the UK. Many US books cite Jackson as one of the key influences in the rise of the craft beer revolution. If you are new to the world of craft beer and want a reliable guide that you will keep referring back to then this book is highly recommended 

The Bucket List Beer

by Justin Kennedy. Universe. £20

This beer tourism book by American writer Justin Kennedy is not to be confused with The Beer Bucket List (2018) by English writer Mark Dredge. In over 400 pages Justin takes us on the ultimate world beer tour kicking off with the USA. He recommends breweries, beer festivals and bars across the USA. The book then travels around the rest of the world with five pages on Ireland and 18 on the UK. Belgium as the spiritual home of beer gets 22 pages. Australia and New Zealand get a generous 50 pages of coverage. Over 65 countries get a mention in this most comprehensive book including lesser known destinations such as Paraguay, North Korea, Papua, Guam and Eritrea.

Fine Cider

by Felix Nash. Dog ‘n’ Bone. £16.99

Is craft cider the new craft beer? Craft cider never disappeared but tended to be found mainly in the apple producing areas of England such as Somerset and Hereford. In recent years there has been something of a craft cider revival with new cider makers coming along and making high quality real ciders. This well illustrated book covers the history of the apple as well as the history of cider production. Felix looks at the UK’s main cider areas as well as cider making in the USA, France and Spain. We learn about the different methods of making cider, apple varieties, cider styles and food pairing. Perry, which is made from fermented pear juice also gets a brief chapter. 

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