Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Book Review: Tasting Beer
Whenever I make it to my local book store I always head to the Food and Beverage section to see if there are any new beer books. Of course I have to make it through the seemingly hundreds of wine related books before finding the tiny section on beer, but every once in a while its worth it. This was the case last week when I found this book: Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher. I had heard some good things about this book and know Randy Mosher by his reputation as a good beer writer, home brewery, beer judge, etc so I picked it up and started eagerly reading through it. Unfortunately I was unable to follow the first guideline of this book: "Don't even consider starting this book without a beer in your hand" due to working night shifts at work, but rest assured I did read many parts of this book with a tasty craft beer in hand.
The book is a pretty easy read, filled with a lot of great information on tasting and appreciating beer. Which brings me to a quick point. This book is about tasting beer, not just drinking it, and yes there is a difference. The book covers everything from the history of beer, sensory evaluation, judging, beer and food, and finally different styles of beer. The history of beer section is relatively condensed and while I think knowledgeable beer folks won't learn much knew, its still a good reference and even details how certain styles came to be. The next section on sensory evaluation is extremely interesting and goes into detail of how to look at beer using all of your senses. As someone who is always working on developing my beer tasting vocabulary, beer tasting experience and even looking into Beer Judging these sections were extremely valuable to me. These sections cover not only the sensory evaluation, but discusses in detail the off smells of beer, what causes them, and how they express themselves. After Mr. Mosher gives you an understanding of how sensory evaluation works in tasting beer he discusses the best type of environment to do a formal or informal tasting, and finally how to get involved in beer judging. Again if this interests you its valuable information.
After discussing how to taste and evaluate beer the book covers food and beer pairings. Again this is a good section discussing paring concepts, how like and contrasting flavors in beer and food can really create an amazing experience. Obviously not as in depth as Garrett Oliver The Brewmasters Table, this section works as a quick reference section.
The final sections covered all the beer styles. These are quick overviews of lagers, ales, Belgian beers, and American Craft beers. Again not as in depth as other books, but it works as a very quick reference guide or in conjunction with other books if you are doing some research into styles.
In summary, this book is a welcome addition to your beer library. If you are a novice beer craft beer drinker just getting into understanding this delicious drink Tasting Beer will work as a way to easily introduce you to all you need to know to appreciate good beer. If you are like me and a little more experienced but still looking to expand your knowledge on how to better taste and understand the different complexities of beer including how to notice the good and bad in craft and even how to get involved in Beer Judging this book will answer most if not all of your questions.