Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Book Review: Amber, Gold & Black

Amber, Gold & Black: The History of Britain's Great Beers by Martyn Cornell is an extremely well researched book that covers all the styles of beer that Britain has produced over many centuries. The book covers 16 chapters, each chapter a different style of beer: Bitter, Mild, Burton Ale, Porter, Stout, India Pale Ale, Golden Ale, Low-Gravity Beers, Brown Ale, Wheat Ale, Barley Wine and Old Ale, Herb and Flavored Ales, Honey Beer, Heather Ale, Wood-Aged Beers, and Lager. Each chapter begins with the history of the beer and the etymology of the style, and then at the end of each chapter it discusses the present and mentions some of the brewer's still producing they style of beer. Its a very well written book and a quick read at essentially 226 pages, although its packed with information. He delves into how styles progressed through the centuries and how they evolved, sometimes going from one style and blending into others. To me especially, it's fascinating reading concerning the impact that the two World Wars had on the beer culture in Britain, primarily creating low gravity beers. Although this essentially killed some styles, it also forced British brewer's to brew very full flavored ales at relatively low alcohol, something that I feel is still missing on this side of the pond. If you pick this book up, you'll see its extremely well written (if a little bit poorly edited) that covers the depth and breadth of British brewing history. Another fun aspect of the book, that anyone familiar with Mr. Cornell's work will know, is the debunking of several beer related myth's (I won't give any away here, just go read the book). Overall Amber Gold and Black is a fascinating read that truly shows the impact Britain and its beer culture had on the beer cultures around the world.

A couple of additional notes that I wanted to make because I think the book itself has an interesting history. This book was originally published as an e-book in Britain a couple of years ago and won huge rave's from beer lovers. It won the book of the year before finally getting published hardcopy and made available over here in the states. Mr. Cornell has a great blog if you are more interested in the etymology and history of words and beer, he is also the founder of the British Beer Writers Guild.

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