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Top 10 books on beer

Whether you are an amateur brewer keen to improve your taste buds or have ambitions to open your own brewery, one of these top beer books is sure to tickle your fancy.

With the beer industry experiencing something of a craft beer revolution, both in the UK, Australia and the US, the pressure is on for brewers to produce top class beers for an ever-demanding and discerning beer drinker.

Just this week it was announced that a new craft beer awards celebrating and rewarding the best of Australian brews will debut at this year’s Sydney Craft Beer Week.

US craft beer exports rocketed by 49% this year while the number of US craft breweries operating throughout the states crossed the 3,000 mark for the first time since the 1870s. 

This can only be a good thing for the industry, driving up not only the quality of a brew, but beer drinkers’ appreciation and understanding of what is a masterful art. Even a little knowledge can enhance one’s enjoyment of a beer, and this collection of books is a good place to start.

Whether you are an aspiring brewer, history buff, foodie or simply an avid beer drinker, one of these books, written by some of the industry’s leading lights, is sure to appeal.

Scroll through for our pick of some of our favourite books on beer…

The Oxford Companion to Beer – Garrett Oliver

Written by Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver, The Oxford Companion to Beer is a veritable compendium of beer know how accompanied by more than 1,100 entries written by 150 of the world’s most prominent beer experts.

Taking readers through the history of beer, different beer styles and the brewing process to local beer drinking traditions, it is an approachable reference guide covering all aspects of beer perfect for anyone with a thirst for greater beer knowledge.

As for its author, Garrett Oliver oversees the Brooklyn Brewery’s range of craft beers and also penned The Brewmaster’s Table. He started out as a brewing apprentice at the Manhattan Brewing Company in 1989 later joining the Brooklyn Brewery as brewmaster in 1994.

RRP: £26

Brew Brittania- Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey

Written by beer bloggers Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey, Brew Britannia tells the story of a “very British fightback” which resulted in the so-called rebirth of British beer.

Filled with anecdotes on Britain’s beer industry from 1963 to the present day, Brew Britannia is a historical perusal at how Great Britain went from teetering on the edge of “bland and fizzy” beer with breweries said to be putting “profit before palate”, to its now booming trade boasting over 1,000 active breweries.

It includes chapters on the birth of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), the beginnings of British micro brewing and craft beer’s eventual emergence as a beer category colossus.

RRP: £12.99

The Craft Beer Revolution: How A Band of Microbrewers is Transforming the World’s Favorite Drink – Steve Hindy

Focusing more on the US craft beer boom, Steve Hindy’s Craft Beer Revolution takes a look at the rise of craft beer and how it has emerged as a genuine contender against industry giants such as ABInBev and Miller Coors.

Hindy, co-founder, chairman and president of of The Brooklyn Brewery, takes readers back to the start chronicling the craft beer revolution and those deemed responsible for kicking it off. Prominent breweries credited include The Boston Beer Company, Deschutes Brewery, New Belgium, Dogfish Head and Harpoon.

While on the whole a relatively light read littered with personal anecdotes and opinions, Hindy also explores the various business models and marketing strategies employed by craft brewers which ultimately allowed the industry to capture 10% of the US total beer market, prompting big brewers to produce their own craft beer ranges.

Hindy is also an accomplished journalist, having served as a war correspondent for the Associated Press.

RRP: £16.99

 Michael Jackson’s Great Beer Guide – Michael Jackson

No list on beer books would be complete without including Michael Jackson, widely regarded as one of the most important beer writers in recent history credited with reviving an interest in beer from the 1970s onwards.

Brewmaster Garrett Oliver called the late Englishman “the single most influential voice in food and drink of the 20th century,” writing in The Oxford Companion to Beer.

Throughout his distinguished beer writing career Leeds-born Jackson, who was also an expert on whisky, penned many novels on beer and whisky selling more than three million copies worldwide which were translated into no less than 18 different languages. In addition to his, Jackson regularly contributed to UK broadsheets including The Independent and The Observer and presented the BBC television series The Beer Hunter which was broadcast in 15 countries. 

He was one of the first writers to categorise beers into styles, a notion which has universally endured, first laid out in 1977’s World Guide To Beer, which sadly is no longer in circulation. However his 2000 Great Beer Guide is still available, if you are prepared to hunt for it. 

Jackson died in 2007 from a heart attack at the age of 65 having suffered with Parkinson’s disease for a decade.

RRP: Various

Tasting Beer – Randy Mosher

Another essential read for beer lovers and foodies alike is Tasting Beer from the pen of Randy Mosher – a master brewer with 25 years experience working in and writing about the beer industry.

While many a pint may not ‘touch the sides’ come Friday night, this publication teaches beer drinkers how to not only taste their beer identifying different scents, colours and flavours, but which foods work best with different styles to enhance you beer-drinking experience. This is complemented with information on the finer details of brewing and a compendium of beer styles laying out the major beer families including American craft brews, British lagers, German ales, and Belgian Dubbels. 

Designed for anyone with an interest in beer and a thirst to learn more, this book is likely to suit the tastes of home brewers, beer aficionados and foodies alike.

RRP: $22

Three Sheets to the Wind – Pete Brown

Three Sheets to the Wind is either a profound quest for the true “meaning of beer” or one man’s excuse to crawl his way through 300 bars across 13 different countries. Either way, decorated beer writer Pete Brown’s second in a trilogy of beer novels hits the spot delivering humour, knowledge and insight in equal measure.

Prompted by the revelation that other countries celebrated their favourite brew far more enthusiastically than Brits, Brown sets off on a beer odyssey taking him to countries including Spain, the US, Australian, China and Japan to name a few. The result is light hearted yet informative journey through the world of beer with Times Literary Supplement calling Brown the “beer drinker’s Bill Bryson”.

Brown has penned several other books on beer, cider and ale and was named the British Guild of Beer Writers’ Beer Writer of the Year in 2009 and 2012.

RRP: £10.99

Boutique Beer – Ben MacFarland

In this recently released reference book, beer expert Ben MacFarland presents adventurous drinkers with a colourful selection of over 500 boutique beers.

Interspersed with notes on the cream of the world’s current craft beer crop are a host of other features, from brewery profiles to recipe ideas, cocktail suggestions, brewers’ own top tipples and a guide to the various techniques and ingredients that make up today’s vibrant beer spectrum.

There’s also plenty of the weird and wonderful on offer including notes on the Oregonian brewer who uses wild yeast taken from his own beard, or the best beer to protect your garden from snails.

Combine these efforts with the brewers using Tabasco barrels or coffee beans passed through a weasel and thrill seekers can find plenty of distraction from the lacklustre offering in their local town centre pub.

RRP: £25

California Breweries North – Jay Brooks

Aimed squarely at the California beer enthusiast, Jay Brooks’ California Breweries North is a concise guide to the region’s 161 breweries and brewpubs, at the time of publication.

Covering the central coast to the border of Oregon, including San Francisco and Sacramento, each profile details the types of beer brewed at each brewery, its history, available tours and Brooks’ top beer pick. If you are planning a trip to the area and fancy taking in some of the region’s breweries, which happens to be the hime of big hitters such as Anchor Steam and Sierra Nevada, then this book is your ultimate guide.

  • Jay Brooks has been writing about beer for more than 20 years and is known for his bi-weekly “Brooks on Beer” column syndicated by the Bay Area News Group. Having studied brewing at UC Davis, Brooks is a regular on the beer competition circuit judging beers and also co-founded San Francisco’s Beer Week, the North American Guild of Beer Writers and started the Bay Area Beer Bloggers.

RRP: $29

Brewing – Michael Lewis and Tom Young

Definitely one for the technical brewer, this brewing tome is one of a handful of books recommended by UC Davis for those taking its prestigious Master Brewers Program.

While some “elementary knowledge of chemistry and biology is necessary” the book is aimed at those with little or no formal training in brewing science but with a keenness to learn taking an depth look at the chemistry involved in the malting and brewing science and technology.

Expect to be schooled on the preparation of malt, hops, and yeast, the fermentation process, flavour, microbiology and contaminants alongside the finer details on finishing, packaging a beer. This second edition puts particular emphasis on the engineering and technological aspects of brewing and is a basic reference for anyone in the brewing industry.

RRP: Around £60

The Joy of HomeBrewing – Charlie Papazian

Charlie Papazian’s The Joy of Home Brewing is an essential guide for anyone dabbling home brewing covering everything needed to get started. Papazian is a master brewer and founder and president of the American Homebrewer’s Association and Association of Brewers.

More than one million copies of this book have already been sold worldwide, with this third edition featuring updated instructions on how to brew your own beer with recipes for stouts, ales, lagers, pilseners, porters and specialty beers. It also includes a complete home brewer’s glossary, troubleshooting tips and lessons on how to use fruit, honey and herbs in speciality brews.

However you might want to save your hard-earned cash until September when a fourth edition of this book is due to be released by publishers Harper Collins.

RRP: Currently £8.89 on Amazon

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