The world of craft beer can seem a little daunting from the outside. A casual drinker curious to find out more about what he/she is enjoying may think they've opened Pandora's Box on enquiry. A swirling mass of jargon, baffling terminology and opinion wait in store- and that's just from the barman.
The brave few who make it past these off-putting hurdles and are eager to learn more still, can do so through a plethora of beer writing found online or, for the real deviants out there, a beer book.
For me the only beer book I have ever really needed is Michael Jackson's (not that one) Beer Companion. Though the book is now well over a decade old, it has stood the test of time and remains a vast encyclopaedia for reference when needed. It acts as a helpful guide to learn about the nuances of beer styles rather than an endless list of tasting notes. Suggesting specific beers for newcomers to craft beer can be helpful but learning what you like through trial and error and personal discovery is just as important.
So upon receiving Mark Dredge's new book- Craft Beer World- A Guide To Over 350 Of The Finest Beers Known To Man- I was a little sceptical. There are enough “Hundred….Thousand….Million Beers To Try…” books out there to sink a battleship and while some of them provide a fantastic read, the reality is the world of craft beer is dynamic and exciting and by the time you’ve made it through someone else’s five favourite IPAs, there will have been five more bottled, just as memorable.
Though I’d read Dredge’s excellent blog Pencil and Spoon before, I was perhaps expecting just another list- someone else’s beer journey. Inside the pages however I found much more than that. The first part of the book provides an excellent insight into the development of the craft beer movement; an extensive explanation of the glossary of terms any newcomer to craft beer is likely to face as well as useful and quirky sections of beer-food pairings and cooking with beer.
The following chapters break down the main beer styles into more than 50 sub-styles, highlighting the eye-watering amount of choice facing craft beer consumers. Each style is represented by 3 or 4 of Dredge’s personal favourites- a mix of the unmovable classics and their modern counterparts- accompanied by a comprehensive background. The writing is probably not as plentiful as that found between the pages of Beer Companion yet it is just as informative and fantastically readable. To Dredge’s credit, this many years on, there’s a lot more ground to cover.
The book has successfully encapsulated the rapid evolution of craft beer in this country and around the world. Its stunning graphics characterise the creativity in modern beer and like those beers, it’ll look good on the shelf. The selling point of this book is that it is multi-faceted: an introduction for newcomers; an informative guide for those who want to make their own craft beer journey, a useful
reference point for even the most established beer nut and- if you’re into that sort of thing- a “beers to try before you die” checklist written by someone who really knows their stuff. For the aspiring beer geek or well-established craft nerd, this is a beer companion for 2013.