Beer takes over the bookshelves

2011 beer books

Admittedly I'm relatively new to the beer scene, but I don't recall ever seeing such a fab array of books out there about beer in all its guises. From beginners to connoisseurs via trivia hunters and London bar-hoppers, its a great time to be reading the spoken word while supping a pint.

While CAMRA's Good Pub Guide remains a bible (£12.99, £10 to CAMRA members) – I have it in all its guises, parchment, iphone app (invaluable) and on my Garmin satnav – these four are very welcome newcomers to our shelves.

Let me tell you about beer

Let me tell you about beerWith her trademark welcoming style, Melissa Cole takes you by the hand on a wonderful beer odyssey in this, her first book.

Let me tell you about beer follows Oz Clarke’s book in the same series on wine but the design is more breezy and, dare I say it, more inviting.

Good value at £15, the design may be lively but there’s still enough facts to give you a good grounding, and over 200 tips on what to try.

Covering what beer is, how to buy, taste and serve the stuff, the main styles and “brand heroes”, the book finishes with a small but useful section on places to visit, blogs to look up and festivals to make tracks for.

For more of Melissa's informal, entertaining banter, check out her blog, Taking the beard out of beer.

This is a great-looking book which is easy to navigate and fun to read. Aimed at the beginner, I’d wager there’s something for all of us in here.

£14.99, Pavilion; @MelissaCole on twitter

The CAMRA Guide to London's Best Beer Pubs & Bars

CAMRA have only gone and done it again! Teamed up with the right writer and published the Must Have book for any lover of flavour visiting or living in London. Des de Moor’s London’s Best Beer Pubs & Bars looks good, feels good with its handy cover flaps, and reads just as good as it looks.

London Best Bars

With 250 entries, London is split into six regions, stretching from the M25 in the west to just shy of Dartford in the East, from Barnet and Enfield in the north to Croydon in the south.

Beginning with some scene setting about London and its place in brewing history, we’re soon into the meat of the book: Where to drink. There’s commentary on “chains, ties and freedom”, a bold Top 25 (I see I have many visits to make!), and then we start at the heart of the Big Smoke: Central London. Each chapter has a main map, plus smaller maps for each sub-region. Concisely, Des paints a picture of the pub or bar, its provenance and what you can expect when you enter its environs.

Great beer shops are included and the book is peppered with invaluable “Insider Tips”. The book finishes with chapters on brewing, tasting, styles, and a useful guide to London breweries, plus a brief selection from further afield.

By its very nature, this sort of book becomes out-of-date the minute it is published and, with London in the throes of a craft beer revolution, there are already new additions worthy of a place in the next edition. In the meantime, Des is posting updates on his own website – check out the London tab for news of book signings and related tastings.

No wonder Des won the 2011 Best Travel Writer gong in the 2011 Beer Writers’ Awards. Nice one Des - cheers!

£12.99, CAMRA; available from bookshops, including CAMRA's online bookshop; @DesdeMoor on twitter

The Oxford Companion to Beer

Garrett Oliver’s tour de force, The Oxford Companion to Beer, is as authoritative and comprehensive as you’d expect from such a skilled practitioner.

Oxford Companion to BeerAs editor-in-chief, the Brooklyn Brewery’s brewmaster has shepherded the wisdom of over 160 experts into 900-odd pages. Whether it’s the history of brewing itself, recent brewing developments or the latest hops, or tips on service and glassware, he’s got it covered.

From American amber ale to winter ale, over 100 beer styles are included, alongside entries on more than 100 breweries.

The list of contributors cite luminaries such as Roger Protz and Pete Brown, this year’s Beer Writer of the Year, Ben McFarland, and ale-loving licensee, Mark Dorber, credited with reinventing The White Horse on Parson’s Green into the ale lovers’ haven that it remains today.

When questioned by his UK agent James Clay about the most important beer style to appear in the last decade, the answer was clear. "The American iteration of India Pale Ale, hands-down. No matter where you go in the world, it’s a touchstone, from Italy to Japan to Brazil. After that, in general, it is the rise of the Belgian influence everywhere."

£35, Oxford University Press; review first appeared on, @GarrettOliver on twitter

CAMRA’s Book of Beer Knowledge

CAMRA's book of beer knowledgeCompiled by acclaimed beer writer Jeff Evans – CAMRA's Book of Beer Knowledge is jam-packed with fascinating facts, be they remarkable trivia – home-brewing is illegal in Alabama and Mississippi for example – or essential detail – unusual London pub names or global beer snacks anyone?

One spread I particularly like covers the origin of beer names – did you know that Greene King’s Old Speckled Hen is named after a MG motor car?

An ideal stocking filler and entertaining reference for the lighter side of life.

£7.99, available from bookshops, including CAMRA's online, @InsideBeer on twitter