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So you want to be a Beer Expert? Is aimed at letting you exactly achieve that; allowing the reader to develop a more technical understanding of the world of beer. In this review I will go through the book chronologically; offering my opinions. At this point a quick note on the author should also be offered; Jeff Evans is a highly acclaimed beer writer and his CV carries enough authority to merit being the author of such a book. His website http://www.insidebeer.com/ offers an almost encyclopedic look into the world of beer.
The book begins with Evans banging the drum for educating the consumer about beer in the same way as wine. Like many such books, Evans moves on to look at the history of beer and brewing from Ancient Civilizations to the present day. Being a CAMRA published book; CAMRA’s role in the current growth of beer is made explicit. Furthermore, throughout the book, cask ale seems to be given a little more precedence and detail over other dispense methods.
The next section of the book looks at the brewing process in depth; allowing ample time for the reader to learn about each of beer’s core ingredients. The best feature of this book is that each section has a ‘Technicalities’ passage. For example; the role played by water is explained generally in the first section whereas under the ‘Technicalities’ subheading the role of water is explained in a more scientific way. This would certainly be of interest to anyone like myself desiring a more detailed understanding. This same pattern of general overview and technicalities flows throughout the entire book covering everything from tasting to differences between styles.
The next section covers appreciating beer. Here Evans offers an intense, highly technical approach to tasting beer. Going over the dos and don’ts of both tasting a beer and organising a tasting. This is a very heavy section; but if you are going to do things properly; then these are the instructions to follow!
Following tasting the book offers a very useful section on storing and ageing beer alongside glassware and serving.
This then leads us into the bulk of the book and that is beer styles. The history of each style is looked at before explaining the typical characteristics in each style of beer. Again the technicalities sections offer further depth. Evans deliberately chooses widely available beers for you to try. Each section usually offers three or more examples of beers to try. Usually highlighting styles within styles or traditional examples versus contemporary ones. Only one thing annoyed me in this section and that was the presence of Greene King IPA. The booked references the fact that the term IPA has been ‘borrowed and abused’ but then still recommends trying weaker IPA’s for comparison. Considering they’re not IPA’s at all; I felt it would have been more appropriate to dismiss these.
Overall the style sections throughout the book are very good and succinct. It is nowhere near as comprehensive as Joshua Bernstein’s The Complete Beer Course but it aptly does the job. Lambics are covered effectively as are regional German beer styles.
The sections on recommended places to visit to learn more either about brewing or a particular style are another strong feature of the book. Breweries and cities throughout the world are recommended and web links as to where you can find further information are provided. Thanks to this book; I am now planning a tour of Bavaria (not sure when it will happen but I am planning it!).
The final two sections cover judging beer and beer and food matching. Again very useful.
Overall, this is a worthwhile read for someone looking for a more technical and scientific understanding of beer. The American equivalent of this The Complete Beer Course is more succinct than this with regards to styles although because it is a American book you can’t get your hands on a lot of the recommended beers. This book is better for understanding technicalities and for its recommendations of places to visit. If you are interesting in homebrewing but still want to develop an understanding of beer styles I would recommend Brewing Britain by Andy Hamilton.
Thanks for reading!