So you want to be a beer expert?

If you were to ask my family, or many of my friends and acquaintances, they would probably think that I am a beer expert. I would love to think that I know a fair bit about beer, but I am also aware that there is an awful lot that I don't know. And so my New Beers Resolution this year was to become more knowledgeable about beer, both as a drinker and as a home brewer.

This was the first to arrive of six books that I bought with gift tokens that I received for Christmas. In choosing my books there were some names that leapt out at me but I have to say that I wasn't familiar with Jeff Evans. However, I decided that I could probably trust CAMRA not to lend their name to anything that wasn't of good quality.

The book starts with a ten page history of beer brewing. Some of this was familiar to me, but there were nuggets of information about the probable beginnings of beer brewing that were quite new. Furthermore, the writing style was engaging and enjoyable so I didn't mind at all reading the familiar stuff. 

The next section was almost 50 pages on how beer is brewed. Again most of this was knowledge that I already had as a home brewer but there was an interesting level of technical detail. I thought that perhaps there was a hint of CAMRA bias in the discussion of cask and keg in this section, with what seemed a rather grudging respect given to the new wave of craft keg beer. Then came 30 pages on Appreciating Beer, covering appearance, aroma and taste, how to serve beer to its best, and how to organise a beer tasting.

Eventually we get to the main body of the book - 80 pages covering 21 different beer styles or groupings. Each style gets 2 or 3 pages explaining its features and history, and a Taste Off page, featuring 3 beers that represent the style and a few other suggested alternatives. Some of these beer styles I knew quite well already but certainly not all of them, and I would quite like to try tasting some of the suggested beers alongside one another. Finally there is a short section on beer judging and food pairing.

Overall this is a decent book which I enjoyed reading. To be honest I think that the title is a bit of an oversell. I admit that I learnt a few bits and pieces and the book is certainly a bit more in depth than a basic introduction, but I am not convinced that reading it qualifies me as an expert. Perhaps if I get hold of some of the Taste Off beers and do some tasting sessions that would move me forward a bit further.


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