Monday, July 28, 2014

Book Review: Beerology

Hmm. What background must I give to make the following make sense? Let's start with the fact that I am reviewing Beerology by Mirella Amato. I've been following her on twitter for a while. She is one of 7 Master Cicerones in the world. So, she knows beer and is very dedicated to education and promotion.

In near proximity, I have read Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher and The Complete Beer Course by Joshua Bernstein. I did a review of the Bernstein book here. These cover similar areas and it was helpful to compare and contrast against Mirella's approach.

The stated goal is beer appreciation. The design is quite engaging. Coasters dot the chapter title pages. There are smaller, more concise sections for beer ingredients and process. The pour that is recommended is one of the two classic pours. I've not seen an explanation of the differences between the pours but I bet it's out there on the interwebs. Quick run down.
Pour type 1: Vigorous center pour, stop halfway through for foam to settle then continue. 
Pour type 2: 45 degree angle and pour to middle of the glass, gradually tip and center pour.
The style section is smaller than the other books I have recently read but those differences are big and important. One is the addition of a graphic that splits the characteristics of the brew into four dimensions; ale vs. lager, colour, distinct taste (bitter/sour/sweet), and alcohol. The second is splitting the styles into purposeful adjectives such as refreshing, mellow, striking, captivating and brews beyond. This moves beyond the traditional lists that operate in a variety of ways. Sometimes by beer style or country of origin or light to dark. What is important is that Mirella doesn't recommend her categories as the final say but actively suggests that you learn more.

There is so much to say on styles especially from the point of view of beer geekery. Styles are newish and have somehow come to dominate many discussions on beer judging rather than the taste of the beer. The sense that I get from this book is that taste is probably the most important aspect of the beer. Mirella put together a great post to describe how she figured out the style and beer section. It is a great read and really illustrates the point of style versus taste and the difficulty of using style as a primary description of beer.

My favourite sections are after the style section as she gets into the ideas of food pairing, beer tasting games, and beer cocktails. While she gives some thoughtful advice on how food and beer work together, the caveat of try stuff outside the box lingers. Her framework goes beyond the cut, complement and contrast. It is not so much multidimensional as a list of considerations about everything from intensity and weight to flavour components.

Now, comes the hard questions. Would I buy this book? I'm considering it for a some very good reasons, there are so few beer guides that have Canadian references and this is one. The extra 'u' in many words might be worth it alone. This is a good companion for the big beer guides mentioned above if you want a Canadian context. If you have David Ort's cookbook then this volume works well to present the beginnings of an interesting culinary approach to beer. The third is the graphics compile complex information into a readable, digestible and immediately understandable format. Her styles as graphic representation of bitterness and intensity make it easy to compare styles. If you happen to be a food geek as well, you have probably seen flavour wheels and other tools that help you match against her graphs.

I'm in the midst of doing a trim of my books in food and beer and playing a one in, one out game. When I have finished, this is one book that would be closer to the top.

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