Category Archives: beer books

Dates Announced for the Pocket Beer Guide 2015 October Tour!

Cover North AmericaThe new edition of my and Tim Webb’s Pocket Beer Guide, officially titled Pocket Beer Guide 2015, is out next month, and as per my recent habit, I’ll be taking to the road to do a bit of promotion. Here’s the schedule:

September 30, Seattle, WA: I’ll be signing books and sipping rare beers at the new Toronado Seattle, 1205 NE 65th Street (at the corner of 12th Ave), all night long. Drop by to say hi, share a beer and maybe even buy a book! (NOTE added 9/29: Unfortunately, books will not be available in time for this event. If you want to come out and chat beer for a while, though, I’ll still be drinking at the Toronado. Look for me or ask the bartender!)

October 1, Denver, CO: In my first ever appearance at a cabaret venue (!), I’ll be onstage with Charlie Papazian, Green Flash’s Chuck Silva, our host Marty Jones, plus several bands and burlesque dancers at Marty Jones Brew Night Show. Frankly, I’m not entirely sure what will be happening, but I’ve known Marty for a number of years so I’m sure it’s going to be fun, and there will be great beer, too.

October 2 – 4, Denver, CO: I’ll be signing copies of the new book plus a few older ones in the Bookstore at the Great American Beer Festival. Check here for times.

October 5, Nashville, TN: I’ll be hosting a very special, 5-course beer dinner at the Nashville location of the Flying Saucer. At a mere $45, and with the beers and food we’ve got planned, it’s a bargain and a half!

October 6, Austin, TX: Another Flying Saucer appearance sees me in charge of what they’re calling a “Brewer’s Summit,” featuring Real Ale, Jester King, Austin Beerworks, Thirsty Planet and Karbauch. Taste beer, eat food, listen to me talk about the beers the brewers bring, and hear them tell me why I’m wrong. What’s not to like?

October 7, Garland, TX: The Flying Saucer again, and another “Brewer’s Summit,” this time with Rahr & Sons, Real Ale, Sierra Nevada and Founders Brewing. Worth it just for the opportunity to sample great beers in an idyllic setting on Lake Ray Hubbard.

October 8, Addison, TX: I admit to being a little nervous about hosting a beer dinner in what the Addison Flying Saucer people call the “Pub of Love,” but the menu and beers look great and I’m assured that the setting will be cozy and, dare I say it?, intimate.

October 9, Fort Worth, TX: This is going to be a fun one! Taking a break from the tour’s all-beer theme, I’ll be hosting a beer, wine and spirits dinner in the Bird Café, located where the original Fort Worth Saucer used to be, collaborating once again with ex-Meddlesome Moth chef David McMillan. The menu looks spectacular!

October 10, Fort Worth, TX: Another Flying Saucer and another “Brewer’s Summit,” this time with Rahr & Sons, Community Brewing, Lakewood Brewing, Revolver Brewing and Martin House Brewing. Keith Schlabs, the head beer wrangler for the Flying Saucer group, assures me that all the brewers have promised to bring their “crown jewels,” so this should be a tasting for the books!

October 11, Fort Worth, TX: I’ll be taking things a bit easy on the last day of my tour, if you can call attending the Flying Saucer’s 9th Annual BeerFeast “taking it easy.” I’ll have books available for signing and look forward to some casual chatting about beer.

Sometime in October: Once I’m back in Toronto and sufficiently recovered, I’ll be hosting a book launch event in the city’s downtown. Stay tuned for date and details.

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Books, Books, Books: What to Buy for Whom, Pt. II (Coffee Table Eye-Candy Edition)

More books about beer and other stuff, and who to buy them for:

The Beer Ticker: In the spirit of his World’s Best Beers – to which, full disclosure, I contributed – Ben McFarland is back with Boutique Beers, a spirited romp around the world that highlights the beers beer nerds like to talk about. Having grouped over 500 such brews into nine convenient categories, McFarland goes on to describe each in considerable depth, adding pictures and mini-features and the occasional recipe or bar review along the way. Like most books from the English publisher Jacqui Small –it’s a Barron’s Educational book in North America – it is big, bold and well-designed, although I must admit that the frequent use of typewriter font gets to me a bit after a while. Other than that minor quibble, however, it is a lovely tome that will keep the diehard beer hunter occupied for many an hour. (Barron’s Educational Books; $29.99 US/$34.50 Canada)

The Drinker in Search of Something Different: Outside of my own new book, of course, my favourite new beverage book release this year is World’s Best Ciders by Pete Brown and Bill Bradshaw. Another Jacqui Small book – Sterling Epicure in the U.S. – it is not only wonderfully attractive and informative, but also strikes a great balance between hard info, considered opinion and illuminating reviews of ciders from all around the world. Since even most drinks-savvy folk don’t fully appreciate the true scope of the world of fermented apple juice, this is a book that is sure to intrigue just about any beverage aficionado on your list. (Sterling Epicure; $30 US/$33 Canada)

For the Turophile: Cheese aficionados – that’s what “turophile” means, apparently – have been blessed with a veritable bounty of books over the last few years, including the wonderful Cheese by Patricia Michelson and this year’s Cheese & Beer by Janet Fletcher. Although perhaps priced a little on the high side for a 106 page book, and not a very densely packed one, at that, there is plenty of great beer and cheese porn contained within the pages of this, the first beer-oriented book from prolific author Fletcher, and a fair bit of useful info, to boot. In my view, it could have been balanced a bit more to the cheese side, but it is nevertheless a page-turner and appetite inspirer. (Andrews McMeel; $24.99 US/$26.99 Canada)

For the Wino: I generally dislike books with titles that insult my intelligence, but John Szabo’s knowledge and writing style is such that he is able to overcome the limitations of the “Dummies” series of books and make Pairing Food & Wine for Dummies soar as one of the best food and beverage pairing books I’ve yet come across, perhaps the best. As per the title, Szabo keeps it simple, but avoids the trap of falling into simplistic, so that mere pages into the book you’ll find yourself hungering for some roast squab and pinot noir or escargots and dry rosé. What’s more, he explains in a fairly easy-to-comprehend way pairing principles that you can carry over to other beverages, beer and cider included. Possibly the best value in my collection of 2013 drinks books, even at the overinflated Canadian price point. (Wiley; $22.99 US/$27.99 Canada)    

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Books, Books, Books: What to Buy for Whom, Pt. I

This has been a banner year for books on beer and booze, folks, with more and better new releases than I’ve yet witnessed in 23 years of this beverage writing gig. In fact, there are simply too many to review each one, even with my oh-so-clever “Three Bottles and a Book” idea from back in the early summer, or my not-nearly-as-clever “A Big Batch of Beer Books” concept from October.

My newest idea, then? A two part – the second will arrive later on this week – post on which book you should get for different sorts of people on your holiday gift list, beginning with:

The Craft Beer Novice: Joshua Bernstein’s Complete Beer Course is subtitled ”Boot Camp for Beer Geeks,” and an accurate subtitle it is! The style is like sitting down with Josh for a beer or five and having him relate to you all his thoughts and dreams about beer, mixed in with numerous beer reviews, festival recommendations and the occasional interview. It’s nicely illustrated – although there are too many pictures of wheat beers with fruit in them for my taste – and will be appreciated by the aspiring beer aficionado. (Sterling Publishing; $24.95 US/$26.95 Canada) 

The Calagione Acolyte: If you know one of those people who chases ever-more adventurous, outrageous and extreme beers, Adem Tepedelen’s Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers is the one for them. In 208 pages, Tepedelen surveys a wide swath of the high-hops, high-alcohol and high-flavour beer landscape, interspersed with regular “Brewtal” brewery and musician profiles and suggested heavy metal music pairings. (Hey, it is presented by Decibel magazine.) (Lyons Press; $19.95 US/$21.95 Canada)

The Whisky Curious: No, this isn’t a beer book, but Davin De Kergommeaux’s Canadian Whisky: the Portable Expert is a wonderful stroll through the generally unsung and underappreciated world of its title subject. I became a Canadian whisky convert several years back, following many more years of boredom and frustration when it came to the category, and am pleased to note that De Kergommeaux has done a stand-out job of covering its evolution form “brown flavoured vodka” to something so much more. A terrific study of a now-fast changing subject. (McLelland & Stewart; $22.00 US/$24.99 Canada)

The World Traveller: This is self-serving and self-promotional, but I can’t list the new releases without including one of my own, The Pocket Beer GuidePocket Beer Book 2014 in the U.K. – which I co-authored with Tim Webb and a small army of some of the most talented and savvy beer people in the world. Simply put, this tightly written guide is an expertly curated listing and rating of most of the best beers in the world today. A must for the suitcase of any frequent flier, I would most immodestly suggest. (Sterling Publishing; $14.95 US/$15.95 Canada/£12.99 UK) 

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A Big Batch of Beer Books – Part 3

Northern California BreweriesI’m not even going to feign impartiality when it comes to reviewing California Breweries North by Jay Brooks.

First off, Jay is one of my oldest friends in the beer world. We’ve eaten together, drank together, travelled together, I’ve stayed at his house and he even hauled his entire family across the continent to attend my wedding reception five and a bit years ago! Secondly, I contributed a quote for the back cover of this very book.

So let’s instead just look at the facts and figures of this paperback. It has 406 text-dense pages. It covers 161 breweries from the Central Coast north to the Oregon border. Jay logged literally thousands of miles researching it. And even though it lacks the critical evaluations I just two days ago was complaining were absent from Joe Wiebe’s book, I can’t fault Jay for that, since it is the established style of this series of Stackpole beer guides to offer a single stand-out beer, known as “The Pick,” rather than rate and review multiple brews.

For the northern California traveller, it is arguably of slightly less utility than is last year’s Northern California Craft Beer Guide by Ken Weaver. For those interested in the state of northern California brewing today, however, it is indispensable. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the two editions complement each other nicely, with California Breweries North being the one to consult when deciding what brewery to visit and what beers to drink, and the Northern California Craft Beer Guide being the one to keep in the car.

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A Big Batch of Beer Books – Part 2

PictureA couple of months ago, I received a preview copy of the galleys of Brewing Arizona by Ed Sipos. Knowing the book itself wouldn’t appear until the fall, I flipped through its pages at leisure, surprised to find that brewing in the state dates back much further than I would have imagined.

Then, a week or two ago, the final, finished book arrived. And it’s a doozy, hard-backed, full colour and 360 pages long. In terms of weight and gravitas, it exceeds even the gorgeous new Boutique Beer by Ben McFarland (a review of which is forthcoming).

All that for a book about brewing in Arizona? Forgive me, but really, in terms of the global impact of a state or province or district, Arizona really isn’t up there in the top tier.

That said, Sipos’ research appears to be remarkably thorough, and at times reveals some very surprising facts. I had no idea, for instance, that Arizona craft beer pioneer ‘Electric’ Dave Harvan stopped brewing  in 1993 not because his brewery went bust, but because he was busted for possession and sale of marijuana. And neither was I aware that Arizona’s most notorious “craft” beer, Ed’s Cave Creek Chili Beer – you remember, the one with the chili pepper in the bottle that I don’t think anyone ever bought twice for themselves – enjoyed a brief status as a cult beer in Japan.

The book is also well-illustrated, which occasionally presents some problems. On page 168, for instance, we are shown a photo of the original Electric Dave Brewery and told in the caption that it was confiscated and destroyed by the BATF, but it is not until page 177, in a different chapter, that the full story is told.

Displaced photos aside, this is a remarkably thorough and mostly well-written history. Whether or not you will find it worth the $39.95 price tag will depend entirely on your degree of interest in Arizona’s brewing past and present.

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A Big Batch of Beer Books – Part 1

This fall must be the biggest season ever for beer and beverage books. My shelves are heaving with review copies, and quite frankly several of them are very good!

Of course, I’m partial to The Pocket Beer Guide/Pocket Beer Book 2014 – depending on where you are; it’s the former in North America and the latter in the U.K. – but I’m also excited about the efforts of many of my friends and colleagues. Beginning with a Canadian offering by the “Thirsty Writer” himself, Joe Wiebe.

Joe’s admittedly over-the-top titled Craft Beer Revolution is more reasonably, and descriptively, subtitled “The insider’s guide to B.C. breweries,” B.C. being Canada’s westernmost province, British Columbia. It is the first attempt at documenting that region’s burgeoning beer scene since Leo Buijs’ 2010 Beers of British Columbia, and is several degrees better.

Testament to the growth in the B.C. beer scene of late, Wiebe spends precious little time on preambles and instead launches into his brewery reviews on page 13, beginning with the stretch between Vancouver and Whistler, known as the Sea-to-Sky. He then barrels through Victoria, the islands, Vancouver itself, the south mainland and Fraser Valley and two districts of the interior, ending with “Caps, Corks & Coasters,” a collection of data, debate and a bit of diatribe. In the mix along the way are essays on everything from craft distilleries to why so few brewpubs survive in downtown Vancouver.

Wiebe’s approach is casual and personal, like any good beer guide should be. He has no problem beginning an entry “I first visited…” and neither does he shy away from the inclusion of anecdotes, personal and otherwise. While I would like to see more hard criticism – too many beers of dubious character are given positive spin – there is enough about each brew that a careful reader will be able to easily sort the wheat from the chaff.

Overall, if you’re a beer drinker living in or visiting British Columbia, this book will pay for itself in no time. Get a copy.

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Launching The Pocket Beer Guide 2014 – Dates! Places! Beers!

Cover(Update: The tour is over, but I’m still on the road. Hope to catch up with all of you soon, somewhere…)

The Pocket Beer Guide 2014 will finally be hitting stores next month! (In the UK, it’s The Pocket Beer Book 2014, and seems to be already in some stores and on Amazon.) To celebrate and promote this fact, I’m going to be hitting the road with tastings, dinners and signings at various locations across Canada and the United States. Here’s the list and I hope to see you somewhere along the way!

September 5, Victoria, British Columbia: I’ll be joining fellow beer scribe Joe Wiebe for a signing and chat at Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub from 6:00 pm onward. As a bonus, Spinnakers will be pouring ten beers from around BC, as selected by Joe, author of Craft Beer Revolution: The Insider’s Guide to B.C. Breweries.

September 7, Victoria, British Columbia: I’ll be selling whatever books I have left over from the Spinnakers event at the Great Canadian Beer Festival. It’s a sold-out event, but if you’re lucky enough to have tickets, come over and say hello.

September 9, Seattle, Washington: I’m going to be hosting a special tasting and book signing at the Burgundian, the latest gem from the makers of Brouwer’s Café and Bottleworks.

September 19, Toronto, Ontario: It will be my great pleasure to introduce the Ontario premier of Beer Hunter: the story of Michael Jackson at the Rhino. After the screening, I’ll be signing copies of both The Pocket Beer Guide 2014 and The World Atlas of Beer.

October 6, Fort Worth, Texas: I’ll lead a tasting of beer and cheese and chocolate at the Flying Saucer, with a signed copy of the Pocket Beer Guide 2014 included in your purchase price!

October 7, Dallas, Texas: We’re going to blow the roof off the Meddlesome Moth with an amazing beer dinner! I’m collaborating with Executive Chef David McMillan and am pretty excited about the global menu we’re developing. I’ll be signing books both before and after the dinner, so even if you can’t make the meal, come out for a pint and pick up a copy.

October 8, Garland, Texas:  This one is another beer and chocolate and cheese event, at the Flying Saucer on the Lake. Again, your admission price will also get you a copy of Pocket Beer Guide 2014.

October 9, Little Rock, Arkansas: I’m working with the chef from the Capitol Hotel to create another amazing beer dinner, this one held at the local Flying Saucer

October 10, Denver, Colorado: Join me and three of my beer book writing friends for “Books & Beer: Meet and Drink with the Authors of 4 Great New Books About Beer” at the Falling Rock. From 4:00 to 6:00 pm, I’ll be signing and drinking with Jay Brooks, author of California Breweries North, Joshua Bernstein, author of The Complete Beer Course, and John Holl, author of The American Craft Beer Cookbook. You should come down and buy all four!

October 10 – 12, Denver, Colorado: I’ll be at another sold-out beer event, the Great American Beer Festival, signing books at various times in the festival book store. Check the website for times, and remember, not only does The Pocket Beer Guide 2014 actually fit in your pocket, it can also help guide your tasting on the festival floor!

October 19 – 20, Toronto, Ontario: I’ll be at Cask Days, North America’s largest cask ale festival, selling and signing books and hosting two special tastings with details TBC. Check the website for details as they become available.

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