October 28, 2014

Book Review: Beer for All Seasons by Randy Mosher

I received an advanced copy of Randy Mosher's new book Beer for All Seasons: A Through-the-Year Guide to What to Drink and When to Drink It which apparently is already out in digital formats with hard copy publication anticipated for spring 2015. It's not a homebrewing book but Randy Mosher is well known in homebrewing circles so I thought a brief review here would not be inappropriate. Beer for All Seasons is exactly what it sounds like. It is a book about drinking beer around the seasons that discusses both beer styles commonly associated with the styles and popular beer events in each season around the world. Overall, it's a visually stunning and well-written guide that appears to target the casual craft beer drinker or neophyte to an obsession with beer.

Like many beer-related books, Beer for All Seasons begins with an exposition of beer's history and particularly its historical attachment to the seasons. It covers all the expected subjects about the history of beer from early historic sources through modern brewing. What I like most about this section is Mosher's ability to be factually accurate, sometimes in very precise ways, without making the book too droll for the book's target audience. The tall tales of brewing that often get tossed into these kinds of books because they are passed from one source to the next like beer folk tales are largely absent. Instead you can tell legitimate research went into the book. The history is brief and not all-encompassing but it is broad enough to give readers an idea of beer's history. Beer for All Seasons then turns to discussing the purpose of beer and how beer has been consumed through history as a basis for the book's thesis that beer should be a seasonal beverage. It ties historical seasonal drinking against the modern desires for different flavor profiles across the seasons (e.g. darker, richer beers in the winter).

The book next turns in a more technical aspect in a slightly jumbled manner. The book first turns to discussing the four well-known brewing ingredients and a survey of the brewing process that could easily fit in the introductory materials in any homebrewing book. Then the book shifts into discussing proper methods to taste beer before shifting back to brewing to discuss the major international brewing trends before shifting back to a survey of common beer styles and then shifting back into discussing how to serve beer in both proper glassware and briefly how to pair with food. All of the information presented is excellent information in a very easily digestible manner except the jumbled feel of the section. This seems like information that could have been placed at the back of the book to maintain the smooth flow of discussion about the seasons of beer. It also seems like the section should have discussed all of the brewing pieces and then moved into tasting the beer. The flip flop between subjects doesn't make sense.

Beer for All Seasons then turns to its stated purpose, which is a discussion of beers and beer events in each season. Each season gets a discussion of some styles commonly associated with the season along with a long list of beer events and how to pair beers with the season's holidays and popular foods. Some seasons are brief (like spring) while others are well-explored (like summer). There are some interesting tidbits along the way, such as the discussion of historical English winter ale drinks like Flip and Bishop. The book concludes with an extended list of beer events on a monthly basis. Spring gets slighted as a season with bock being its only thorough beer discussion although spring has a historical attachment to brewing beyond drinking doppelbock and maibock. That's my one real gripe with the content.

Overall, it's a great introduction to the concept and drinking of beer by the seasons. It's succinct with useful information, especially for somebody trying to get their feet tongues wet with beer travels. I would recommend this book for anybody trying to get to know more about beer although if you've subscribed to a beer mag or two for any length of time then most of the information in this book may not be new to you. The book recommends a good number of seasonal beers and like any beer guide it has a limited shelf life because many of those beers will not be with us in a decade or two. Many of the beer events have more staying power, as some have been around for decades or even hundreds of years. Collectively, even where particular events or beers have gone by the wayside the book will still have good value because the information about the books and why certain beers were selected for discussion in this book will continue to be useful for future readers. So its shelf life may not be eternal but it will persist longer than many other beer guides out there.


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