New books: A thirst for knowledge about beer

  • Article by: Michael Agnew
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • December 4, 2013 - 2:04 PM

The rise in the popularity of beer has brought with it a boom in books on the subject. Beer scribes are penning volumes on everything from beer basics to advanced beer and food pairing. Here is a rundown of five recent titles to satisfy every beer drinker’s thirst for knowledge.

“The Complete Beer Course,” by Joshua M. Bernstein (Sterling Epicure, $24.95). Billed as a “boot camp for beer geeks,” this is written with the novice in mind. Its 12 “lessons” explore broad categories of beer, such as hoppy, lager and barrel-aged, giving histories and descriptions of the various styles that fall within. For each style Bernstein gives his personal “two to taste” recommendations. A brewery profile in each section gives some insight into the people behind the brews. Bernstein lays out a lot of information, but his buoyant prose keeps it light and entertaining. While the book may be too rudimentary for more advanced beer fans, it is a great introduction for those just beginning their good-beer journey.

“Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers,” by Adem Tepedelen (Lions Press, $19.95). From unusual ingredients to tongue-twisting bitterness and stratospheric alcohol content, brewers these days are taking beer to extremes, and Tepedelen is just the writer to introduce drinkers to severe suds. He pens the Brewtal Truth beer column for Decibel Magazine, a heavy-metal music publication that bills itself as “extremely extreme.” Tepedelen profiles more than 100 beers organized around the quality that makes them extreme: ingredients, alcohol, bitterness, devilish names, barrel-aging and sour beers. Each profiled beer is given an extremeness rating from one to five skull-and-crossbones, as well as a suggested musical pairing. Every section has interviews with beer-loving rockers and extreme brewers, including Surly Brewing brewmaster Todd Haug, who also happens to play guitar in the heavy metal band Powermad. While the Brewtal Truth Guide definitely has a heavy metal bent, the content will appeal to anyone who enjoys edgier beers.

“The Pocket Beer Guide,” by Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb (Sterling Epicure, $14.95). This guide is a comprehensive compendium of more than 2,000 beers from around the world. They organize the beers by country, which makes this handy reference easy to search. Each entry includes a brief summary of the brewery and a sentence to describe the key characteristics of three to four of its beers, with the authors’ star ratings for each. Also listed are beer destinations in each country and a calendar of beer festivals worldwide. The easy-to-carry volume is a great guide for actual and armchair beer travelers alike.

“The American Craft Beer Cookbook,” by John Holl (Storey, $19.95). Although many of the recipes do include beer, this volume is not a cooking-with-beer book. Rather, it is a compilation of 155 beer-friendly recipes from brewpubs, breweries and chefs around the country. Recipes span the range from brewpub standards, such as wings and burgers, to fancier fare that includes Moroccan-cured duck breast and pan-roasted sweetbreads. Suggested beer pairings are given for each recipe. Color photos are peppered liberally throughout to ensure that you will build up an appetite while searching for something to make. Each recipe includes a short profile of the brewery from where it came. A Beer Trips section at the end of the book gives recommendations on beer and food destinations in some of the nation’s sudsiest cities.

“Craft Beer for the Homebrewer,” by Michael Agnew (Voyageur Press, $24.99). Yes, that’s me. For many home brewers, the goal is to re-create the beers they love from their favorite commercial brewers. The 38 recipes in this book make that easier to achieve. They are scaled-down versions of well-known and up-and-coming commercial beers, provided by the brewers who make them. Recipes are organized into six categories — pale ales, porters and stouts, wheat and rye beers, Belgian ales, other ales and lagers. Each gives an ingredient list with instructions for both extract and all-grain brewing. Profiles of each contributing brewery offer home brewers a glimpse into the source of the beer they are making. Pro-brewer tips scattered throughout provide advice for making better beer at home.


Michael Agnew is a certified cicerone (beer-world version of sommelier) and owner of A Perfect Pint. He conducts private and corporate beer tasting events in the Twin Cities, and can be reached at

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