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Archive for the ‘beer books’ Category

The Godfather of beer blogging, Alan in Canada, has asked the question:

What beer book which has yet to be written would you like to see published?

And the question is a good one. This is a part of The Session. The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry.

So the host of Session 95 is Alan, go to his blog to see a round up of all contributions this month.

He also wants to know what books we’d like to write. Well, there might be something happening over here, but it’s early days yet. I’ll let you know if and when things get moving.

So I need more beer books? Well. There are beer books silently staring at med from the shelves. Some have been gifts or review copies, some seemed more promising at amazon or in the bookshop than they turned out to be. So I tend to limit my beer book purchases, and I find it very convenient when I can buy an e-book from Evan Rail, ready to digest in one sitting.

But I digress.  There are many beer books waiting to be written. And I have at least three books I’d like to see published.

First of all, my friend the beer scholar Lars Marius Garshol has done some really impressive writing about farmhouse beers in Norway and in Lithuania. He should be given a scholarship to write about the history of small-scale brewing in The Nordic countries and the Baltic countries, including Finland and Russian Karelia. That’s probably too ambitious. But a book on Norwegian traditional beers would be most welcome. too!

 

On an even broader scale, I’d like a book on European beer brewing history. Starting with historical and archeological sources, painting the broad strokes of the major players.

  • How empires, was and legislation have given the background for clever entrepreneurs.
  • The contribution of Weihenstephan and other centers of brewery education.
  • The emergence of a science of brewing.
  • Family brewers growing into multinationals. Dreher, Carnegie, Jacobsen, Guinness, Heineken.
  • Did the Russian court really drink stout? If so, where was the beer brewed?
  • European beer in other corners of the world.
  • Intra-European beer trade. How much stout did the czars really drink?

There could be lots of tables and figures in such a book, but I’d prefer the good stories, the anecdotes and how beer history fits into the broader history. And I would like lots of maps, old ads and photos.

But there is another book waiting to be written, too. About the emergence of a company that defied all established wisdom within the industry. A company that has used social media, reached out to bloggers, provoked regulating authorities and getting plenty of press coverage without buying ads.

If I was given some months’ salary and freedom to write a book on a beer related theme, I would write the story of BrewDog. And I’d focus on the beer. Unlike the book by the founders of Brooklyn Brewery. That book is not about beer at all, it could have been a chronicling a chewing gum factory.

The Beer Book for Punks could be sold in pubs and bars, bottle shops – and the bookshops of business schools around the globe. Not to mention airports.

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I was very happy to receive a book in the mail just a few days before Christmas, a bit too late for a review to help the holiday sales.

The Berlin beer scene has seen much the same as in London, an explosion in the number of micro breweries, beer bars with an interesting range of brews and beer shops.

HeidenpetersI have tried to document some of this on my blog over the last decade, but a comprehensive guide was really needed. And that is what we’ve got.

Markus Raupach and Bastian Böttner has written a bilingual guide to breweries, beer gardens, brew pubs and beer culture in Berlin. The German text is longer, but the information in English is likely to be what you need to navigate.

There are 24 breweries in Berlin (including Potsdam) now, so a weekend is not enough to cover them all. At least you have a tool to do your planning.

Lots of nice color photos. Published by GuideMedia Verlag Bamberg. Be sure to get one before you go!

You can order from their web site.

Meierei, Potsdam

Meieri im Neuen Garten, Potsdam

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Congratulations to Boak & Bailey, who were named the Beer Writers of the Year by the British Guild of Beer Writers. If you haven’t bought their Brew Britannia book already, it’s time to do it. And follow their blog – lots of good beer writing, including good links to others.

 

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I don’t read many beer books. As a matter of fact, I buy slightly more beer books than I actually read. I interact a fair bit with other beer bloggers, but I don’t even read them as systematically as I did. The demise of Google reader is partly to blame.

A blogging duo which I have followed for years is an exception.Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey have a love of language as well as a love of beer, and, have a personal voice between them that is personal, not private.
They moved out of London and settled in South Western England some years ago, showing yet again that you dont have to be based in a major city to play a part in the beer writing community.
They have been open about their bigger projct for a long time, putting together a history of British beer over the last five decades, starting with the early beginnings of The Society for the Preservation of Beers in the Wood  (SPBW among friends) and CAMRA and ending up with the fantastic diversity of today.
They have researched this in depth, using a long list of printed and oral sources. Their blog has been used cleverly for crowd sourcing information.
The result, Brew Britannia,  is impressive. It is a story of businesses that thrive or fail, of consumer rebellion, of enthusiasm and organizational strife. And, given the topic, a story of English eccentricity told in such a way that a smile and a chuckle is never far away.
In addition to the well told main part of the book, there are appendixes and comprehensive notes, even an index, which you don’t find too often nowadays. (You’ll even find me in the index, which is, come to think of it, even rarer).
When you write a book like this, you have to choose what to include and what to leave out. I have followed the British beer scene for most of this period, and I did not find any omissions to point out.
Go ahead. This won’t end up on the shelf with the unread beer books. And it’s in paperback, meaning you can read it on the bus, which is more than you can say about the heavier tomes full of glossy photos.

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I had serious ambitions about doing live blogging while in Belgium, but the schedule did not really allow for that. It was only on the plane back that I really felt able to sit down and think through it all. So, yes, there will be some impressions from our brewery visits, less on the beer cafés, a bit about beer tourism and so on.

And to make this perfectly clear once again, I travelled to Belgium with seven other Scandinavian beer writers. We were guests of Visit Flanders, the Flemish tourist promotion office. I am not obliged to praise everything I experienced,  and I will give my honest impressions to the best of my abilities. But it was really an adventure. So stay tuned.

What we saw were contrasts, even among the small scale breweries we visited. The deeply traditional, the passionately local, the exclusively organic, the scientifially based, the beers that came back from the dead and the rock ‘n’ roll brewers that take their show on the road. And these people have stories to tell. Maybe traditional television goes the way of printed newspapers. But I hope someone records the thoughts of the people we met on this trip, it would be another way of protecting the heritage.

A side note: If you want to visit Belgium, do it now. If they had figured out what to do with Brussels, the Belgian state would probably be gone already.

 If you want to see the coverage my colleagues have from the trip, you will find them here:

http://www.portersteken.se/

http://skrubbe.com/

http://www.ofiltrerat.se

http://www.garshol.priv.no/blog/beer

http://www.humleochmalt.blogspot.no/

http://beerticker.dk

www.carstenberthelsensordogtale.dk

 

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Over the years, I have written about the beer scene in many European countries, but I haven’t written very much about Belgium. Sure, I covered some places in Brussels and Brugges, but I am a novice compared to those who make annual visits and know both the back streets of Antwerp and the green country lanes of Payottenland.
I am happy to tell that I belong to a group of eight Scandinavian beer writers invited to a four-day visit to Belgium next month. More about the itinerary later.
I like to plan ahead, so I have already spent some time with google maps, guide books and other sources.  My guides to Belgium were a few years old, so I thought I’d check what’s available.
There are guide books of all shapes and sizes. With 3D drawings of palaces and museums, with pull out or fold-out-and-never-able-to-fold-back-again-maps. And there is a peculiar tradition among the guidebook publishers – they hide the publication date of the book as well as they can, fearing that they will be considered past their sell-by date.
But there are some real gems out there. On Amazon, there are scans of old and out of print books, I stumbled across Peeps at Many Lands: Belgium by George W. T.  Omond, published in 1909 and now in the public domain.
According to Wikipedia, the author was awarded the Order of the Crown for his books about Belgium. I have a nagging feeling that the Belgians did not read the books before giving him the award.
A few highlights:
…..This seems a dull and hard life, but the Flemings do not find it so. Like all Belgians, they are fond of amusement, and there is a great deal of dancing and singing, especially on holidays. Sunday is the chief holiday. They all go to church in the morning, and the rest of the day is given up to play. Unfortunately many of the older people drink too much. There are far too many public-houses. Any person who likes can open one on payment of a small sum of money to the Government. The result is that in many quite small villages, where very few people live, there are ten or twelve public-houses, where a large glass of beer is sold for less than a penny, and a glass of coarse spirits for about the same price. Most of the drinking is done on Sunday, and on Monday morning it is often difficult to get men to work. There are many, especially in the towns, who never work on Mondays. This is quite understood in Belgium, and people who know the country are pleased, and rather surprised, if an artisan who has promised to come and do something on a Monday morning keeps his word. Of course there are many sober work-people, and it is a rare thing to see a tipsy woman, much rarer than in England; but there is a great deal of drunkenness in Belgium.
…………………….
The rooms in these public-houses are pretty large, but they get dreadfully hot and stuffy. The constant laughing and talking, the music, and the scraping of feet on the sanded floor make an awful din. Then there are sometimes disputes, and the Flemings have a nasty habit of using knives when they are angry, so the dancing, which often goes on till two or three in the morning, is the least pleasant thing about these gatherings.

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I’ve recommended BBC Radio 4s Food Programme before. They cover a very broad range of topics connected with food – and beverages also get their share. A week ago, the programme was about hops. This year, the topic is cider. Broad coverage of Pete Brown‘s new book on the topic, but also interviews with producers great and small.

It is fun to listen to a representative from Bulmer’s trying to avoid a question about mandatory information on the label stating how much apple juice there is in the beverage.

It is the same discussion that we have in the beer world – when the giants of the industry talk about quality, they mean a consistent product that does not vary with raw materials, seasons or anything else. Therefore, the truckloads of corn syrup outside their factories are there for you.

Where I work, in the health sector, we talk about quality as well. The term is used when we discuss how many patients have died or haven’t received the proper treatment or care.

Maybe we should avoid using the q word?

Meanwhile, back at the BBC, Pete even gets to taste a dry hopped cider.

The Food Programme is conveniently available as a podcast.

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