If I wanted water, I would have asked for water.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Beer Bible

Ten years ago, the wine educator Karen MacNeil published a book called The Wine Bible (Workman Publishing). I'm not especially clued into the wine world, but by all accounts The Wine Bible was a massive conceptual and commercial hit. Conceptually, it's brilliant: 900 pages, with sections arranged by region, it covers every conceivable topic a layperson might be interested in. Yet it was released in paperback, with black-and-white photos, at the bargain price of $20. Add MacNeil's voice, simultaneously lyrical, accessible, and authoritative, and you have a fantastic book. It has been in print for those ten years--in its first edition--and is still the best-selling wine book at Amazon, and currently ranked 1,600 among all books Amazon sells (though it's usually around 3,000).

I mention this because about 15 months ago, I learned that Workman was considering a companion piece on the topic of beer. The idea for The Beer Bible would be to recreate the elements that made The Wine Bible so successful (though, as an editorial comment, I'll note that it's hard to imagine any beer book selling as well as the best-selling wine book). For over a year, I was one of the authors vying for the chance to write The Beer Bible (proposal, table of contents, chapters), and this spring, Workman decided to give me the shot.

The Beer Bible will be structured around beer styles in the way The Wine Bible used wine regions, with an exploration of the history, brewing techniques, style characteristics, and current evolution, as well as a handful of examples of each style. I actually started writing it in earnest six weeks ago, and you might have noticed some style-based themes on the blog (the question of foundational pale ales, the surprise success of brown ale in the form of Pete's Wicked, and the malts in porter); guess which chapters I was working on when I wrote those posts? The contract runs for two years, and I'm supposed to produce something on the order of 650-700 pages.

I alluded to all this a couple months ago and speculated that it might affect my frequency of blogging. Turns out, I don't think it will. But it is likely to affect the content of blogging. I'll be spending more time on general themes and less time on the Oregon scene. At some point, I'll travel to Europe to do research--and that should produce blogging of an entirely different variety. Finally, I'll continue to bounce things off you as I do research for this book. Collectively, you know a lot more than I do, and as a resource, you've been invaluable. I hope the blog, while it may change a bit, stays interesting.

Now, back to those porters....

16 comments:

Joe MacKenzie said...

Congrats- I think you'll do a thorough and entertaining job.

KeAloha said...

Just imagine if the beer bible came out in 2001. A lot has changed in 10 years. Would gose and gratzer be brought up?

I'm looking forward to reading the historical information in it though.

Jacob Grier said...

This is fantastic. Congratulations!

Soggy Coaster said...

Wow, Jeff. I assumed your book deal would be something more focused on Portland or the Northwest. I can't wait to read your Beer Bible. Congratulations, and shoot me an email if you need any contacts or information in Colorado.

Jon said...

So you can actually say you wrote the Bible on beer?

That's awesome news-- I was wondering what the book project was going to consist of. Can't wait to see it published!

Andrew said...

Congratulations! I'm looking forward to it. Im fascinated with the origins and evolutions of regional beer styles and brewing techniques. Hopefully it will be in every hotel room right next to Gideon's.

Maureen Ogle said...

To say that I am happy to hear is is a gross understatement. I'm over the moon! CONGRATS!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Dude, that's huge. Congratulations.

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

It would be really cool if you could write it in Hebrew, Aramaic and Koine Greek.

Vasili said...

Finally, something to go next to 'The Best of Beervana'. Congrats Jeff!

Jason said...

Sounds like an awesome book! Looking forward to purchasing it.

Jeff Alworth said...

Thanks for all the kind words. Very nice to hear you all. Comments:

KeAloha, I think you've identified my income stream for the next thirty years. Gotta have subsequent editions!

Soggy, I will indeed. I'm fairly ignorant of Colorado beers, and I'll need to get up to speed. Going to the GABF this year to do some remedial work.

Ted (Brewers Union), I'm all over that. Plus pig Latin.

Billy Broas said...

Congrats Jeff, I can't wait to get my own copy. Hope we can meet up at GABF this year.

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

Well, if you're going to throw Pig Latin into the mix, I would highly recommend a chapter in Oppish. I can do the translation for you.

Claudia Becks said...

Well first off-congratulations! I bet you'll do a great job! And secondly this will take the entertainment potential of beer to great new heights! It will no longer be just a drink, it will have history and facts and hard core beer lovers will finally know where their favorite brands originated from!Since you will be going to Europe, do remember to give Becks beer a try! :)

Jeff Alworth said...

Claudia, is that an invitation to tour the brewery? Because I just might take you up on that. Shoot me an email (the_beerax @ yahoo dot com).

Post a Comment

NOTE: Blogspot has been eating some comments, and there doesn't seem to be anything I can do about it. IF your comment doesn't appear, it's not you, it's not me, it's the genuiuses at Google. Sorry--