Storey, 200 pages, $15
- What is it? A introduction to beer, arranged by season
- Who's it For? New to intermediate readers
- Reviewer Disclosure. None. I've admired and ready Mosher for years, but have no personal connection. I did write one of the promo blurbs on the cover, but that's because I thought it was a good book.
- Scope. Spans the globe
Most people who read this blog are already well-acquainted with Randy Mosher. He has published two of the best general-purpose beer books ever written, one for homebrewers (Radical Brewing) and one on appreciation (Tasting Beer). If you already own and treasure those books, this one is, paradoxically, probably not for you. It's an introduction to the world of beer, organized, innovatively, around the seasons.
Anyone who wants to offer newbies a comprehensive introduction to beer is confronted with the huge task of how to arrange the material so that it is adequately complete, somehow coherent, and ultimately not so overwhelming that readers abandon the quest after a few pages. Mosher arranges things by season, slotting in the types of beer you'd be most inclined to drink then. He lists seasonal events and celebrations, and embroiders each chapter with interesting historical vignettes (a Mosher specialty). He doesn't go deep, but he does manage to bring coherence to the subject in a novel and organic read.
There is the usual stuff you find in all books (and which you'll find in the Beer Bible): an overview of the styles, history, and ways to appreciate beer. All of that will be completely familiar to anyone who reads beer blogs. That doesn't mean it's not great. Mosher is the best explainer in the biz. He fuses an informal, lighthearted voice with the ability to condense his encyclopedic knowledge into concise sentences. Here are a few sentences on yeast.
"[A]s it ferments our beer for us, yeast churns out hundreds of flavor chemicals. Yeast is quite a complex little creature, employing a huge array of bio-chemical processes in its business of staying alive and reproducing, but it's a bit sloppy about cleaning up after itself. Depending on temperature, genetics, and a number of other conditions, yeast releases many volatile chemicals into the beer, affecting the overall flavor and aroma of the finished product."Perhaps the best thing about Mosher is his accuracy. I suppose he's probably made an error about the history or craft of beer somewhere along the way, but his batting average is so much higher than the average writer that you can pretty much take what he says as gospel. Given how many books are festooned with well-worn myths and rumors, that's a big benefit. It's not for the reader who already knows who Gabriel Sedlmayr is or what kettle souring means, but that's fine. It's the book to buy for your friend (or mom, or dad) so you know they will get the facts--and probably enjoy reading about them, to boot.