Karen MacNeil first published The Wine Bible almost 15 years ago and it quickly became the go-to resource for those looking to grasp the basics on the beverage. As beer styles have become more varied and as beer has just gotten bigger and better, tons of books on suds have popped up. Now, we have a bible, too.
The Beer Bible was written by Jeff Alworth, who has been writing about beer for more than 15 years. And it’s an awesome survey of the basics — plus the more-than-elementary, too. Alworth covers all of the major styles — ales, lagers, wheat beers, and tart/wild ales — and does well to delve pretty deeply into the brewing process. It’s something most drinkers don’t bother with — gah, Pop, science?! — but it can be revelatory of what ends up in your glass.
Besides covering the territory every proud geek should know before they step into a craft beer fest or, really, a bar, Alworth peppers the Bible with nice tidbits. There’s a section on food pairings, and he rightfully reminds us of international brewing — at a time when Americans are so focused on what’s cooking here. There are even tasty sidebars like “The Rise and Fall of Pete’s Wicked Ale,” which are impossible not to want to tear out of the spine and show to a pal.
But, because it’s a book, it’s by definition bound by those pages. It ain’t BeerAdvocate: The Beer Bible can’t and doesn’t list as many great beers as you’d wish. In his “Beers to Know,” Alworth names eleven IPAs for Earth. Clearly, he can’t take page after page listing off obscure double IPAs from Tennessee, but there’s something unsatisfying about the relatively small amount of actual beers he gets to recommend.
Alworth lives in Portland, Oregon, and he lets his Pacific Northwest prejudice seep through a bit. Nobody can be totally objective, but it’s almost like he doesn’t know what he’s talking about with Oregon’s beer rival — and my home state — Colorado. In his “Beer Tourism” section he says you should head to Boulder Beer, Great Divide, Avery, and Wynkoop. Boulder Beer and Wynkoop Brewing are fine, but they’re a far cry from, say, Odell’s or Dry Dock. Actually, here, just look at this if you’re headed to Colorado to drink beer.
But, don’t let total nerdery dissuade you: Pick up this book. If you’re not knee-deep in some mash right now or setting up a booth at the Great American Beer Festival, chances are you’ll learn a lot from The Beer Bible. Just try to page through it when you’re somewhat sober.