Book Review – Beer, Edited by Michael Jackson

A trip to Border’s or Barnes & Noble looking for books about beer generally end up being frustrating and fruitless. It isn’t that there aren’t a lot of books about beer — although the wine-book to beer-book comparison has got to be ten to one. It’s that so many beer books are between five and ten years old.

We are in the midst of a full-blown beer revolution, especially in the United States. So many of the books I have read are interesting and full of good information, but they are woefully dated.

When you have an insatiable desire to read about beer, this simply won’t do. Beer culture is evolving right before our very eyes, and though books can be great for long-term history, the internet is by-and-large far superior in terms of getting current information. (That the internet is better for getting current information is certainly not breaking news, but the level at which the industry and the culture is evolving and emerging can make even the most well-intentioned book feel ancient.)

Because of this, I was pleasantly surprised to find a book simply called Beer, edited by the late great Michael Jackson, printed by DK Publishing (ISBN 9780756631550).

Now, this book may very well be quited dated in the next 2-3 years, but for right now, it’s a very nice companion to a full fridge, giving lists of not only some of today’s best breweries by country and region (try to find Stone or Dogfish Head in a book from five years ago), but giving them historical context.

While I love books with lists of great beer, they can often be frustrating since these lists are often arbitrary, and usually unavailable due to the regional nature of beer. Many of them came out when the craft brew culture was still in its embryonic stage. (Some might argue it is in the fetal stage right now, but I’d say the culture has really exploded in the last half dozen years especially.)

This book first gives an overview of beer, some of its different styles, and notable breweries. The information given regarding beer’s history is not earth-shattering fro the most part, although I found myself learning a little bit of new information on every page.

But perhaps the best gift is that, being published in 2007, it is one of Michael Jackson’s last offerings. As usual, his knowledgeable — but never pedantic — style is wonderfully readable and entertaining. As great as the internet can be for disseminating information, it will unfortunately not be able to give us anything new from MJ.

It’s a great gift for a budding beer enthusiast, and a worthy reading companion for any beer drinker. When it makes you thirsty just by reading it, that can’t be a bad thing.

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~ by William H on July 4, 2008.

One Response to “Book Review – Beer, Edited by Michael Jackson”

  1. Bill, the cut of your jib is a bit of alright. Just the other day I was thinking of heading to by local bookjangler in search of a good beer book, and possibly one of those Garfield books I used to get from the Troll book club. One part down, now point me to the Garfield section!

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