In 2005 I was interviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle. I was asked: “If there are 50 beers on tap, what do you order?” I answered, “Something out of a bottle.
Only January 2 and I’ve finished my first book of the year. I did cheat and start this in 2011 though! The author Charles Bamforth is a long time employee / executive at Bass and currently a Professor of Brewing at UC-Davis, in a position endowed by whatever we are calling Anheuser-Bush these days.
I wanted to love this book, but I just couldn’t. First of all, almost half the book is endnotes, which is a very odd was to organize a book. Some of the endnotes are technical details related to a point he was making, and thus are placed appropriately. Other endnotes are almost entire chapters, and should have been incorporated into the text of the book. I’m not sure what his editor was thinking.
Charlie has spent his career in the big brewer side of the beer world, and thus his view of beer is colored appropriately. He adamantly defends macro-lagers on several occasions in the book. I’ll grant the technical achievement in making Budweiser taste the same across the world. It is true that even a minor mistake is magnified and more noticeable in such a thin and flavorless beer. Personally, I think wasting such technical brewing ability on soulless beer is a crime.
However, his explanation of what happened to the British pub culture and brewing industry was fascinating, and I’m much smarter for having read his book; as I knew nothing of Thatcher’s changes to the beer industry in the 80s. Beer enthusiasts on the right-wing side of the US political spectrum may very well have to take her off the pedestal when they understand what she did to beer culture in the UK.
He also takes on MADD and other neo-prohibitionist organizations in the US. This a subject I can agree 100% with him on.
And finally, the quote I started this review with. It sounds heretical on the surface, but he has good reason for it. But you’ll have to read the book to find out why
If you are a beer nerd and can get the book cheap, I’d recommend reading it. I got is as free Kindle download. If I had paid $5 for the book, I wouldn’t feel cheated. I think I would be disappointed if I had paid much more than that though.