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World's Best Beers

Ben McFarland

Not another book of unmissable beers? Yes, that broadly is the context of World’s Best Beers, but it’s much more than that, courtesy of a highly attractive layout and Ben McFarland’s always knowledgeable and amusing words.

World's Best BeersAmid the beer books arriving this year, none will be more beautifully presented than this. Nearly 300 full-colour pages take you on a tour of the world, beer by beer, pulling out features on star breweries along the way.

Preamble sections include the compulsory words on ingredients and how beer is brewed, as well as the basics of enjoying beer, from storing and pouring to tasting and glassware.

Good solid paragraphs of explanatory text do sterling work in revealing the numerous beer styles there are to explore out there and then, via a couple of top ten lists (beer-drinking cities and designer beers) we’re off, touring the globe, summing up the beery wonders of each country and then picking out the best of the best.

There aren’t as many words per beer as in Roger Protz’s 300 Beers to Try before You Die, for example, but each entry is equipped with a choice of icons to quickly convey whether it is a ‘cool quencher’, a ‘connoisseur classic’ or even ‘good with food’.

In the hands of lesser writers the short descriptions could be seen as no more than throw away remarks. With Ben, however, you are never far from a clever turn of phrase or a sharp piece of summing up. He’s a man for his metaphors and similes, which brighten the text and leave you with a chuckle.

Some of my favourites from this book include the descriptions for Mackeson (‘sweeter than a puppy in a dress’), Schlenkerla Rauchbier (‘divides opinion in much the same way as dinner-table talk of the death penalty’) and Lost Abbey’s inventive brewmaster, Tomme Arthur (‘pushes more envelopes than a postman on crack’.)

The description of Great Divide’s Yeti Imperial Stout is written just as a joke, complete with punchline. With tricks and twists like this, Ben adds as much colour to the page as the countless photographs.

The book concludes with a good, chunky section on matching beer with food, a glossary and lots of contact addresses.

World’s Best Beers is a handsome tome at, it has to be said, a handsome price (£25 if you pay full whack), but any beer lovers who receive this in their Christmas stocking will have plenty to keep them entertained and enthused for the year to come.

First published 2009

288-page hardback (UK: Jacqui Small; US: Sterling Innovation)


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