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Tasting Beer

Randy Mosher

You know the feeling. Sometimes you see a book and your immediate thought is: ‘I’ve got to have it’. It’s not just the subject matter, it’s also the design and layout, even the feel of the book in your hand.

Tasting BeerI’ve had that compulsion many times, usually in connection with my other pet subjects, classic television and retro pop. The shelves in my office are testimony to that. On the beer side, however, seldom have I felt the same urgent need to buy.

Often the best words are let down by the poorest presentation, or the most attractive books flatter to deceive with their coffee-table looks and sparseness of informative text.

But the minute I spotted Randy Mosher’s Tasting Beer in the book store at the Great American Beer Festival, I knew it was something that had to be in my collection. I bought it there and then.

This is a book that has been crying out to be written – a book that gets to the heart of where the colours, aromas and flavours of the beer in your glass come from.

The premise is simple: how can you fully appreciate nut, toffee, chocolate, herbs, grapefruit, sweetness, bitterness and the myriad other components of a beer’s profile without knowing how these arrive in your drink?

So, yes, this is a technical book, but at the same time it’s very accessible – deliberately accessible, so that the man in the pub who wants to know more can easily lend his time to the project. There’s an element of beer history at the start but then the author launches into the guts of the book, explaining the essentials of sensory evaluation and unravelling the mysteries and magic of brewing. Randy teaches you how to taste, what to look for and why that should be.

Everything from the mineral content of water to storing and ageing beer is explained succinctly and engagingly. If you want to understand scientific terms like acetaldehyde, diacetyl and DMS (dimethyl sulphide) then here’s your chance, but you can also learn to recognize them by their ‘street’ names – green apples, butterscotch and sweetcorn. In that sense, the book is a great fusion of technical jargon and layman’s vernacular.

Whatever you want to know about is in here – not just malt, hops, yeast and water but attenuation, bitterness, carbonation, temperature and more. Randy explains the process behind becoming a certified beer judge, looks deeply into beer and food pairings, explores the characteristics of the major beer styles, and offers sound advice on glassware and presentation. If this book doesn’t have the answers, then I don’t know one that does.

The information is solid but open, the words clear and authoritative. You will learn masses from this book. And then there’s that other reason for wanting to pick it up and take it home. It just looks and feels so inviting, a good chunky, paperback in full colour, but without the shallow gloss of more conceited books.

Colours are nicely subdued, the text is visually appealing and easy to delve into, and there are tables, charts and diagrams galore. It’s visually, as well as verbally, stimulating.

As you can gather, I have no hesitation in recommending this book. If you are serious about wanting to understand beer, as a means of enhancing your enjoyment of your favourite drink, get hold of a copy sooner rather than later.

First edition (2009)

248-page paperback (Storey Publishing)


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