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500 Beers

Zak Avery

As author Zak Avery is only too happy to point out, this is one collection of must try beers that you can read without fear of popping your clogs at the end of it.

500 BeersWe’ve had Roger Protz’s 300 Beers to Try before You Die! for five years now, and that is about to be joined by a new beery addition to the 1001 (Films/Books/Albums – fill in the gap as appropriate) You Must Try before You Die series. Zak’s title, while it follows similar lines, is altogether more modest in scope and, thankfully, self sacrifice.

Like its rivals, 500 Beers forms part of a series. Existing titles in the range already plunder the wonders of Red Wines, Soups and Cocktails, and the format, is, of course, very similar. What I like about 500 Beers is that it packs a lot into a small package.

You’ve got plenty of good, full-colour photographs of beer and all its associated trimmings and an easy-to-follow text that divides the selected beers up by common styles (e.g Bock & Doppelbock, or Abbey & Trappist Tripel).

There are also less common, scoop-up-the-rest headings (such as American Esoterica and Lager Oddments), which provide one way of finding space for beers that don’t quite fit the bill elsewhere.

Each style is prefaced with a history/description before launching into a number of great examples. Under IPA, for instance, there are 30 beers. Descriptions are not extensive, but they do major on tasting notes, so you’ll know what to expect if you go after that beer.

Other facts are limited to ABVs and serving temperatures, with slide diagrams to show where on the scale of Light to Dark, and Light-Bodied to Full-Bodied, the beer sits. Everything else you’d expect to find in a book that caters for both the novice and the connoisseur comes as a preamble – ingredients, brewing, buying, storing, tasting, beer with food and so on.

There are now heaps of books recommending beers, so why buy this one? Well, firstly, the choice of beers is interesting in not only highlighting hard-to-find outstanding examples but also weighing up the merits of a number of beers that are all too common, but perhaps overlooked.

As the introduction says: ‘This book isn’t a trophy-hunter’s guide to beer, but more of a cross-section of what’s out there – a user’s guide to the world of beer’.

Secondly, the author, Zak Avery, occupies an unusual position in the ever-growing band of beer writers in that he works at the coal face, so to speak, as manager of the widely-acclaimed Beer Ritz shop in Headingley, Leeds. He knows what a good beer is all about and also how to sell it.

Finally, if you need yet another incentive to click on the amazon link below and add this book to your collection, it must be the price. The compact format means you get a full-colour, highly-informative, thirst-arousing book for less than a tenner (considerably less via that amazon link). That has to be money well spent.

First edition (2010)

288-page hardback (UK: Apple Press; US: Sellers Publishing)


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