Do you have big pockets? You might need one to hold this massive guide to some of the best beers in the world. Deep pockets might also be needed if you have to travel to tick off each brew you've sampled.
The book sets out to be the "definitive guide" to over 3,000 beers with the authors aided by a team of international beer experts to deliver an interesting series of tasting notes, ordered by country, so you have a tourist's guide to what beers you might find on your travels. Finding an outlet that has the magical liquid, however, is up to you!
No doubt there will be debate amongst beer purists about the ordering of the countries. Is there a sub-conscious decision at play to put Europe first and then why Belgium ahead of England... Perhaps a pure alphabet-ordered listing by country might have been fairer and more logical. No doubt a couple of beer buffs could debate this point endlessly over many pints (or litres) of beer. But before one gets to the (written promise of) beer, first there is a great, simple but engaging introduction to beer, beer types, beer culture and even beer pairings amongst many other nuggets of information. Then, cue fanfare, one can start to drill down by brewery name within each country section. Many arguments might follow though as a quick look at a few breweries and some of the favoured tipples of this reviewer are missing. Fuller, Smith and Turner of London, England, for example, are well known and admired for many of their beers including "London Pride" yet it seems to be conspicuous by its absence. No doubt you cannot please all of the people all of the time.
Although you just need to pick up on other bits of information you know about, such as the introductory text written about the Finnish beer industry (Commercial beer making in Finland has been rendered bizarre by well-meaning but ineffectual laws aimed at reducing alcohol misuse in the country. This has led, tortuously, to the government-controlled national chain of liquor stores discriminating against smaller Finnish brewers and the long-established culture of trans-generational drinking in well-regulated pubs being priced out in favour of solitary consumption at home) and you can say that the nail has been hit perfectly on its head. Yes, hic, can this reviewer state that some of the observations and descriptions about some of the "stars" of Finnish beer are right on the money too.
So one should not get too hung up on the fact that some favoured beers might be missing as the authors and research team have done a damn good job at funnelling a wealth of information into this rather thick work. There will be errors, there will be omissions and there will be things you think "obviously" should be there which are not. But look at the price you pay, look at what you are getting and you'll soon see you are getting a good deal for your money. Just don't blame the author for a depleted wallet and expanded waistline due to "consumption issues."
At first this reviewer had feared this would be "yet another beer guide" but this has turned out to be a surprisingly good little gem.
on 15 January 2014
Of course this book will be out of date as soon as you buy it. Of course some beers you may recognise haven't made it in. Such is the resurgence and growth in artisinal, craft, just plain interesting beer around the world, it's inevitable. But this should not put you off. Many other beer books entice you in with dramatic titles like, '1 million Beers To Try Before You Die" but flatter to deceive. This little handbook however is well written, educational and above all useful. It will help you map the emerging terrain of beer around the world. You might not agree with specific ratings or write-ups but that's the beauty of the thing - it's a head start for you to immerse yourself in the marvellous world of beer. Buy it, you won't regret it.