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Reviews: The Comic Book Story of Beer and The Beer Bible October 6, 2015

Posted by sjroby in Beer, Book reviews.
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More from Netgalley.

First, The Comic Book Story of Beer by Jonathan Hennessey and Mike Smith. This is a breezy read that takes an American look at the history of beer. It’s a good starting point for anyone who might want an introduction to the history of beer, the development and characteristics of key types, and the growth of the craft beer industry. (It doesn’t look only at American beer history, but the later chapters do tend to focus much more on the USA than other areas.)

The art is generally workable, with occasional little swipes from other cartoonists’ styles. It looks more like a graphic novel than the old line of “… for Beginners” books a few years back did, though there are occasional one-page infodumps looking at the key beer types. Ideally, readers will start here and get interested enough to go search out better beer experiences. It doesn’t tell you everything you may want to know, but it’s not trying to. It’s trying to bring you quickly up to speed on the big picture and get you interested enough to find out more. It should do reasonably well at that.

And now, The Beer Bible by Jeff Alworth.

There’s a lot of information packed into these 650 cleanly laid out, well illustrated pages. History of beer in general, history of craft brewing, breakdown of the key types of beer, the history of each, and suggested examples… the great frustration for many readers will be the difficulty in tracking down some of the beers mentioned.

Unsurprisingly, this is a US-centric book. The only references to Canada, which is undergoing a considerable craft brewing phase at the moment, are a few to a long-established Quebec brewery. But that means there’s another book to be written by someone else one of these days. Americans and visitors to the USA who find well-stocked stores will likely have many suggestions they’ll want to investigate. I’ve only tried one of the seven suggested porters; I’ve never even seen any of the others. But the information may still come in handy, and the tip about letting imperial stouts age may prove useful.

Beer lovers and beer neophytes can both benefit from this guide. IPA-loving hopheads may be intrigued by other styles; newbies can learn just how broad a range of possibilities there are in the world of beer. It’s a good book for dipping in and out of but it holds up to more sustained reading as well. Definitely a handy book to have around.

If you get both, you won’t necessarily regret it, despite some duplication of information. You may find one works better as a cover-to-cover read while the other makes a good reference to dip into occasionally.