Do you know someone who loves beer so much that merely drinking it isn’t enough? Is he thirsty for every drop of knowledge he can find on the subject? Does she want to learn more about all the beer styles out there, and how to pair them with the perfect dish?
Or perhaps that’s you I’ve just described?
Either way, I have just the list for you.
My top ten books for budding beer buffs
I’m going to break this down into two main sections. First, books on beers of all types. After that we’ll move onto the food and beer pairing.
Full disclosure: I have used some affiliate links below. If you click through and buy any books I will get a small commission, but it won’t cost you any extra.
Books on beer
These books will teach you all you need to know about appreciating beer. They cover the history of beer and brewing, outline the various styles and how they emerged, and of course describe in detail what they all taste like.
After reading these books you’ll be well on your way to becoming a beer expert.
1. Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher
Paperback, 2nd edition, 2017.
This is THE book you need to read if you want to start understanding all of the different types of beer in the world. Mosher covers it all in suprerb detail, but manages to do it without sounding like a bowtied professor of brewing. His style is light and engaging throughout.
“This completely updated second edition of the best-selling beer resource features the most current information on beer styles, flavour profiles, sensory evaluation guidelines, craft beer trends, food and beer pairings, and draft beer systems. You’ll learn to identify the scents, colours, flavours, mouth-feel, and vocabulary of the major beer styles — including ales, lagers, weissbeirs, and Belgian beers — and develop a more nuanced understanding of your favourite brews with in- depth sections on recent developments in the science of taste. Spirited drinkers will also enjoy the new section on beer cocktails that round out this comprehensive volume.”
2. The Complete Beer Course by Joshua M. Bernstein
This book bills itself as ‘Boot Camp for Beer Geeks’ and promises to take you from novice to expert in 12 tasting classes. If you follow that advice given in its pages, you will learn more about beer than you ever would by just drinking what seems interesting on the bottle shop shelf.
“It’s a great time to be a beer drinker, but also the most confusing, thanks to the dizzying array of available draft beers. Expert Joshua Bernstein comes to the rescue with The Complete Beer Course, demystifying the sudsy stuff and breaking down the elements that make beer’s flavour spin into distinctively different and delicious directions. Structured around a series of easy-to-follow classes, his course hops from lagers and pilsners to hazy wheat beers, Belgian-style abbey and Trappist ales, aromatic pale ales and bitter IPAs, roasty stouts, barrel-aged brews, belly-warming barley wines and mouth-puckering sour ales. There is even a class on international beer styles and another on pairing beer with food and starting your own beer cellar. Through suggested, targeted tastings, you’ll learn when to drink down-and when to dump those suds down a drain.”
3. So You Want to be a Beer Expert? by Jeff Evans
A slightly slimmer book at last, but one still packed with advice, insight and tips to give you the knowledge you need to make the right beer choices. This is a CAMRA book, so expect a better line up of British examples of various beer styles than you might see in some of the other books.
“There has never been a better time to drink quality beer. The number and variety of excellent beers in general circulation has never been greater, both in the pub (where guest ales and beer festivals are regular features) and in the supermarket. More people than ever are searching for an understanding of what makes a great beer, and this book meets that demand by presenting a hands-on course in beer appreciation, leading to to an understanding of the beer styles of the world, beer flavours, how beer is made, the ingredients and more. The novelty of this book – and its key point of difference with other beer titles – is that it doesn’t just relate the facts but helps readers reach conclusions for themselves. Key to this process are the interactive tastings that show readers, through their own taste-buds, what beer is all about. The book covers all the basics of beer knowledge (and more) but then points readers in the right direction for a greater understanding – towards places to visit, people to talk to and in-depth books to read.”
4. 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die by Adrian Tierney-Jones
For some people a thousand and one beers would be enough to last them a lifetime. For others… not so much. It may sound like a lot, but once you start tasting beers seriously the numbers soon rack up. This book will help you focus on the beers that matter while you’re racking up those bottle caps.
“This bewitching, thirst-inducing, gorgeously illustrated book is a guide to the best beers in the world with a succinct history of the breweries, tasting notes, temperature recommendations, and what food to serve them with, together with entertaining anecdotes about the breweries. Here you will sample world classics such as the ales of England, the speciality beers of Belgium, the new wave beers of U.S. craft brewers, the magical lagers of Germany and Central Europe, and a host of world beers that will beguile and bedazzle.”
5. The Little Book of Craft Beer by Melissa Cole
A guide to over 100 of the world’s finest brews. Many of the other books above focus on the classics from traditional beer styles, whereas the focus here is definitely on craft. Melissa Cole really knows her stuff, so you can trust her recommendations completely. This book is “not a book for beer nerds”, but instead is aimed squarely at drinkers just starting to explore the world of beer.
“It has never been a better time for quality ale and brews. But with more amazing beers available than ever before, it s hard to know which ones to choose. Do you want something sharp or smooth? Citrusy or herby? Light or heavy? In comes The Little Book of Craft Beer, which celebrates over 100 of the world s most innovative and tastiest beers. From classic IPAs bursting with zingy hops to silky-smooth stouts, you ll be pointed in the right direction to find the perfect brew for you.”
Books on pairing beer and food
Now this for me is where it really gets interesting. Pairing beer and food can make both better than each would be on its own. It’s an art form where practice and experience really count – so why not take some short cuts and benefit from other people’s hard work?
6. The Brewmaster’s Table by Garrett Oliver
Perhaps the definitive book on the subject by a real expert and a passionate communicator. I defy anyone to read this book without wanting to rush out and try the dishes and the drinks described. Garret Oliver brings the subject to life with an easy writing style, immense knowledge and an inspiring palate.
“Traditional craft-brewed beer can transform a meal from everyday to extraordinary. It’s an affordable, accessible luxury. Yet most people are only familiar with the mass-market variety. Have you tasted the real thing?
[Garret Oliver] shows how real beer, which is far more versatile than wine, intensifies flavors when it’s appropriately paired with foods, creating brilliant matches most people have never imagined: a brightly citric Belgian wheat beer with a goat cheese salad, a sharply aromatic pale ale to complement spicy tacos, an earthy German bock beer to match a porcini risotto, even a fruity framboise to accompany a slice of chocolate truffle cake. Whether you’re a beer aficionado, a passionate cook, or just someone who loves a great dinner, this book will indeed be a revelation.”
Seriously, if you’re at all interested in the idea of matching beer with food, you must read this book.
7. Beer and Food by Mark Dredge
This book looks in detail at why beer works with food. It examines the science of taste and uncovers how the ingredients in a brewery work with ingredients in a kitchen. One great way to ensure a perfect beer and food match is of course to use beer as an ingredient in your recipe. Cooking with beer is covered by over 50 recipes. Overall, more than 350 beers from all over the world are covered in this book, so you’re sure to find something you like.
“Whether you have cooked dinner and don’t know what beer to choose, or you’ve got a pale ale and can’t decide what dish is best to serve with it, Beer and Food has all the information you could possibly need. It looks at the science of taste and how the ingredients in a brewery work with ingredients in a kitchen, examining the principles of matching beer and food, and looking at the flavours they share. Over the following pages, more than 35 beer styles are showcased, telling stories about the brews and picking perfect pairings for each, before delving into different cuisines and food types from around the world. Everything is covered, from sandwiches to curries to desserts and, of course, the best beers to enjoy with fast food. As well as the greatest pairings and suggestions of the best styles to try, there’s a recipe section with over 50 dishes which use beer as an ingredient. With over 350 beers featured in total, chosen from all over the globe, it’s the book for everyone who loves a drink and a tasty bite to eat.”
8. Beer Pairing by Julia Herz and Gwen Conley
By examining the effects aroma, taste, and personal experience can have on flavour, the authors equip you to discover your own preferences free from the baggage of received wisdom. Then it’s on to exploring food pairings and learning why some of these become classics. The book also promises to deliver ‘complete information for planning beer dinners and cooking with beer, tips from pro brewers, and geek-out science features’. Well, who could resist?
“Beer has re-claimed its place at the dinner table. Yet unlike wine, there just aren’t many in-depth resources to guide both beginners and beer geeks for pairing beer with food. Julia Herz and Gwen Conley are here to change that.”
9. Cheese & Beer by Janet Fletcher
This one is on my personal wish-list. Cheese and beer is a killer combination, and one where beer outshines wine completely. Don’t just take my word for it. Read what Garret Oliver has to say on pairing beer and cheese in The Brewmaster’s Table (listed above).
“The dirty little secret of the wine world is that most wine, especially red wine, is a very poor match for cheese. […] Beer can do a lot better – it can find such harmony with cheese that you won’t know where the beer ends and the cheese begins. Traditional beer and cheese are absolutely perfect together. It’s not surprising, when you think about it. Beer and cheese are both traditionally farmhouse products, often made by the same person. (Have you ever seen a cow in a vineyard? Neither have I.)”
Now if that doesn’t have you convinced, then maybe this list isn’t for you after all.
10. The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit
The Flavour Thesaurus is like a secret weapon for matching beer and food. It’s not written with beer and food pairing in mind but if you read it closely and really know your beer’s flavours, you can turn its wisdom to your own beery end. (Nefarious cackling entirely optional.) I love this book, and I hope you will too.
“Ever wondered why one flavour works with another? Or lacked inspiration for what to do with a bundle of beetroot? The Flavour Thesaurus is the first book to examine what goes with what, pair by pair. The book is divided into flavour themes including Meaty, Cheesy, Woodland and Floral Fruity. Within these sections it follows the form of Roget’s Thesaurus, listing 99 popular ingredients alphabetically, and for each one suggesting flavour matchings that range from the classic to the bizarre. You can expect to find traditional pairings such as pork & apple, lamb & apricot, and cucumber & dill; contemporary favourites like chocolate & chilli, and goat’s cheese & beetroot; and interesting but unlikely-sounding couples including black pudding & chocolate, lemon & beef, blueberry & mushroom, and watermelon & oyster. There are nearly a thousand entries in all, with 200 recipes and suggestions embedded in the text. Beautifully packaged, The Flavour Thesaurus is not only a highly useful, and covetable, reference book for cooking – it might keep you up at night reading.”
Over to you
Have you read any of these books? Or perhaps you’re thinking of one that didn’t make my list. Tell me about it in the comments below.