I’m expecting quite a few new readers on the site today. If that’s you, welcome! I hope you like what you find here.
Perhaps you’ve arrived here today after reading my piece for BeerBods on Unity Brewing Co’s Congregate Belgian pale ale. And perhaps you’re wondering “who is this dude, and why am I reading his stuff instead of Evil Gordon’s?”.
I don’t usually write about myself on this blog. Usually it’s all about the beer – which is as it should be. After all that’s much more interesting. But I’m going to break that habit today. I won’t bore you by repeating what’s already on my About page, or the one that explains what a beer sommelier is. But I will take this opportunity to share a little bit about what I’ve been up to recently and some plans I have been cooking up for the future.
Before I do that though, seeing as so many of you are new, here are a few top posts that you can use as a jumping-off point for exploring the site and getting an idea of what it’s all about:
- How to taste beer like an expert
- Love beer but hate gluten? Gluten-free beer to the rescue!
- It’s cold out there! Warm up with these strong stouts
- Get the most from your year in beer – 2018
As well as writing for BeerBods I’ve done a couple of pieces for Winerist – these are aimed at a non-beer audience at a very basic level. There’s one on the best beers for wine drinkers, and another on how to talk intelligently about beer, with more to come in the future. I’ve recently joined the British Guild of Beer Writers too.
I haven’t done this much homework since I left full-time education, longer ago than I care to calculate right now. There are the more pleasant aspects of course, tasting beer is always a high priority, but it’s not always the beer I necessarily feel like drinking at that particular moment! Most useful are the compare and contrast sessions with similar looking beers of different style, or multiple examples of a different style. You can read what it was like to plough through over three litres of kriek, for instance. More recently I’ve been testing myself to see whether I can tell kölsch, helles and pilsners apart in a blind tasting. It’s not easy!
Off-flavour training also plays and important role. It’s an odd mixture of enjoyable and unpleasant at the same time, as you sniff and taste at samples of Coors Light that have been doctored to taste even worse. Diacetyl (buttery, butterscotch, cinema popcorn) and DMS (sweetcorn, vegetal, canned tomatoes) are fine but when it gets to geosmin (damp and earthy but almost inconceivably worse than it sounds) and butyric acid (rancid, baby vomit), then you realise that even the life of a professional beer taster has its downsides.
So… many… beer books… I wrote an post listing a few at the end of last year (10 Best Books for Budding Beer Buffs) but here are a few more that I’ve added to my collection since then. Again I’m featuring affiliate links because I’m poor now and I need the money – it won’t cost you extra if you buy any though. Click on the cover images to view the books on Amazon.
How to Brew, by John Palmer.
Fully revised and updated, this is the definitive guide to making quality beers at home. Whether you want simple, sure-fire instructions for making your first beer, or you are a seasoned homebrewer working with all-grain batches, this book has something for you. John Palmer adeptly covers the full range of brewing possibilities — accurately, clearly and simply. From ingredients and methods to recipes and equipment for brew-ing beer at home, the book is loaded with valuable information on brewing techniques and recipe formulation. A perennial best seller since the release of the 3rd edition in 2006, this is a must-have for every new and seasoned brewers library.
Brewing Classic Styles, by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer
Jamil Zainasheff is a perennial award winner at the National Homebrew Competition finals and winner of over 500 brewing awards across all style categories. In this book he teams up with home-brewing expert John J Palmer to share award-winning recipes for each of the 80-plus competition styles.
This book uses extract-based recipes for most categories, although there are also notes for converting to all-grain recipes. Getting inside the brewing process like this and understanding how the ingredients and process a reflected in the finished beer really helps to understand all the various styles out there and the differences between them.
Cellarmanship, by Patrick O’Neill
An essential book for professionals in the drinks trade, beer festival organisers and keen amateurs wishing to serve a decent pint at a function. This established CAMRA classic explains all you need to know about cellaring and serving real ale, with step-by-step instructions, concise information, illuminating anecdotes and new content on KeyCask, FastCask and other recent technologies.
Definitely a bit of light relief compared to the other books here, but this fun and engaging little book also provides a great insight into London’s craft beer scene at the moment and where to go to experience it at its best.
The Oxford Companion to Beer, edited by Garrett Oliver
Yeah… I’m not copying out the whole blurb here, it’s too long. Here’s just a bit: “The Oxford Companion to Beer is the first reference work to fully investigate the history and vast scope of beer, from the agricultural makeup of various beers to the technical elements of the brewing process, local effects of brewing on regions around the world, and social and political implications of sharing a beer. Entries not only define terms such as ‘spent grain’ and ‘wort’, but give fascinating details about how these and other ingredients affect a beer’s taste, texture, and popularity.”
The quality of the entries varies – how could it not with a hugely ambitious project like this? – but despite the odd lacklustre passage it’s still worth checking out overall, especially if you’re serious about getting to know beer in depth.
The Belgian Beer Book, by Erick Verdonck and Luc de Raedemaeker
Belgian beer is famous throughout the world. Beer connoisseurs Erick Verdonck and Luc De Raedemaeker explain everything there is to know about Belgian beer culture. How does the brewing process work? How do you tap, serve, taste and conserve a perfect beer? What are the different styles and types of beer? Which beers are the best ones and how about the recent craft beers? This book explains it all!
What’s coming up next?
The most exciting bit of news I have to share is that I will be judging at the World Beer Awards this year. This is a fantastic opportunity, and I’m really looking forward to taking part. Having trained specifically for this at the Beer and Cider Academy during my beer sommelier training, I’m really glad of the chance to take this knowledge out of the classroom and to sharpen and further develop my skills in a real-world situation.
I’ve also just received my personal alcohol licence, which means of course that I can now sell beer. This was an important step towards the goal of putting on my own tasting evenings. I’ll be talking soon to wholesale suppliers and venues, and hope to start putting events on by the summer if not earlier. I also plan to run off-flavour training sessions for those of you who want to get serious about your beer. If you’d like to hear more about any of these events sign up to my newsletter and you’ll be among the first to know when they get going.