Hungry? Three Beer Cookbooks for Your Kitchen

I had hoped to get this post up before I left for Belgium last week, but unfortunately ran out of time before I was able. Hopefully there are still some of you out there who have yet to complete your beer-associated shopping this year and can still use this info. (After you pick up last year’s World  Atlas of Beer and the new Pocket Beer Guide, of course!)

Following a bit of a lull, there has been a relative explosion in craft beer cookbooks this year, including the three that I found arriving upon my desk this fall. Each has something quite different to offer.

Begin with the Basics: David Ort’s Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook is the sort of book any aspiring cook will appreciate, although I could understand it being seen as a little too simple by those who already know their way around the kitchen quite well. Recipes are mostly pretty rudimentary – from soft pretzels and Welsh rabbit in the “Snacks” section to mains like sausages and lamb shank and desserts such as ice cream and brownies – but are also well organized, prettily photographed and come (mostly) with a suggested beer pairing, to boot. I might have liked to see a bit more about beer included – it is a large part of the title, after all – but in general this is a good pick for beer aficionados with an interest in cooking.

More Advanced: the south-of-the-border yang to Ort’s yin is John Holl’s American Craft Beer Cookbook, and it is a beauty. Here, the recipes all come from beer places, much as they did in my 1997 Stephen Beaumont’s Brewpub Cookbook – take that all you reviewers writing that Holl’s book is the first of its kind! – and there is plenty here to set your mouth to watering, like pan-roasted sweetbreads in a sherry-bacon vinaigrette, cocoa-crusted pork tenderloin and Asian-grilled salmon salad. In fact, leafing through the book for the umpteenth time since I received it, I still cannot find a dish I don’t feel like cooking, which is impressive considering that the thick paperback contains 155 recipes! Like its Canadian counterpart, some dishes contain beer while others don’t, but here only some have beer pairing recommendations, and frankly there seems to be no rhyme or reason to why that is the case or why those specific beers are suggested. But all that said and done, I still find this to be a most appetizing cookbook.

And for a Relaxing Read: Fred Bueltmann’s Beervangelist’s Guide to the Galaxy is a cookbook, yes, but it is also so much more. The New Holland Brewing owner and advocate includes in his self-published work much of what I bemoan as absent in the two above books, including 15 pages on “The Art of Pairing,” multiple sections on beer styles and the seasonal suitablility thereof and even a couple of pages on building your own beer cellar. On the downside, the layout can seem a bit muddled and confused at times, the quality of the photos could have been improved and a tighter edit would have been to the book’s benefit. Still, it’s an entertaining read and Bueltmann’s passion for bringing beer to both the kitchen and the table shines through on every page.

Good News/Bad News for Craft Beer in Brazil

If you’ve had a chance yet to look at the Emerging Markets chapter of the new World Atlas of Beer, you’ll know that my co-author and I are quite bullish on the future of craft beer in Brazil. With a fast-growing middle class, rapidly improving craft breweries and both the summer Olympics and football’s World Cup around the corner, we can’t help but think that things look bright for the country’s ever-expanding premium beer segment.

Since I’m writing about Brazil, I figure I might as well add a gratuitous cover shot from the Brazilian edition of The World Atlas of Beer.

And apparently we’re not the only ones.

The global research firm, Mintel, has just come out with a report that suggests “strong and premium beer” are the big growth segments in Brazil, with data showing sales had improved 18% year-on-year to 2011.  In the report, Sebastian Concha, research director, Latin America at Mintel, is quoted as saying:

“The fact that premium beers are gaining more market share from the standard beer sector highlights the changing consumer mindset in Brazil and how beverage habits relate to this. Huge opportunities lie with Brazil’s hosting of key live sports events in the coming years. With a strong sporting prowess in Brazil and a product closely linked with sporting culture, beer manufacturers who can capitalize on local enthusiasm and blend this to ensure a premium product positioning stand to benefit.”

Now, admittedly, by “premium” Mintel means primarily imports and niche domestic brands like the Kirin-owned Devassa and Heineken-owned Kaiser Bock, but it doesn’t take much imagination to figure that the crafts should be able to capitalize on this movement, as well. After all, what was then just InBev unwittingly helped along the rise of craft beer in North America by promoting the hell out of its imported brands.

Which, unfortunately, is also where the bad news comes in. Moments after I received the Mintel report, I also found in my inbox a news item about the intent of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Brazilian division, AmBev, to open a chain of bars called Nosso Bar across the country. Organized via a semi-franchise arrangement, the bars will reportedly present a clean and gender-neutral image and be designed, of course, to fiercely promote AmBev brands such as Brahma and Sköl.

To be clear, I don’t believe that the latter news in any way outweighs the former — I remain convinced that the future is bright for Brazilian craft beer, despite the barriers the breweries still must overcome — but with AmBev and the other large breweries seeing great revenue potential in South America, the road ahead will likely be anything but smooth.

The Beaumont-Webb Travelling Road Show

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting much of late. Indeed (gulp!) for the last three weeks. There are reasons for this.

Reason number one is travel. As those of you who follow me on Twitter (@BeaumontDrinks) will know, I’ve been all over the place lately, and keeping on top of my various columns and assignments is almost all I can manage when I’m on the road.

Reason number two? That would be the prep time I’ve been spending getting organized to write my next book, but more about that at a later date.

And reason number three is the impending North American release of The World Atlas of Beer, the book I’ve co-written with Tim Webb. We’re pretty damn happy with it, and initial reviews have thus far been most encouraging. So we’re going to take this sucker on the road!

That’s right. Starting in early October, the esteemed Mr. Webb, himself the author of seven editions of the Good Beer Guide to Belgium, and I are going to be making a series of appearances across the United States, with most events already organized and some with details TBA. Here’s how it all is shaping up:

October 4: During the afternoon (exact hours TBD), Tim and I will be signing books at Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia, followed by a World Atlas of Beer dinner at the Belgian Cafe. See and for details.

October 6: We’ll be at the World Beer Festival in Durham, North Carolina, appearing at both sessions.

October 7: Come visit us at the Flying Saucer in Raleigh, North Carolina. Event details TBA.

October 8: We’re flying into Dallas to see how Texans react to Tim’s British accent during a beer dinner at the Meddlesome Moth.

October 9: Back on the road, this time to the Austin Flying Saucer for another appearance with details TBA.

October 10: Once more with feeling, this time at the Sugar Land, Texas, Flying Saucer.

October 11 – 13: It’s Great American Beer Festival time, and we’ll be there signing books during the Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoon sessions. God knows what else we’ll get up to…

October 14: Tim is off to Seattle for an as-yet-undisclosed event at an as-yet-undecided locale, but I’ll be popping up in Chicago for a beer and whisky tasting at Rockwell’s Neighborhood Grill. Hey, it’s a bye week for the Bears, so what else are you going to do!?   

Gift Idea #4: Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest

One more book, folks, and it’s a good one!

I’ve been friends with Lisa Morrison, author of Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest, for many years and have been anxiously awaiting her literary debut for most of that time. Thankfully she doesn’t disappoint. CBPN, as we will henceforth refer to this paperback, is an engaging trip from south Oregon through Washington state and across the border into British Columbia. It’s a beery wonderland and Morrison is a most adept guide.

Much like Max Bahnson’s Prague guide, which you might also like to get, Morrison’s…okay, I’m going to get all unjournalistic here and call her Lisa…Lisa’s approach is to put together pub crawls, within cities, between towns and along highways and coastlines. It’s the way most serious beer travellers plan their trips and makes sense in the vast majority of instances. (In BC, Lisa somehow manages to include Surrey’s Central City Brewing in a Sea-to-Sky Highway crawl, which any Vancouverite will tell you is more than a bit of a stretch.) The maps could sometimes be better, but that’s at best a quibble.

The real allure of this book, though, is Lisa’s voice, which is less guidebook-y and more let’s-go-drinking-together. Like Max’s book — which, again, you really should also get — it makes the reading pleasurable and thirsty work, drawing the reader to the locations in question like a moth to the proverbial flame.

The one thing I don’t like about CBPN is the colour scheme, which sees the sidebar brewery profiles and feature pieces, as well as the maps, illustrated in a yellowish-green that is none too easy on the eyes. But like the garish shirt your beer hunting buddy insists on sporting, it is a small price to pay for such good advice and company.

The Last I’ll Say About the Oxford Companion to Beer

I offer the following without commentary.

Garret Oliver on remuneration for the contributors to the book:

Of course, there is nothing I can do about the pay. Everyone here should realize that (1) academic presses never pay much – in fact, they often don’t even pay advances, and (2) OUP is a not-for-profit organization. Much of any surplus that may be generated by book sales goes back into education, including scholarships, other books and educational material, and the subsidization of massive works such as the Oxford English Dictionary. No one is getting rich here – everyone, myself included, has made far below minimum wage, and all the OCB writers I spoke to said that they did this partially to give something back to the brewing community. The fact that so many were willing to do so says something about that community. I understand that not everyone can afford to do this work, but I’m grateful to those who did.

Report published at about Oxford University Press:

Oxford University Press has described a surge in pretax profit by nearly 25% as “excellent”, but said it does not underestimate the challenges publishers are facing.

The academic publisher has reported pretax profits of £122.6m in the 12 months to 31st March 2011, up from £98.5m last year. The company also increased sales by nearly 6%, to £648.6m in that period, up from £611.9m last year.

Thanks to Evan Rail for the link.

Beer Book News, and a Bit About the Mondial

Like Lew Bryson, with whom I toured some of Montréal’s better beer destinations last Thursday, I’m a bit overrun with actual paying work right now, and so will get to my notes on the wonderful and wonderfully successful Mondial de la Bière later on. But here’s a quick taste in advance:

The cask-conditioned Post-Colonial IPA from Hopfenstark is a wonderful ale, one of the top two or three IPAs in the country, by my reckoning, and so something to definitely watch out for. I understand that as the day and a half the cask survived wore on, the beer got a little too warm and so generated some less than completely enthusiastic reviews, but when I had the pleasure, it was tasting pretty damn good!

Now, about that book. I’m hardly impartial in my approach to it, since I both like Tim Webb as a friend and colleague and have an essay contribution on pages 8 and 9 of the book, but the new Good Beer Guide to Belgium is something everyone who ever intends to set foot in Belgium should have. Period.

gbgb_168pxTim has improved the guide over previous editions by bulking up the substance without skimping a bit on the content. How he did this by adding a mere 13 extra pages is anyone’s guess, but there you have it: More interesting opinion up front; all the useful travel tidbits of volumes past; an impressive attempt to explain the unexplainable, which is to say Belgian beer styles; an exhaustive catalogue of breweries and their beers; and what you buy the book for, namely a great listing of the best of Belgium’s many, many cafés. Oh yes, and for the uninitiated, there’s even a section that explains in brief the typical Belgian menu.

Tim still doesn’t fully understand the beauty of the Bosteels beer, DeuS, but at least now he admits it “may yet become a classic.” And anyway, that’s one of his rare missteps.

The beerbistro Cookbook

I’ve been sitting on my hands and not posting about this until I was sure it was available Stateside as well as in Canada, but as I note that it’s now on the international Amazon, Borders and Barnes and Noble sites, I figure the time has come to announce the arrival of…

Yep, it’s now out there in all its full colour, gloriously illustrated and hard-covered glory, and I’ve got to say I’m pretty pleased with it. Chef Brian Morin did a wonderful job on the food, Mike McColl added his positively gorgeous pics – quite a number of them, in fact – and I contributed some, too, with detailed sections on beer and food pairing, beer tastings, dinners and even pouring techniques, beer and cheese affinities and a last section on beer cocktails.

Of course, I’m biased, but I do believe it’s well worth the $40 cover price, although of course it’s available online at the usual outlets for less. And since Carol Smagalski contributed such a detailed review to Amazon, I’m going to send you there.

It’s “Beer Hunter, Whisky Chaser” Day!

beer-hunter-whisky-chaser1Because I hate repeating myself, and think it just sloppy blogging, I will rarely – almost never, really – cross post between my three blogs. But this is no ordinary day, and this announcement is surely special.

Today marks the official release of a new book I am proud and privileged to be a part of: Beer Hunter, Whisky Chaser, a collection of new writings on beer and whisky assembled to honour the late, great Michael Jackson and, at the same time, provide valuable research dollars to the Parkinson’s Disease Society (UK).

Aside from myself, the contributing authors are a who’s who of the beer and whisky writing biz, beginning with a very personal tribute to the man himself from his loving partner, Carolyn Smagalski, and including (in alphabetical order) Dave Broom, Ian Buxton, John Hansell, Julie Johnson, Charles MacLean, Hans Offringa, F Paul Pacult, Roger Protz, Lucy Saunders, Conrad Seidl and Gavin D Smith. Aside from Carolyn’s piece, all the essays are works on the beverages in question and range from the very personal (Dave Broom’s “Three Stepps to…”) to the historic (Julie Johnson’s “Thirty Years of American Beer”) to the philosophical (book editor Ian Buxton’s “Pants to Whisky: An Authentic Link”). In total, there are thirteen essays plus an introduction by Ian Buxton, the sum total of which makes for some very fine reading.

We all contributed our services free of charge, so 100% of the proceeds will be directed towards Parkinson’s research, making this likely the most charitable volume you may ever buy. And you really should buy it, and get a couple for friends or behind the bar while you’re at it. So go ahead and click on over to Classic Expressions to read more about the book and place your order.