Let’s get this straight from the very beginning: The Oxford Companion to Beer is not the sacred tome of beer writing and knowledge. It is not infallible, as has been ably demonstrated by numerous commentators, and represents a starting or jumping off point more than an end in and of itself. Some of the author assignments are, to be generous, curious.
(Full disclosure: I was asked by the Oxford University Press to assist them in the editorial vetting process for this book, which I did. I was also invited to contribute, which I did not.)
That said, however, most of the people who crack the spine of the OCB are going to be people with a passing to moderate interest in beer. They are not going to be scholars of the Martyn Cornell school, even if he were to have a school, and if they wind up erroneously believing that the Imperial pint bottle is “a popular size” in Britain, or misunderstanding the role and timing of the Anglo-Saxon involvement in brewing in that same land, the world of beer and brewing is unlikely to suffer as a result. (Although admittedly some of the mistakes are more troubling, especially those which perpetuate myths some of us imagined were well dead and buried.)
To put it all another way, I have in my personal library a copy of the Oxford Companion to Food, which I view as a great book. Sometimes I pull it off the shelf and just flip idly through it, discovering points of interest here and there, but never have I taken it down to read it entry by entry. (In fact, when looking for a specific reference, I’m more likely to turn to the Larouse Gastronomique.) This is how I imagine most people wil use the OCB.
And used in that fashion, it is a fine book. Often as I have perused it myself, I have found that one entry leads me to cross-reference to another, and then a third, and so on. It’s fun to read this way, and as such will make a splendid Christmas gift. Just make sure the person you give it to also knows about the Commentary wiki that has been established by Mr. McL for the good of all.
2 Replies to “Gift Idea #2: The Oxford Companion to Beer”
Other beer books are available . . . . . .
(Full disclosure: I wrote them and my children have a financial interest in their success.)
The perfect companions to the Oxford Companion to Beer, as they’ll help you spot the bits that are wrong.
As the proud owner of two of your books, Ron, I can’t argue with that!