Spotlight on the wonderful world of beer
Added: Saturday, August 31st 2013
300 More Beers to Try Before You Die! Roger Protz, CAMRA Books, £14.99
I often get asked why beer is so peerless in its place in the drinks world (after water of course, without which we would die); then I get asked why I seem to be so obsessed with it (I am not sure I would use the word obsession as it seems to suggest Norman Bates and his dear old desiccated mum, but yes I’m very interested in beer). These are difficult questions but simply said I believe that there is a beer for every mood and every part of the day. A best bitter or a lager to drink while in the pub with friends, offering conviviality and bibulousness; an IPA with Asian food so beer is no stranger at the dining table; then there is a strong brooding imperial stout or porter for a quiet moment at the end of the evening. The list goes on. There are so many different styles of beer and the search for great beer is a lifelong quest, which is why we have lists.
When I come up with a list of beers to drink that one’s life would be incomplete without, there are always detractors pushing forth a selection of different beers, sometimes issuing comments and dictums along the lines of “What, no Bud Light!!” One person’s favourite beer can be another’s rictus-inducing poison. On the other hand, such battling is indicative of the passion (a much nicer word than obsession as this suggests Penelope Cruz rather than Norman Bates) that beer brings out in people.
Which neatly leads me to Roger’s newest collection of his best-selling 300 Beers, which he has nicely asked me to review (‘You would be completely free to say what you like, of course. Free press and all that…’). The first 300 Beers came out in 2005 and was praised for its total beer pornification -- within its pages were snaps of bottles of beer and glasses filled with beer, alongside Roger’s sparkling evocation of what said beers tasted like. It was beer as an erotic item.
The book was updated several years later, but this is an entirely new collection that demonstrates how fast the beer world (and in that I mean globally) has changed in seven years -- and continues to change. Who would have thought back in 2005 that a section devoted to Burton beers would have been necessary a few years later? There are now six beers within said section, including Fuller’s intricate remodelling of their 1930s Old Burton Extra (page 196) and Young’s generously ample Winter Warmer (page 198). The latter is a beer that inspires so much passion that its aficionados meet every annual launch to drink deeply and compare the new Winter Warmer with previous years’ releases (once again this is passion rather than obsession).
So what else is in the book? The growing Irish craft beer scene is strongly represented though I have always been reticent about the Irish Red beer style, thinking it a modern invention. However, who cares about styles when you can tuck into Sam Adams Irish Red (page 212), a fabulously rich and lush beer. I also look forward to trying O’Hara’s Irish Stout (page 171).
America, naturally, has a rigorous selection of well-hopped IPAs from the likes of Sierra Nevada (page 57) and Flying Dog (page 38), while it’s good to see The Bruery with their Saison de Lente (page 248). And of course the UK is strongly represented with the likes of Sharp’s, Salopian, Otley and the current Champion beer of Great Britain, Elland’s 1872 Porter (page 162).
Of course, I could point to beers that should be there, from breweries such as Stone, BrewDog, Buxton, Tiny Rebel, Pivovar Kocour, Pretty Things etc, but that’s not the point — this is Roger’s list and a mighty fine list it is too. It’s a book that will provoke arguments and debates, suggest beer-shopping expeditions and make people thirsty, which is all a beer book can hope for. And I suspect we will be seeing another 300 Beers one day soon, which will take his total closer to 1001…
*Adrian is a beer and travel writer, editor of 10001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die (a revised edition will be published this autumn) and author of Great British Pubs.
300 More Beers to Try Before You Die is available from www.camra.org.uk/shop and from bookshops and Amazon Books.