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Magic carpet ride round the world of beer

Added: Sunday, October 6th 2013

Pocket Beer Book, Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb (Mitchell Beazley, £12.99)

Size does matter – and small is beautiful. Hard on the heels of their coffee table World Atlas of Beer, Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb (right) continue their reworking of the Michael Jackson canon with their Pocket Beer. This is an excellent companion. Not only can you slip it in your pocket but it also offers a brilliant snapshot of the modern world of beer in all its complexities and diversity.

It’s a world that has changed dramatically since Jackson honed the many editions of his pocket book. Stephen and Tim acknowledge the scope of the subject by building a team of junior scribes who have supplied the authors with information from countries across the globe.

Tim webb

As a result, we can learn about -- and salivate at the thought of tasting – beers from not just long-established brewing nations such as Belgium, Britain, Germany and the United States but emerging countries, including those of Latin America, Africa, Italy and Australasia. Italy now has close to 600 small craft breweries while Australia and New Zealand have broken free from the icy grip of sugary concoctions and built a thriving young industry dedicated to taste and flavour.

The Pocket Book trawls the world of beer to describe, snappily and pithily, the best beers on offer – and, happily for those of us chained to Specsavers, in a typeface more decipherable than those used in the earlier Jackson volumes. It gives ratings to beers and recommends towns and cities where the best beverages can be sampled.

Pocket Book cover

Not surprisingly, given Tim Webb’s experience, the book begins with the beers of Belgium but then the magic carpet takes on a dizzying tour of all the beer hot-spots, including those of central and eastern Europe that have emerged since walls and barriers tumbled in the 1980s.

This is a chunky, 300-page volume and it also describes the brewing processes, the ingredients used and – most usefully for newcomers to the subject – a description of the myriad beer styles now available to delight our palates. There’s also an excellent section by Stephen Beaumont on matching beer with food that puts the drink firmly on the dining table alongside wine.

It’s well designed, easy to read, committed but objective and a delight from start to finish. Unzip a pocket and never leave home without it.