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Melissa's romp through craft beer world

Added: Sunday, September 24th 2017

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The Little Book of Craft Beer, Melissa Cole (Hardie Grant, £10)

Melissa says this is not a book for beer nerds. Who are you calling a nerd, Mel? In spite of that, I read on with delight. I like the packaging and neat images, and above all the price: a hardback book about beer for a tenner is remarkable value these days.

She begins by admitting she doesn’t really know what craft beer is. A sensible writer, she settles for a selection of 100 good beers: if it’s good, I don’t care if comes from a cask handpump, a keg fount, a bottle or a can.

The first section is a quick romp through the basic ingredients that make up the pint in your hand. It’s cleverly done, free from jargon and quackery. Then we’re into the meat of the book, which is divided into sections: lager, session beers, wheat, hop stars (extra hoppy ones), red, amber and brown, spicy ones, fruit beers, farmhouse, wild beers, dark, big – as in strong – and low and no alcohol.

You get your moneys-worth with Melissa, for alongside each chosen beer she offers “also try” ones to add to the drinking pleasure. The range is her choice and if you are a dreaded nerd you will get picky and ask “Why did you choose that one when so-so-so is better?” But the choice is good. There are some I know and love, others I shall seek out as a result of her recommendations.

I am well aware, as a result of reading Melissa’s work and attending many events with her, that she is keen to match beer with food. There are many tempting dishes and, while I know she is a carnivore, I’m pleased by the number of recipes and nibbles that are suitable for veggies and vegans.

My one reservation is the frequent suggestion that strong spirits such as gin and vodka can be enjoyed alongside her chosen brews. Beer is sufficient alcohol for most of us and at a time when killjoys and the temperance movement, masquerading as the “health lobby”, are attacking drinking and calling for tougher measures to stop us enjoying a tipple, I think it unwise to recommend a tequila sunrise alongside the juice of the barley.

That aside, this is an excellent and above all readable introduction to beer and the vast range of styles available throughout the world. No doubt many of the readers will be inspired to move on to heavier tomes and join the ranks of the nerds.