Reading and Drinking: Five Great Books on Beer and Brewing



It’s Craft Beer Week around these parts, and the beer geeks are busily sampling all sorts of delightful ales and lagers. But why not indulge in a little light reading while you’re sipping that bourbon barrel-aged chipotle porter or whatever the hell? Educate yourself with these fine books on beer and brewing. Your brain cries out for knowledge.


Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer by Maureen Ogle. Primarily about the rise and fall of big brewers like Pabst, Miller, Busch, and their ilk, covering Prohibition, the big brewers’ decline into senescence, and the birth of the craft beer boom. There’s a bit of interesting revisionist history in here, too. She argues that the rise of tasteless light lager isn’t the result of macrobrewers looking to cut costs with cheap beer, but rather was in direct response to American drinkers’ appetite for light, quaffable lagers.


Michael Jackson’s Great Beer Guide by Michael Jackson. Jackson was the world’s preeminent beer writer who is credited with pioneering the modern concept of beer styles. This book features 500 beers from around the world. While it’s a bit dated now, it’s still a well designed classic.


The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian. First published in 1984, this was really the first book on homebrewing, and it’s pretty much the homebrewer’s Bible. It’s got everything you need to start brewing, plus the helpful mantra “Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew.”


Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink by Randy Mosher. Great design and a boatload of information about all things beer, including the basics of brewing, the variety of different styles, beer-food pairings, and more. Homebrewers will want to check out Mosher’s Radical Brewing, which has a slew of recipes and brewing tips and tricks.


Great American Beer: 50 Brands That Shaped the 20th Century by Christopher O’Hara. Chock full of photos of beer ephemera, this is essentially a mini-coffee table book for classic beer brands. Coasters, labels, and ads for beloved brands like Schlitz, Yuengling, Lowenbrau, and Billy Beer. Yes, Billy Beer.