To help you prepare for the outdoor reading season, each week we’re sharing a list from different Booklist editors and staff. —Ed.)
Forget robins. For me, nothing heralds spring nor promises summer quite like the first heady pint of beer enjoyed out-of-doors. If you also live in Chicago, you’ve likely spent the past six months huddled under multiple fleece blankets, wearing woolen layers, arguing with your roommate whether the thermostat should be running non-stop at 75F or 85F. I’m no scientist, but I presume the hidden magic that brings forth flowering buds each April is the same wizardry that—the first time it exceeds 50F—reminds me drinking a beer al fresco around a table of friends is not only an option but perhaps summer’s biggest delight.
I realize beer isn’t everyone’s cup of alcohol, but if you’re judging the beverage based on bottles with “[beer name] Light” labels or advertisements with bikinied women parading across “the Rockies,” then you’re very likely not giving beer the chance it deserves. As Randy Mosher says in Tasting Beer, “Three ingredients—grain, water, and hops—are transformed by yeast. Beer is shockingly simple, yet dazzling in the range of rich sensations it can offer.… We are fortunate to live in an age when all things are possible in the world of beer.”
The great thing about beer is there’s always
more to learn, always more to drink.
So whether you’re newly of age, a long-time skeptic, or the most ardent of craft beer geeks, I urge you to contemplate this most universal of beverages. This summer, I’ll be diving deeper into my favorite drink with the following reads and re-reads because the great thing about beer is there’s always more to learn, always more to drink. Cheers!
Tasting Beer, by Randy Mosher
Mosher is a craft beer giant, and he displays his ardent passion for the brew without betraying his mission to give a complete guide to “the world’s greatest drink.” From a recap of beer’s history to its many styles, from the brewing process to food pairings and judging, Mosher serves up something for every beer drinker.
The Complete Beer Course: Boot Camp for Beer Geeks, by Joshua M. Bernstein
Bernstein promises to turn beer novice into expert with a read through this encyclopedic tome. Like Mosher, Bernstein also covers history and basic principles but then dives deep into beer styles. Don’t know a gueuze from a gose? You will after this read.
The Homebrewer’s Companion, by Charlie Papazian
If you visit Papazian’s Wikipedia page you’ll see he’s no less than an American nuclear engineer, the founder of the Association of Brewers and the American Homebrewers Association, and is the current president of the Brewers Association. So yeah, this is the guy you want telling you how to sparge in your garage. And tell it he does with tips, techniques, recipes, charts, tables, step-by-step instructions, and more.
Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America’s Kings of Beer, by William Knoedelseder
Journalist Knoedelseder details the three-century history of the Busch family, starting with one small brewery that erupted into the mega-corporation that sells the “King of Beers.” Well-researched and captivating, this is the story of the legendary Anheuser-Busch company and the spirited, dysfunctional family behind it.
The Audacity of Hops, by Tom Acitelli
In Mosher’s Tasting Beer, he says that Michael Jackson (not that one) was fond of shocking European audiences by saying that the United States was the best place on the planet to drink beer. Acitelli explains how that came to be true in this classic underdog story. If Bitter Brew tells one tale of American beer, Audacity of Hops surely illuminates an entirely different one.