Coming in three editions (paperback, spiral-bound, and hardcover), The Beer Journal is a combination of a style reference guide and an actual journal in which to record beer tastings (as well as beer festival notes, brewery tours, and other things). The copy I received is the spiral-bound edition, which is a good format for this type of book. (At home I have several plain spiral notebooks in which I’ve been recording beer tasting notes and brewery review notes.)
First, the good:
The book is really-well put together, both physically (it’s a self-published book from Lulu.com, which I’ve mused about on my other blog and now have a live example of) and organizationally. The first half of the book is dedicated to beer styles—the BJCP 2004 official styles, as a matter of fact—as well as another helpful section about tasting beer.
The second half of the book is made up of the tasting logs, the intent of which is for you to record your notes. The lion’s share of these pages are for the beer tasting notes themselves, which have a logical, open layout with plenty of space for writing. There’s even a line at the bottom for "Brewer’s Autograph," which I particularly like, though wouldn’t have thought of myself.
Other items you can track include the packaging (draft, bottle, can), brewer (to go along with the autograph), alcohol content, and awards. At the very bottom, an "Overall Rating" section gives you ten spaces to score the beer—so subsequent tastings can be tracked a bit, too.
All in all, there are 83 of these pages, one page per beer. The balance of the book contains journal pages for other types of notes:
- Festivals, for which the layout is more of a ledger style, allowing you to record notes on up to nine beers per page; there are 21 pages here;
- Cellaring notes, also ledger-style, two pages worth;
- A "beer knowledge journal", basically a place to write down book titles, websites, and such;
- Brewery tours, open-ended one page entries similar to the beer notes; eight pages;
- Finally, five pages dedicated to food and beer pairing notes.
The overall package, then, is a handy beer traveler’s reference and journal (the spiral binding works really well here, portability-wise), and by and large, I think it’s a well-done book.
Now, the critical:
I would spend less space on the official beer styles and more space on the note pages; nearly the first 100 pages of the book (which is 226 pages total) are taken up by the styles, pages which could be used instead for note-taking. This is an important point, because the spiral-bound edition costs $17.95 (US), which is a substantial fee considering this is something you’d need to buy more copies of as you fill it up (and, depending on how avid a beer drinker you are, this could be frequent).
Not that I’m suggesting losing the reference altogether—I think it’s a valuable part of such a volume since you can compare your notes to the official guidelines. I think, though, that I would severely edit down the style copy to the bare minimum you could get away with, and reduce the overall footprint in terms of font size and page spacing this text takes up in the book.
If this style section were reduced to, say, one quarter of its current size—25 pages or so—that would be ideal, I think, and allow 75 more pages for beer notes.
Smartly done, a sturdy book physically, I like the way it’s organized, and I’ll be using it for recording my subsequent beer notes. I think the price point is a little high for a notebook—but I’m aware that this is a side-effect of the Lulu.com publishing process.
This would make a good gift for a beer lover—and Christmas is coming…