The Session #115: The Role of Beer Books

The SessionFor this September edition of The Session, Joan Villar-i-Martí of Blog Birraire asks us to consider The Role of Beer Books:

The discussion at hand is “The Role of Beer Books“. Participants can talk about that first book that caught their attention, which brought them to get interested in beer; or maybe about books that helped developing their local beer scene. There’s also the -bad- role of books that regrettably misinform readers because their authors did not do their work properly. There are many different ways to tackle this topic.

The Session has been about books before just once, and it was about those that hadn’t already been written. I believe that their importance for the beer culture makes books worthy for another Session.

My first books on beer all dealt with homebrewing, as I suspect is the case for many. The very first (aside from the pamphlet-style brewing instructions you got with your kit at the homebrew store) was Charlie Papazian’s The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing, which I even still have!

The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing

(It’s the 1991 edition; of course there is an up to date edition but I don’t have that one. This one has an introduction by Michael Jackson (does the new one?).)

Yes, Papazian got things wrong, as many of the beer cognoscenti like to point out, but he got a lot right and more importantly: that book was a huge influence for me as I learned about beer and brewing, and set me on that path. I think it’s sometimes easy to forget, in an age now where there are so many books about beer (Amazon lists 2,271 in their “Beer” category and 1,135 in their “Homebrewing, Distilling & Wine Making” category though of course there is crossover), that amount of influence Papazian’s books had to the field as a whole.

My next book was his The Home Brewer’s Companion (now also in a newer edition), and then other books on homebrewing, including ones from Dave Miller, Stephen Snyder, and others. From there I branched out into styles, many of which also contained history, guidebooks, picked up some used copies of Michael Jackson’s books, then more history, and so on.

And naturally I have to mention my own book, Bend Beer, which covers the history of Central Oregon beer where I live (up through 2014 or so).

Of course I’m rather bookish, and a number of the beer books I own I haven’t actually read (yet). And I will point out that I’m really not terribly interested in more books on homebrewing. Probably because I’ve been doing this for as long as I have and I already have quite a few—some are very, very good—that unless there is an unusual angle that hasn’t been covered, it’s bores me to see the same material over and over again.

That’s my personal take on the role of beer books. Looking forward to reading others!