Beer is a multisensory experience. Sure it looks, smells and tastes great, but another way to enhance enjoyment of beer is to read about it to understand and appreciate how it is made, where the different flavors come from, and its history and the role it has played in society.
Each year, dozens of beer books are evaluated by the North American Guild of Beer Writers (NAGBW) and the best three are given an award. This year’s list of winners covers homebrewing, Belgian beer culture, and black history in America.
Third Place — “Homebrewing for Dummies: Third Edition” by Marty Nachel.
Marty Nachel is a veteran homebrewer and has worked in various aspects of homebrewing and professional brewing for over 30 years. All three editions of this book from the “Dummies” series were authored by Nachel with each adding information about the latest trends, ingredients and equipment. Those familiar with the “Dummies” books will appreciate the light style and practical tips. Even beer lovers who are not homebrewers will appreciate this book as it explains where flavors come from.
Second Place —“A History of Brussels Beer in 50 Objects” by Eoghan Walsh
In the world of beer, Belgium holds a special place. So much so that in 2016, UNESCO recognized Belgian beer culture with inscription on its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. By tying the history of beer in Belgium’s capital to 50 objects, from a type of cherry to a king’s grave, “Eoghan Walsh has taken a flea market and turned it into a meditation on history, culture, and place,” says Jeff Alworth, author of The Beer Bible, in his book-jacket review of Walsh’s book. “Piece by piece, these fifty objects create the colorful mosaic of a city with beer running through her veins.”
First Place — “Ted Mack and America’s First Black-Owned Brewery: The Rise and Fall of Peoples Beer” by Clint Lanier
Beer has existed as long as society has. Often, the history of people can be linked to the history of beer. Written by Clint Lanier, assistant professor of English at New Mexico State University, this NAGBW-winning book tells the story of Ted Mack, who was born a sharecropper, but would eventually purchase the Peoples Brewing Company of Oshkosh, WI. Extensively researched and beautifully written, this is a book is as much about overcoming hardship and entrepreneurism as it is about beer.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the NAGBW’s counterpart is the British Guild of Beer Writers. Each year, the British Guild awards the “Best Book about Beer or Pubs.”
Silver — Des de Moor for “CASK: The real story of Britain’s unique beer culture”
Cask ale, also known as cask-conditioned beer or ‘real ale,’ is unfiltered and unpasteurized and allowed to condition (or carbonate) in the cask from which it is served. The beer is sent to pubs while it is still evolving and cask management is a skill required by the pub as much as the brewery. Today, cask ale is a uniquely British experience and de Moor’s book traces cask ale’s origins and history and its place in British culture.
Gold: David Jesudason for “Desi Pubs: A Guide to British-Indian pubs, food and culture”
“Desi pubs” are run by British-Indians and merge Britain’s unique pub culture with Indian identity. These pubs welcome everything from cricket to bhangra and are a celebration of multiculturalism and this gold-medal-winning book is itself a celebration of these pubs.