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Aug 21, 2007 11:36 AM

Beer Book aside from Jackson's

Hi, chows I need a tip. I've been using Michael Jackson's book for the last 7 years, but I would really like to read something different. Which is the best beer book on the market?

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  1. Jackson's got a number of books (World Guide, Pocket Guide, Ultimate Beer, Beer Companion, Belgian Beer Guide) which one are you talking about? All have a slightly different "approach" to the subject (brewery, country/region, beer style, etc.). Collect 'em all, I say.

    After that, it would depend on what you're looking for in a beer book- "ratings" or recommendations of beer, beer/brewery history, beer and food, technical brewing details, US or imports, etc.

    Brooklyn's brewer, Garrett Olivers' book, The Brewmaster's Table, gets a lot of raves -altho' I don't really care for the emphasis on beer-food matching (but apparently a lot of people do) but it's a lot more than that and is packed with great information and opinion. And it's often available as a remaindered title, in hardcover or trade paperback.

    Roger Prost's and Stephen Beaumont's books are also nice additions to a beer library. Most people don't care for the Bob Klein book and it is oft ridiculed.

    4 Replies
    1. re: JessKidden

      Hi, thanks for the help! I was referring to The New World Guide to Beer but I also have MJ's Beer Companion. No, i am not looking for books that match drinks with food, for that purpose i generally take a look at Page's Dornenburg and Sofronski's "What to drink with..." (even though is more about wine)-- I wanted an informative book that also describes beer in terms of flavor. I will certainly look for Garrett Olivers' book for the info and opinions. Thanks again!

      1. re: LRS

        If you're truly obsessed, the Classic Beer Series are great. (Available from, full disclosure, I'm an AHA member so that's a bit of a plug to buy from them instead of Amazon. Or even better, call your local homebrew shop and see if they have them!) Each one is way more info than the average person needs on a single style of beer. History/Brewing Methods/Recipes. They're extremely detailed.

        I'd recommend "Travels with Beer" on American beer culture.

        1. re: Kevin B

          You probably mean "Travels with Barley" by Ken Wells.

        2. re: LRS

 and are two websites which can help and both are free. They have good overviews and reviews of beers even if i dont always agree with the reviews.

      2. This isn't a book, but I'd recommend the All About Beer magazine, which is bi-monthly. It will keep you up to date with events in the world of beer; also they've got a large panel of beer-reviewers (including important figures like Jackson, Garret Oliver, Peter Finkel, etc.) who review about 15 beers each issue.

        I don't find every article in AAB useful, but on balance it's worth looking into.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Kenji

          Oops, make that "Charles Finkel" and not "Peter Finkel." He's the guy behind Merchant Du Vin -- and one of the better, more incisive, critical-but-fair among AAB's beer review panelsts.

          1. re: Kenji

            To clarify, Charles Finkel founded MdV about 30 years ago. He also started Pike Brewing Co, which he sold (along with MdV) and bought back last year (the pub & brewery only, not MdV).

        2. Are these books still recommended? I’m not exactly a beer novice, but neither am I an expert...something of a journeyman perhaps.

          I’m looking for something that describes the types of beers and the different brewing processes without getting into too much science. I don’t want a picture book, but something that delves into the history and culture of beer, and help me get the most out of the beer I buy.

          3 Replies
          1. re: cuccubear

            I really like Brewmaster's Table by Garrett Oliver.

            1. re: cuccubear

              I came to a much better understanding of the brewing process by reading 'The Complete Joy of Home Brewing' by Papazian and, well, home brewing. I'm not at all an accomplished, nor frequent, home brewer, but even doing a single batch of extract brew is pretty educational.
              The Classic Beer Style Series from Brewers Publications offers books about single styles or groups of related styles, lots of information there.
     is a fantastic resource.
              I enjoyed 'Brew Like a Monk' by Stan Hieronymous. It discusses he Trappist ales and many beers inspired by them.
              Are you looking for information about any particular style(s) of beer?

              1. re: juantanamera

                Not really. I've tried so many beers over the years, liked some, hated others. I just want to know more...

            2. I like the Classic Styles books...they are mostly good information about the various styles. My favorite beer books were always Jackson's and of course, Jim Robertson's great books (which I read in the 70's before I even ever heard of Michael Jackson). These two authors really have (had) the best handle on the subject, as well as teir reviews being objective and coherent. There have been other beer "critique/review" books to come down the pike in recent years, but I find most of them to be badly written and not objective enough. The older "evaluation" type books are of course out of dat since breweries close, change hands, and formulations do change (regardless of brewery claims). There haven't been recent updates to the Robertson books (I don't know if he is still active) , and there can't really be updates anymore to Jackson's, and in both cases, it is our loss.

              7 Replies
              1. re: The Professor

                James Robertson passed away several years ago. He was there at the beginning, and his work was quite exhaustive, but I don't see it standing up well next to Michael Jackson's. (full disclosure: Michael was a friend, and I worked on some of his projects.)

                Agreed on the Classic Style books, for those who want to dig deep.

                1. re: Jim Dorsch

                  Well I do have to agree with you that the work doesn't compare to Jackson's even though I knew Jim Robertson (when I first met him in te mid/late 80's, he lived not all that far from me in NJ but alas...I lost contact with him in the late 1990's. I wasn't aware that he had passed, but suspected that to be the case. His old books are still an interesting read, though, and a nice compendium of many, many beers (especially Ameican beers) no longer made or mutated beyond recognition by new owners, successors, etc. He sure was a pioneer of beer journalism.

                  For sheer info and great background, though, you are absolutely correct Jim... Jackson was king, and his books are still a joy.

                  1. re: The Professor

                    I bumped into Robertson once at a store where i worked. Very nice man.

                    Today's younger beer enthusiasts are missing out on the incredible sense of adventure and discovery that I felt in the late '70s and early '80s, when it was all new.

                2. re: The Professor

                  The chronology I remember for "discovering" the beer books (I worked in book stores at the time, so I usually saw them as they hit the shelves or when I read about them in PW) went: "All About Beer" by John Porter, Michael Weiner's "Tasters Guide to Beer" then Jackson's "World Guide" and, finally, Robertson's book. Looking at the US copyrights, that's also how they were released (1975, 1977, 1977 and 1978 respectively).

                  For me, Jackson's book(s), besides being more in-depth and encompassing, seemed to have more authoritarive information- he seemed to have better contacts within the breweries. Much of Robertson's work seemed to be taken from industry PR booklets aimed at consumers, breweriana histories (didn't care for breaking a brewer's beers down by "dba" brewery names- in most cases, it was irrelevant to the current beer), etc. It always drove me crazy when he talked about brands as if he was writing a Bird Watching Handbook ("...seen ocassionally in Eastern Kentucky...")- hey, it beer, they are licensed breweries and distribution is controlled by law and contracts.

                  IIRC, the industry felt similarly- while Jackson's books got good reviews in Brewers Digest (not a magazine that usually even DID reviews of consumer books) I recall an editorial against the "unnamed" Robertson book, in particular because of some high and low ratings of 2 beers from the same brewer, which were in fact the same beer, relabeled for different markets. (My dislike of beer "ratings", in fact, might date from those early books. Why I give MJ's Pocket Guides a pass, I don't know <g>).

                  As "The Professor" notes, Robertson was from NJ and I recall talking to him on the phone a few times when the book was first published but never got together. Didn't he do the ratings (along with a number of other beer writers) in "All About Beer" magazine for many years?

                  1. re: JessKidden

                    The primary difference between Robertson and Jackson was that one was an enthusiast and the other was a journalist. You could see this both in the quality of information and the writing.

                    You may have enjoyed MJ's pocket guides because he gave more than just a clinical description of a beer. He would often leave a tidbit about the brewery, or a veiled opinion.

                    1. re: Jim Dorsch

                      "An enthusiast v. a journalist." Ah, excellent way to put (hmmm... I can still edit my previous post- mind if I steal it?).

                      I was only half-kidding about the "ratings" in Pocket Guide and agree that the most important part of the book(s) was the factual information about the individual beers. In some respects, I've since thought his "World Guide to Beer" book was somewhat mis-named (especially in retrospect, given his other yet to come books) and might have better been named "World Guide to Breweries".

                      One other aspect of his ratings was that even a "2-star" (out of a possible 5) beer was "...a well-made beer"- Jackson's books were about good beer and he really can't be blamed for the "ticker" culture and rating wars that have grown up around beer -especially here on the 'net. (Not that anyone's said he is, or anything...).

                      1. re: JessKidden

                        Fortunately, beer hasn't become "Parkerized" as has wine.

                        Internet beer-rating sites have good and bad points. Michael couldn't keep up with the explosion of new beers and breweries. The internet excels at this. But 100 beer geeks don't offer MJ's expertise and judgment, although one could argue (with some justification) that there is some validity to ratings by large numbers of people. And indeed, I put some faith in BA and RB ratings in this regard.