When Appetite (by Random House) approached me to review their new book “Beerology” from acclaimed beer blogger and Master Cicerone Mirella Amato, I was honored, but also kind of nervous, as I tend to read at the pace of a drunken snail. However, the minute I started reading it, I was quickly immersed, and I actually finished it in no time. Beerology takes you by the hand and guides you through the modern world of beer using easy to follow sections and chapters. It is a teacher – or perhaps more of a companion – that never leaves the reader feeling alienated in this complex, often contradicting, bizarre beer world we currently live in.
On Mirella Amato’s site (Beerology.ca), she explains how the focus behind her beer workshops and her blog isn’t to preach to her audience about what beers she likes, but rather to provide them with the tools necessary to decipher and explore the beer world around them, ultimately giving them the ability to find out what THEY like. After finishing Beerology (the book), I can see the same themes come forth. Amato wants us to explore beer through this informative yet simple text; it is easy to read, concise, and most importantly, approachable. And honestly, beer should be approachable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to rant about the complexities behind some impossible to find beer that’s barrel aged with wild yeast strains (or some other silliness), and I realize this is not always as easy to understand for those less immersed in beer-geekdom. However, beer doesn’t always have to be examined with such girth – beer can still be that beverage you drink from the bottle at a BBQ or a thirst quencher after a work out, and at the same time be something incredibly complex and worthy of deep analysis. Beerology gives you the basics (plus much more), and lets the reader decide how much or how little they want to interact with this amazing malted beverage.
The book is separated into three main sections: Beer Basics, Beer Styles, Diving In, and a fourth section that provides a glossary and some tools. Beer Basics provides the reader with some simple yet detailed information on what beer actually is: what it’s made of, how it’s made, how to taste it, how to pour it, what glassware to use, and how to store and cellar it. This is a great introduction for people just getting into craft beer, but it also provides some valuable insight to those with a more seasoned beer background. For instance, Amato recommends that beer be poured into a glass that has just been rinsed with cold water. It helps chill the glass, bringing it to a temperature that better matches the beer entering it, which reduces the chances of excessive foaming. I was not aware of this; I was of the mindset that the best glass for beer is always a dry glass. Sure, this is just a simple example, but her extensive experience really shines though, providing a great read for readers at all beer levels.
The Beer Styles portion of the book is pretty self explanatory; it is essentially a list with a subsequent description of almost every beer style, give or take. She concentrates less on history and more on the guts of the beer: how it looks, how it tastes, what it pairs with, and any details surrounding rules and nomenclature. If you’ve ever read my blog, you are well aware that I can go on and on and on about how something smells or tastes. One of the most amazing things about this section is Amato’s ability to describe the flavour profile of a particular beer style in an impressively concise fashion, without elaborating to a nauseating degree. It is straightforward and to the point, but without missing anything – quite impressive!
The third portion, Diving In, was certainly the most interesting for me as it delves into two areas of the beer world that I want to understand a lot more intimately: beer tastings and food pairings. Believe it or not, beer tasting get-togethers can be a pretty complex undertaking. Sure, sometimes it’s as easy as just trying a bunch of beers, but it can also be a very calculated process. For instance, it might involve lining up and tasting several bottles of the same beer from different vintages (vertical), or it can involve drinking different versions of the same beer style from various breweries (horizontal), or even pairing several beers alongside carefully selected cheeses. Amato describes the reasoning behind these events, and provides background, guidance, and suggestions on how to successfully execute various types of tastings. She then moves on to discuss beer and food, giving the reader some background on why these two amazing things are meant for each other. For instance, unlike wine, beer has carbonation, which helps break down fats and oils left on the tongue, making it perfect for cleansing the palate in between pieces of cheese – or any foods, really. Beer also has a huge range of styles, which carry extremely different flavour profiles; this allows for endless pairing potentials. She finishes off this chapter with a few recipes for beer cocktails. Yes, that’s right, beer cocktails! I can’t say I’ve ever had much interest in mixing beer with anything else, and honestly, part of me has always seen this as sacrilegious. That being said, these mixtures are not about messing with or diluting beer, but rather using it to enhance or interact with other ingredients in order to create something completely new. At the very least I’m going to try her Cucumber Pils recipe, which sounds refreshingly sexy.
So obviously I liked the book. It’s an easy yet captivating read that never feels pretentious or long winded. Amato’s goal seems apparent to me: she wants to get people interested and involved in beer by making it fun, educational, engaging, and just plain interesting. Beer breeds social interaction, so read this book, drink some good beer, pair it with some food, and have a good time.