Todd’s Review of A Year in Food and Beer by Emily Baime and Darin Michaels

17466594Look!  A post about beer from Todd?  How unexpected?  All joking aside, I got the chance to review A Year in Food and Beer by Emily Baime and Darin Michaels and promptly took it.  I knew that the book mainly focused on beer tasting and food pairing, two subjects which I admittedly knew very little about, despite being a homebrewer for over two years.  So, with a lot to learn, I dove right in.

The book contains a general introduction to beer and tasting in general, covering the major scents and tastes that would be acceptable for different seasons, styles of beer, and foods.  The authors also describe the production of beer, and the different properties of the raw ingredients involved.  They also touch on clean glassware, which is quite important in the beer tasting process.  A main theme in the work is “seasons”, which highlights how different beers are appropriate for different seasons, as well as different foods to pair with these beers.  They then provide a large list of recipes and beer pairings, with an emphasis on the different flavors and smells that are prevalent in that particular season.

From the start, I knew this book would be a great resource for me.  As I admitted before, I had little to no experience with beer pairing, and typically whenever I drink beer with food I find that either the food ends up overpowering the beer or vice-versa.  I’ve come to realize that this is probably due to the fact that I haven’t been pairing correctly.  The authors reference a flavor wheel of sorts that basically functions as a color wheel for food.  Flavors that are in close proximity to each other on the wheel can be paired, and flavors that are completely opposite on the wheel can be paired.  For example, the sweet and rich flavor of a porter could be paired with the crunchy and salty flavor and texture of a pretzel.  On the other hand, the spicy flavors in Indian food can be easily paired with the floral and spicy flavors that are found in most IPA’s.  With this in mind, along with the copious amount of recipes provided, I should have plenty of new ideas to try out when I next pair food and beer together.  I agree with their point that adding food to beer probably increases the enjoyment of it, and it introduces new flavors that would have never existed had it not been for the addition of food.  In short, this is a great read for those of you who are interested in both beer and new foods.  It’s a quick read that definitely goes beyond just a list of recipes.  Cheers!

4 out of 5 stars

A Year in Food and Beer by Emily Baime and Darin Michaels
AltaMira Press (2013)
eBook: 148 pages
ISBN: 9780759122659

Special thanks to AltaMira Press for my review copy via Netgalley!

Todd’s Review of Beer in America: The Early Years by Gregg Smith

As a self-proclaimed beer nerd, I’m always interested in all things beer.  So, when Kim found me Beer in America: The Early Years, a book on the history of beer, I was intrigued.  Admittedly, I’ve never really thought much about the history of beer; I generally assumed it’s just evolved from its beginning as the oldest fermented beverage on earth to what it is today without much fanfare.  However, after reading this book I found that there is actually quite a bit of history to the evolution of beer in America, and the fact that it played an important role in the formation of our fledgling nation is really exciting.

Beer in America begins during the colonial period of American history, outlining the important role that beer played in the foundation of the new British colonies in the New World.  Often, one of the first buildings built in new colonies was a brew house, as the stores of beer brought over in ships were typically low after the long voyage across the Atlantic.  Therefore, small brew houses began to proliferate throughout the new colonies, and as the colonies grew, so did taverns along with beer production to serve the high demand of the colonists.  Often, this demand was due to the fact that many viewed water as a source of sickness and contamination, which was a view that was carried over from Europe, where this was definitely true.  However, despite the fact that clean sources of drinking water were prevalent in the New World, this theory continued for decades and beer reigned supreme.

After this early colonial beer history lesson, Smith discusses the importance of beer in forging our nation’s independence.  He stresses the importance of taverns in the colonies, which provided a meeting place for the Sons of Liberty and noted revolutionaries such as Sam Adams (of course he needed to be included if we’re talking about beer!) and Ben Franklin.  Additionally, taxes such as the Stamp Act and Intolerable Act both heavily taxed and attempted to blockage shipments, especially beer, to the colonists.  This stressed the already oppressed colonists, and eventually lead to the Revolutionary War.  Aside from this revolutionary history, Smith also discusses the expansion of several breweries after the war ended, as well as brewery technology used at the time.

I’ll freely admit that I was a bit skeptical at Smith’s original statement that beer was one of the crucial elements of the original settling of America and her freedom from England.  How could such a simple beverage hold such power?  However, after reading the book I found that its power lies in its ability to bring social connections together.  The taverns that were a fixture in all of the colonies became the meeting places of the revolutionaries; liberty and freedom from oppression were discussed over a couple of pints.  Beer provided the social freedom for the colonists to freely speak their opinions and join forces.  It’s no accident that one of the most successful breweries today is named after one of the most influential proponents of liberty in early America.  In reading this book I gained a greater appreciation for the power and influence that beer had in shaping our history, and that only increased the interest that I have in it as a subject.  Cheers!

4 out of 5 stars

Beer in America by Gregg Smith
Siris Books (1998)
Paperback, 300 pages

Living With a Book Addict – The Beer Book Edition

So as most of you know in reading my posts, my counterpoint to Kim’s book passion is my passion for beer brewing.  I’ve been doing it for around a year, and it incorporates a lot of the things I like in general: science, the ability to be creative, and a delicious result, beer!  Additionally, it’s more economical than buying beer of a similar quality as it costs approximately $30 per batch (resulting in approximately 50 12 oz. bottles).  Although it may seem like there is little in common between our passions, there is actually a large market for home brewing books.  Although home brewing has been around for decades, there has been a huge increase in interest recently with the increasing availability of quality ingredients and the proliferation of online brew shops.  With this explosion of interest, there has been much more emphasis on technique and method in order to steer new home brewers in the right direction.  To that end, here are three crucial resources that I’ve used in my growth of a home brewer:

Cover ImageThe Complete Joy of Home Brewing (Third Edition) by Charlie Papazian

This book is the epitome of a common home brewing axiom: relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew.  Often, new home brewers tend to over-worry about small details of their home brewing process.  This axiom is used often to reassure them that 99% of the time the brewing and fermentation process is self-correcting.  The fact that producing beer is often self-correcting and nothing illness-causing can be formed from making it, shows that it is difficult to truly mess up.  Therefore, newer brewers can heed Papazian’s warning and really relax.  Papazian’s writing style is humorous and candid, while he makes sure to hit all the finer points of brewing.  Informative and fun, this book is a great primer to home brewing, where techniques can be learned and built upon.

 Cover ImageHow to Brew by John Palmer
This book was definitely written for me.  Starting with easy to understand methods that walk a brewer through a typical brew day, How to Brew then moves into the more complex science behind the brewing process.  The chemical properties of the mash, the effect of sugar conversion on the finished beer, and yeast strains are just a few of the things that are covered in technical detail.  I find myself going back to this book often, as it provides new information every time I open it.  As someone with a science background, I like how Palmer discusses the science but makes it understandable enough for someone without such a background.  He shows us how although making beer can be a simple process, it can expand into different levels of control that can make a good homebrew even better!  The first edition of his book in its entirety can be found online here

How do I even explain this site?  Although it’s not technically a book, it helps me just as much as the other two resources, serving to augment the basic techniques I’ve learned.  Always changing, the site is full of experienced members who are more than happy to help newer members with their home brewing.  The site is full of DIY instructions, product reviews, commercial beer reviews, and much much more.  I visit it often to improve my brewing process, and it’s a great environment for me to share the things I’ve learned with newer members.  I’ve even sold a few of my unused brewing items on the site.  It’s an awesome resource for anyone who loves to make beer.

So there you have it! The above are the three main resources that I consult in my brewing.  I definitely encourage anyone who has an interest in brewing to check them out.  Also, I’d love to help those of you considering home brewing!  You can contact me by using the form here, on the contact page.  Happy brewing!