Thursday, November 13, 2008
The Non-Beardy Beer Book
Fifteen beer fans have contributed to this collection of sometimes humorous, oftentimes educational pieces on one hundred of the UK's top-selling beers. This tongue-in-cheek antidote to Roger Protz's 300 Beers To Try Before You Die tells you plenty about the sort of stuff you'd normally go out of your way to avoid, and might even convince you to sample.
As with any compilation certain contributors are a better read than others. Some wanted to tell it straight, others such as Dave Amos were funny and obviously new their subject well, even coming across a little bit beardy - despite the title. I kept hoping for stuff in the same vein as The Opinionated Beer Page rantings though, like the classic - "Mow the lawn on the hottest day of the year in flannel pajamas. When done, pour the sweat from your nutsack into a bottle, slap a label on it, and "BAM!" you have Bud Light" - but, regrettably, crudity is kept to a minimum here.
Getting detesters of a particular style of beer to taste and write about it might seem the obvious way to get laughs, and I suppose having confessed Bud Ice fan Stuart Wheatman reviewing Greene King IPA could have been a giggle, but personally I would find it pretty tough trying to be light-hearted whilst necking something I couldn't stomach - and unfortunately so did he.
The best humour is saved for the obvious targets such as the silly strength special brews beloved of park bench-warmers, and the ludicrous over the top advertising (Stella in particular) that has transformed the way we Brits drink. On a slightly more serious note is the recurring theme of the watered down versions of so many continental beers now found in the UK with the conclusion that we're being protected from our bad binging selves - but then we've known that for years.
Obviously continental and American brews are the mainstay but a few real ales get in on the act with Tetleys, Smiths and Fullers (as well as the aforementioned Greene King) attracting rather unimaginative historical write-ups, as befits their products by and large.
With John Smiths and Carling topping the ale & lager charts by a country mile, and likely to do so for ever it seems, having this informative little read, a kind of know your enemy handbook, close by is strangely comforting. Indeed I had no idea that Carling originated in Canada or that it took the company's finest brewers (or should that be chemists) ten years to come up with the recipe for C2 (!!) - but I do now and I feel better for it somehow!
So if you are unfortunate enough to be denied access to your favoured tipple and need to check out the opposition or are just plain curious, intimidated even by all those weird and wonderful fonts that are taking over the bar, then make sure you've a copy handy 'cos you're guaranteed to learn something - just don't expect your sides to split whilst doing so.
The Non-Beardy Beer Book is published by Tonto Books of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and thanks very much to Paul Brown of Tonto for sending me this review copy. Order it here.