Joshua M. Bernstein, a longtime beer journalist who grew up in Dayton and attended Ohio University, has penned an entertaining new book about enjoying beer. The Complete Beer Course ($24.95, Sterling Epicure) is described as a "boot camp for beer geeks."
It includes everything from the basics (the brewing process, beer styles) to well-crafted brewery profiles (Duck-Rabbit, Boulevard, Hair of the Dog and more). There also are plenty of beer recommendations, including special shout-outs to a few Ohio-made brews. Dark Apparition from Jackie O's Pub & Brewery in Athens; Hop Dam from Hoppin' Frog Brewery in Akron; and Dortmunder Gold and Commodore Perry IPA from Great Lakes Brewing Co. in Cleveland are highlighted.
The book is written in a friendly, readable style and is peppered with colorful photos and little info tidbits. (For example, IPA Day was founded by two social media folks in 2012.) The hardcover, 320-page book would be a nice addition to any beer library.
Bernstein, who now lives in Brooklyn and also authored Brewed Awakening, answered a few questions via email about The Complete Beer Course:
Q: What made you write this book?
A: If you're already a craft beer convert, it's easy to wrap yourself in a cocoon in which everyone surrounding you drinks IPAs, imperial stouts and sour ales. However, the fact remains that most American beer drinkers do not deviate from the mainstream, rarely dipping their toes into the more flavorful waters. Thus, the mission of the book was twofold: First, I wanted to provide people with the tools and knowledge to understand nearly every beer they'll encounter at bars and bottle shops, from pilsners on up to IPAs and barrel-aged imperial stouts dosed with wild yeast. I wanted to break down the styles of beer and their evolution, providing people with the essential knowledge they need to, say, differentiate a pilsner from a Munich helles—and understand how they fit together on the continuum of beer. The goal was to create a fun, information-stuffed book that is as engaging as it is enjoyable, sort of like your good friend talking to you. The tone is conversational without being condescending.
Secondly, I think much of the craft-beer attention over the last few years has been focused on the extreme styles, the double IPAs and supercharged stouts. But if you talk to many craft beer lovers, there's often a gap in knowledge about what constitutes an altbier, kölsch or even a cream ale—classic, understated styles that tend to get lost amid the fireworks of elevated ABVs. I wanted to close that gap in knowledge and show that people shouldn't dismiss these styles so summarily. There's beauty in nuance and understatement.
Q: What makes this book different than others on the market? In other words, why should someone buy your book?
A: Beer engages all your senses. I wanted to make the book just as engaging. From the design to layout, photos and writing (I hope!), there's nothing like it on the market. You can open the book, shut your eyes, point to a random page and start reading. The book can be devoured in nibbles. It's a reference book that you'll want to read.
Q: Does the world need another beer book?
A: Most beer books tend to fall into several categories: the [insert number] beers to try before you die, homebrew primers, or guidebooks to breweries and brewpubs. As for guides to beer, there's little middle ground between the "for dummies" approach and deeply scholarly tomes. Each has their merits, but I wanted to create a book that's just as interesting as the beer in your hand. For nearly 13 years, I've been a magazine journalist — and a beer lover for even longer. I'm a storyteller at heart. And each beer has a story worth telling.