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Editor’s Picks: More Beer Books

Feed your brains! From vegetarian cooking (and pairing) with beer to brewing with cannabis to local beer-history deep-dives, here are some books we enjoyed this year.

Craft Beer & Brewing Staff Dec 1, 2021 - 6 min read

Editor’s Picks: More Beer Books Primary Image

Beer & Veg

By Mark Dredge, Dog ‘n’ Bone Books

“Beer is the ultimate plant-based drink,” Dredge writes. “Beer is made from plants, and it goes really well with plants. It’s time to celebrate that.”

While the well-traveled Dredge has eaten his share of flesh with the world’s traditional beers, at home he’s gone vegan. Yet he never stopped drinking beer, pairing with beer, or cooking with beer—and he’s found the shift to preparing and eating a different set of foods to be one of discovery.

An early chunk of the book is devoted to pairing principles—matching intensities, complementary flavors, and more. His rubric of three Bs—bridge, balance, or boost—is one worthy of wider adoption. He walks us through beer styles, naming specific dishes that work and others to avoid, as well as specific brands worth trying. Then he turns it the other way around, walking us through specific dishes and beers that go great with them.

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The latter half of the book is devoted to recipes—from beer crumpets to carrot- and-pineapple upside-down IPA cake via imperial jackfruit dirty fries. (Meatless, maybe, but this is not a book about health food.)

There is Beer 101 stuff for the not-so-beery folks who might be coming to this book from the vegetarian side. But it’s short, and Dredge gives us lots of simple but handy reference charts and flavor wheels—for example, identifying the flavors of certain brewing grains and hops, to think ahead about the foods that might work well with them. Ultimately, this is not a book about avoiding meat or going vegan. It is, first and foremost, about the pleasures of the table. It’s a book about good beer with good food and getting into new flavor vistas.

Brewing with Cannabis: Using THC and CBD in Beer

By Keith Villa, Brewers Publications

It’s hard to imagine the Brewers Association producing a book like this 10 or even five years ago. In fact, even today, it’s still fairly brave—growing, selling, and using marijuana remain serious federal crimes. However, the landscape is changing quickly: In 16 states plus D.C., marijuana possession is legal for adults; in total, 37 states have legalized it for medical use. Those numbers grow monthly and will be larger by the time you read these words.

So, this thoughtful book from Villa—the Blue Moon creator who retired from Coors in 2018—is more a serious academic course than a beer-and-weed party. He begins with the necessary warnings and disclaimers, then the legal, political, and historical context of marijuana. Chapters are devoted to the biology, chemistry, and agronomy—from planting to pruning and harvesting. These are level-headed, briskly written, and accessible, without getting bogged down in unnecessary scientific detail.

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The book includes a practical section on how to brew nonalcoholic beers—it remains illegal throughout the United States to sell alcohol and marijuana in the same beverage. Villa doesn’t forget homebrewers, however, explaining the heat-based method to remove alcohol from beer at home, and—ultimately—he shares a series of five-gallon recipes for brewing with marijuana (such as Potted Porter and Light-Headed Lager).

All told, the book is more about marijuana than how to brew with it—a choice that feels necessary and appropriate. Much of this information will be new to brewers who face a minefield of legal and health concerns if they want to go about this the right way.

American Palate Beer Books (Various Titles)

Various authors, American Palate

Maybe you’ve seen them on the impulse rack at the supermarket—paperback books about niche local topics, such as Ghosts of the South Carolina Upcountry. On that same rack, you might also spot titles such as New Mexico Beer or Mountain Brew: A Guide to Colorado Breweries.

Most such books come from Arcadia, a publisher based in Charleston, South Carolina. Within an imprint of that company is a division called American Palate, which focuses on food and drink—including beer.

We perused two beer books: Boulder County Beer (as in Boulder, Colorado), by Michael J. Casey, and Hawai’i Beer, by Paul R. Kan—both published in 2021. The writers have credentials; Casey has covered the Boulder beer scene for Boulder Weekly for five years, while Kan is Hawaiian and owns a small brewery in Pennsylvania. Despite the books’ cookie- cutter appearance, they’re well written and edited, and the substance is there.

These are not really guidebooks; they are history books, telling the stories of local beer scenes. The Boulder book, for example, has an account of the earliest days of American microbrewing. Charlie Papazian was in Boulder, planting the seeds. Boulder Brewing opened in 1979, the first brewery in Colorado since Prohibition. Something I learned: The Old Chicago pizza chain and its World Beer Tour started in Boulder, and it had a selection of 110 beers after it opened in 1976.

Any of these books could be of interest to local beer enthusiasts. But they’re likely to have greater value to future researchers as historical documents in the longer term.

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