Thursday, July 9, 2015

Beerology: A Book Review

Enjoying a good beer and a good book while my baby hop plant looks on.
Mirella Amato is one of the foremost beer experts in Canada, if not THE foremost expert. I had the pleasure of meeting her at La Mondiale De La Biere in Montreal, Quebec in 2014, where she was selling - and signing - her book: Beerology. I picked up a copy, got it signed, and got to reading. I re-read it a few days ago, and decided to spread the word. What better way than by giving it a proper review?

Beerology is written with a certain passion that is tangible throughout the entire book. From the very first page, Ms. Amato makes her intentions known: "This is my crusade: I want to live in a world where everyone has the same basic understanding and appreciation for beer as they do for wine." That line by itself got me pretty stoked to read the rest of the book. The introduction provides an overview of Ms. Amato and her achievements, which can also be found at her Web site, www.beerology.ca. You can also find various beer tasting tools at the site, as well as in the Glossary and Tasting Tools section at the end of the book (spoiler alert!)

Once you get to know more about our author, she takes you directly into the brewing process. It's quite obvious that she has a solid grasp on the brewing process, and explains - in a briefly detailed manner - how barley, hops, water and yeast (and sometimes other stuff) become tasty treats enjoyed the world over. One of my favourite parts about this book is that Ms. Amato explains how to best store beer. I learned a lot of lessons in storage the hard way, so seeing a section just on storage and cellaring was fantastic. After brief lessons on brewing and storing beer, we move into serving and tasting beer. In the section "Perfect Presentation", we look at types of glassware for serving beer. If you have read my blog in the past, you will know that glassware is very important to me! One aspect of serving and tasting beer that is near and dear to me is temperature. Ms. Amato mentions that stemmed glasses are useful for beers that are served too cold, as you can comfortably fit them in your hands to warm the beer and release aroma and flavour that gets hidden by the chill. All of the aspects of tasting - appearance, aroma, flavour, mouthfeel, and finish - are covered as well.

After the basics of beer are covered, there is a very comprehensive list of beer styles to peruse. This section of the book is humbling to me; it is written in a manner that is truly non-presumptuous, inclusive, and judgment free - even when it comes to industrial lagers that some would shun. I guess it's not surprising, as those characteristics are true to Ms. Amato's character, from what I gathered in the half-hour in which I got to speak with her. The Beerology Quadrant is introduced in this section, and it's very helpful for determining what kind of beer you might like based on style (Ale or Lager), alcohol level, colour, and distinct taste (bitter, sour, sweet - at varying levels). Not only does this section contain a style overview, food pairing suggestions and examples of the style, it also has a "fun for" section that explains when you might want to enjoy a specific beer style. This is the largest section of Beerology, and is insanely helpful for those who are just starting their adventures with craft beer.

The last section of Beerology, "Diving In", is my favourite. In this section, Ms. Amato walks us through setting up and performing a beer tasting. This section provides advice on how to set up an environment for tasting, as well as multiple games that make beer tasting fun. One of the standout points in this book is that you should not treat beer tasting as a stuffy, job-like experience, and that you should embrace the fun that is beer tasting and pairing. There are also many beer and food pairing guidelines in this section. Pairing beer and food is one of my favourite things in the world, and there are plenty of helpful hints and best practices for getting the most out of your beer-food experience. To finish off this section, there are various recipes for beer cocktails. My favourite recipe is the Fancy Goat. Delicious.

Beerology provides an epic amount of information condensed into 164 pages presented it in a non-stuffy, yet practical manner. I really enjoyed the book, and I definitely plan to use it as a reference manual to having as much fun with beer as possible! After reading this book, even the most novice beer enthusiast will have the tools and know-how to cellar beer, pick the proper glassware for their beer, taste beer, pair beer with food, and create pretty tasty beer cocktails. Let's not forget the beer trivia located in the sidebars! There are myriad fun facts in Beerology that will provide you with much knowledge and background on where beer came from, which ingredients may be used to add a special flavour, and how certain off-the-wall beer styles came into existence. This knowledge can be used to educate and impress a group of friends (or potential friends) at your local watering hole! Just try not to get carried away!