Beer & Books is a semi-regular series featuring thoughts and opinions on books about beer. Imagine that. Oftentimes books mentioned here won’t be new releases. Rather, they’re simply what we’re reading at the time, usually with a cold brew in hand. We rate them on a five-star scale. We’re always looking to add to our library. Please feel free to drop a line if there are Beer Books you recommend we read. Today’s read: Drink Beer, Think Beer: Getting to the Bottom of Every Pint by John Holl.
Drink Beer, Think Beer
The standard how-craft-beer-got-here, necessary to set the scene, is explained but not dwelled upon.
A good chunk of readers who pick up this book likely already know about craft beer’s founding fathers, the industry’s ebbs and flows over the years, and the relatively recent growth spurt that led Big Beer to take notice of craft.
A Fascinating Beer Journey
From there, Holl invites readers along on a fascinating, and oftentimes personal, journey. He serves up a few talking points that could illicit lively debate over your next pint.
- How the word “craft” creates chaos in the beer world. “I think that the term is not long for this world,” Holl writes.
- Why “balanced” is a lazy way to describe beer
- The importance of distinguishing between beer we don’t like and beer that’s not good (an important distinction)
He shares thoughts on ways to make your beer-drinking experience the best it can be.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of proper glassware (or pouring or temperature)
- Drink what you like, where you like
- Set aside social media to savor beer in the moment
And he tackles a few of the not-so-desirable aspects present in our current beer landscape.
- “Share of throat,” Anheuser Busch’s term used to measure its marketing effectiveness
- Inappropriate or demeaning beer names, labels, or overall brewery culture
- “The illusion of choice,” as coined by Julia Herz of the Brewers Association, to describe how a row of seemingly independent and diverse tap handles may all be owned by the same global organization
These and a handful of other topics are deftly covered in a well-written 272 pages (full disclosure: I listened to the Audible version read by the author).
Above all, Holl, in Drink Beer, Think Beer, encourages us as beer drinkers to think critically about not only the glass of beer before us, but about the future of the beverage we all love so much.
“Personally, I’m a fan of local, of small, of the underdog,” Holl writes. “Professionally, in this war of beer, I’m a conscientious objector. I’ll drink any beer, talk with any brewer, and cover the news of all breweries, regardless of size and ownership.”
Getting to the Heart of Beer
Holl, a longtime journalist who’s currently Craft Beer & Brewing magazine’s senior editor, doesn’t take lightly the responsibility that comes with covering such a vibrant — and sometimes contentious — industry.
For me, as someone with a journalism background and a love for beer, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Holl’s approach to covering the industry while wearing two hats: as a journalist and as a craft beer enthusiast.
In that regard, Holl sides with “good beer,” no matter the size of the brewery. He encourages all beer drinkers to take a similar approach, even if it means (politely) calling out a craft brewer’s subpar product.
In an increasingly divisive Us vs. Them — craft vs. big beer — culture, sometimes issues on the “us” side are ignored by those loyal to craft, especially online. It’s the idea that the group you belong to can do no wrong.
“It’s easy to throw rocks at the big brewers, yes,” he writes. “But pointed yet polite criticisms should be levied under the commenter’s real name to the smaller entities as well. … People shouldn’t get a pass just because they’re in your group.”
For the Good of All Beer
It’s an interesting take, and one I think deserves consideration.
Michael Jackson, the legendary beer writer and reviewer, famously celebrated all beers and brewers (and, as he said in 1987, if he didn’t like a beer, he simply didn’t write about it rather than giving it a negative review).
For me, this is where I make the distinction between beer I don’t like and beer that’s not good (possessing technical flaws, succumbing to poor handling, etc.).
If it’s the former, I tend to follow Jackson’s lead. If it’s the latter, I’ll take Holl’s advice to levy “pointed yet polite criticisms.”
While not exactly the same, it reminds me how sports reporters used to write (or not write) about the players and teams they covered.
Time was, these journalists turned a blind eye to clubhouse shenanigans or anything that might expose their subjects in a poor light. That’s obviously changed.
The beer landscape has changed dramatically as well in the years since Jackson’s reviews. The United States is now home to 7,000+ craft breweries. The vast majority, it seems, are making consistently good beer.
But it’s up to us as beer drinkers, Holl stresses, to be diligent in ensuring the quality — whether it be the beer itself, the way it’s served, or something else — we’ve come to appreciate and expect from our beer.
We owe it to not only ourselves, but to those before and after us.
“In the span of a generation, a whole cottage industry has taken root and sprouted,” he writes, noting that change is constant and turbulence is inevitable. “We fueled this revolution by simply holding a glass in our hand and asking for something different, something with flavor, something local.”
Review: Drink Beer, Think Beer
Beer Books: Drink Beer, Think Beer
Book Title: Drink Beer, Think Beer: Getting to the Bottom of Every Pint
Book Description: From Amazon: "Right here, right now is the best time in the history of mankind to be a beer drinker. America now has more breweries than at any time since prohibition, and globally, beer culture is thriving and constantly innovating. Drinkers can order beer brewed with local yeast or infused with moondust. However, beer drinkers are also faced with uneven quality and misinformation about flavors. And the industry itself is suffering from growing pains, beset by problems such as unequal access to taps, skewed pricing, and sexism.Drawing on history, economics, and interviews with industry insiders, John Holl provides a complete guide to beer today, allowing readers to think critically about the best beverage in the world. Full of entertaining anecdotes and surprising opinions, Drink Beer, Think Beer is a must-read for beer lovers, from casual enthusiasts to die-hard hop heads."
Book Author: John Holl
Book Format: AudiobookFormat
Date published: 2018-09-04
Number Of Pages: 272
- Utah Beer News Rating
John Holl’s Drink Beer, Think Beer delivers a lively — and oftentimes personal — 360-degree look at our current beer culture. Readers join Holl on his visits to breweries, bars, and pubs. It’s there he provides commentary on proper glassware, pouring techniques, and more.
We tag along on his neighborhood walks where he observes changes in taste by which beer bottles are peeking out from recycling bins. As a longtime journalist, Holl addresses not-so-pleasant issues facing beer. But he also recommends that we as beer drinkers remember to enjoy the glass before us.