Last Minute Gifts for the Boozy
Let’s face it: despite knowing that we have to buy people gifts every single year, and having an entire year to plan, Christmas still sneaks up on a lot of us. This is why people invented overnight shipping and Amazon Prime—last minute shopping is a way of life. But it can be a serviceable way of life if you know someone who is into beer or whiskey, or any other adult beverage. Luckily, Sterling Publishing Company sent me some books to review that would make excellent additions to any drinker’s Christmas list.
The Complete Beer Course by Joshua Bernstein: At first, I thought this was a book about pairing beer with food, but as it turns out it’s a beginner’s guide to everything beer. I used to think Randy Mosher’s Tasting Beer was the quintessential starter for anyone interested in craft beer, but Bernstein takes things one step further with this handy book, broken down into 12 chapters—or courses—focused on different aspects of craft beer. History is interwoven into the chapters, so you don’t get one long, boring chapter about the origins of beer and how it got to where it is, and Bernstein’s voice keeps everything light, informal, and unpretentious. The best thing you can learn from Bernstein, though, is how to know if a beer is good: Would you drink it again? Then it’s a good beer. (MSRP: $24.95, Amazon: $15.78)
World’s Best Ciders by Pete Brown and Bill Bradshaw: Ciders were always an afterthought to me until I took a chance on a brand called Isastegi at a Spanish restaurant and it changed my whole view of the drink. While the cider market in America is still relatively small, it’s fascinating to read about the sometimes fanatical following it has in other countries, as well as its pre-Prohibition dominance in America. The book gives a rundown of cider by country and region, and then lists a dozen or so from each to try. While my favorite wasn’t listed, plenty of others were and the book only made me thirsty for more. (MSRP: $30, Amazon: $15.27)
American Whiskey, Bourbon, and Rye by Clay Risen: When it comes to anything harder than beer or wine, I am an absolute newbie. But, with my recent discovery of Scotch and my wife’s dedication to the craft of cocktails, it was only a matter of time before trying more whiskey became unavoidable. And this handy guide makes it much easier: it gives a rundown of over 200 types of whiskey, including price, tasting notes, and an overall rating. This will be a necessity for any whiskey novices looking to try out something new without wanting to drop $60 on a bottle that ends up tasting terrible. As someone not in the know, the history of whiskey that prefaces the ratings was a great read. (MSRP: $24.95, Amazon: $18.90)
The Pocket Beer Guide by Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb: I’m always leery of guides that promise to tell you the 300 best beers in the world, because the world of beer is in constant flux. Some beer may not be made next year; some fall out of favor; some just aren’t as good as they used to be. However, this beer guide (which may be slightly too large for a pocket) hits on all the tried and true must-haves, breaking them down by country and then region. This is a great companion to the authors’ World of Beer, and laid out in much the same way—but with a focus on the individual beers rather than the regions and styles. There are some nice notes in the beginning on styles, pairings, and tasting, as well. My only problem with this one was they don’t list addresses with a brewery, so using it as a travel guide—which it very well could be—is out of the question unless you have another means of looking up addresses.