by Brandon Fox
It’s a massive, 644-page explainer, reference work and guide. Everything from the history of a particular style to recommendations fill the book’s well-designed chapters. Readers can take a quick dip to learn the basics or read a more detailed, in-depth explanation of styles.
And breaking down beer styles is harder than you might think. Alworth solves this by grouping varieties into traditional beer-making methods or four families of beer — ales, wheat beers, lagers, and tarts and wild ales.
“It’s a way to create coherence,” Alworth says. “Writing ‘The Beer Bible’ was a massive education — and I discovered the importance of national traditions.”Alworth came of age when craft beer was taking off and he was in a good place to start his education: Portland, Oregon. “It was a turning point for me,” he says. “I became aware of what a ‘good’ beer was.”
The rest of the world, he says, is amazed at the variety of beer the U.S. is producing. Craft brewers here aren’t constrained by national traditions and experimentation is the new normal. The U.S. now influences the way European brewers are creating new beers instead of the other way around.“I’ve had some of the best beer I’ve ever encountered,” Alworth says, “and half [the breweries] are less than five years old.”
One of the ways that he encourages people to expand their beer palate is to try something similar to what they normally drink. “Any beer you like creates flavor sensory maps that will help you navigate,” he says. Those particular flavors that you can identify can lead you to new discoveries.
“Each chapter in the book has a section that says, ‘If you like this, then try this,’” Alworth says. “Snobs say that this particular beer is good and that one is bad. Drink what you like.”