Randy Mosher, author of Tasting Beer, is a firm believer in evangelizing his knowledge and understanding of beer. Coupling years of wisdom alongside beautifully detailed charts and glossy photos brings this recently updated version of his book to life.
While numerous people may argue that beer is basic or that beer is made to be consumed, not evaluated, the author is able to make a convincing point in favor of the latter. Mosher hopes that a familiarity with the intricacies of beer will not only improve the reader’s relationship to beer, but that it will also improve the quality and perception of beer at large.
The evolution to the second edition of Tasting Beer focuses on what some may consider to be “drier” topics. The first third of the book, detailing beer evaluation, vocabulary terms, presentation, and the relationship between food and beer has added substantial bulk to the text. While not a book on how to brew beer, a small chapter or section of aspects of the brewing process that can majorly effect beer flavor, smell or mouthfeel may have helped to link concepts more firmly for the reader.
At times, certain information is redundant in the text, such as clear or green bottles “skunking” the taste of beer, but the added text is well-welcomed. Mosher is able to cover a considerable number of specific off flavors by interweaving them among the text, rather than simply providing a compiled textbook style list. The non-textbook presentation also has downfalls. On more than one occasion a topic will continue to a new page without first properly referencing a diagram or illustration, leaving the reader paging back and forth.
For the roughly 80% of the population that Mosher considers to have a less discerning palate, the section on beer and food could be considered one of the most valuable aspects of the entire book. Typically when foods and beers are brought together, people describe such as a “pairing”. Mosher instead advocates what hopefully becomes industry standard, the term harmony, which alludes to the play, contrast and beauty between a beer and a food. The author insightfully describes how the characters of each beer play a unique balancing role, setting beer as a prime candidate for coupling with foods.
The geographical style origins and guidelines chapters of the text provide a history of the various brewing regions of the world. Specific style guidelines are indicated along with commercial examples for the reader to further explore. A more detailed indication of hops, malts and yeast used for various styles would bring more value to a reader seeking to learn what they taste in a particular beer.
Covering topics ranging from history to cheese to beer cocktails, Mosher is able to lay a base understanding for quite the plethora of topics. The book is by no means a complete style guide to types of beer and even lacks a section on how particular aspects of brewing effect the final taste of beer. But it is safe to say that what the author lacks in a couple of details here and there he makes up for in rich history, carefully considered guides, and just enough to keep the reader looking for more.