I recently finished reading two books about the beer industry I highly recommend: Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out by Josh Noel and Drink Beer, Think Beer by John Holl.
Both books I would consider an excellent choice for any beer enthusiast but, for beer writers looking to improve their craft or simply provide inspiration for what they do, I would consider both must-reads. Plus, Josh Noel spoke at this year’s Beer Now Conference.
Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out
Josh Noel has written for the Chicago Tribune since 2008. That is all you need to know to understand one reason I highly recommend this book. Josh is an expert news reporter who writes a book about the beer industry the right way: with research, expert analysis, insider quotes, and frequent attribution to go along with a well written, good story.
The book is about Goose Island brewery, its rise to prominence, and eventual sale to AB Inbev. Yes, the book heavily discusses the “us versus them” fight between craft beer and big beer. Yes, the book made me rethink my positions on this subject, although in the end I feel like I wound up more or less where I started.
But what is really impressive for Josh’s fellow beer writers is how he attacks the story with dedication and professionalism. I strongly believe those who write about beer – whether it is for social media, a personal blog, or traditional media – can and should learn from this book. Granted, there are reasons why blogs are different from traditional media; there are no barriers to entry, no editors, hardly any restrictions on content or style, and – in the end – no pay for your work with a blog.
But that doesn’t mean beer bloggers cannot and should not take the best aspects of professional writing and employ them in their writing. Josh Noel is a shining example of what happens when someone does.
Drink Beer, Think Beer
John Holl has equally valid journalistic chops. He is the senior editor of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine, has served as editor of All About Beer Magazine, and has worked for the New York Times, Newark Star-Ledger, and the Indianapolis Star.
His book is also highly professional and well written. But I like it for a different reason.
Drink Beer, Think Beer covers practically everything a beer writer needs to know about the beer industry. Topics include beer ingredients, off flavors, the proper way to taste beer, glassware, dispensing systems, and some of the underbelly issues of the industry. I challenge any beer writer to read this book and not learn ten new facts. I learned ten new facts each chapter.
And that is why this book is important. I see it as sort of the bible of beer writers. No one expects you to be as knowledgeable about beer as is John Holl. But if you are going to write about beer and then sit at a party or industry event and tell people you write about beer, this book is invaluable so you can accurately discuss so many issues that are of importance to beer drinkers.
I would also wager this book will change how you go about drinking beer. My favorite line of John’s book sums up how he regularly tries to push himself out of his own beer comfort zone in terms of trying new beers, visiting new breweries, talking to more brewers, and thinking about both sides of beer industry issues. “By welcoming the adventure, I’ve found it’s possible to live a fuller life.”
Jack Perdue says
Allan, thanks for sharing your thoughts on these two important beer books. I’ve read Josh Noel’s book and hope he does more in-depth writing on the beer culture and related events. I’ve met John Holl in October 2018, during his time in Baltimore where he discussed this book and more. Along with him for the intimate evening was Baltimore beer icon Hugh Sisson (Heavy Seas) and St Louis beer legend Dan Kopman, Schlafly co-founder. I didn’t understand who Dan was at the time but it was apparent, he knew the background of early craft brewery beginnings. I haven’t read John’s book yet but will be getting to it soon. Cheers!
You are welcome, Jack!