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In hops we trust

Deborah Stoll | Winter 2009

 

A good book is a great escape. The joy of keeping your sleep-deprived eyes open at 3am because you just have to know what happens next is like a tonic after an otherwise predictable day. The best kind of story can remain with you for days, weeks, even months after the final page is turned, the flaps re-read, the author photo scrutinised. Eventually you must face the fact that your book is done. The only thing left to do is hand it off to someone you love.

The Naked Pint, An Unadulterated Guide To Craft Beer” is surprisingly such a book. A guide to beers may not sound like a page-turner, but this one is filled with the kind of humour, insight, pathos and historical nuggets that can hold its own against many a fictive tome. The authors–Christina Perozzi, a beer sommelier, and Hallie Beaune, beer writer–simply love beer. With disarmingly girlish charm, they present their subject in a way that is both accessible to the novice and interesting to the connoisseur.

Picture Tina Fey and Lucy Liu in a bar arguing the merits of Allagash Curieux (a Belgian-style Tripel aged in Jim Beam bourbon barrels) and Russian River Consecration (a sour American Wild Ale aged for six months in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels) and you’ve got a pretty good idea of the tone.

In the first chapter, Beer 101, readers learn the difference between craft beer and microbrews; what hops, malt, water and yeast’s specific jobs are; and that, “Ordering a beer by its color is like judging a book by its cover.” The book moves through the stages of beer discernment, like a sommelier might offer a flight–readers are instructed to start light (flavour-wise) and advance to the more robust. “We can guarantee you that if you walk into a beer bar after taking basic Beer 101, you will outshine every other joker in the joint with your newfound beer manners. Not that this is a competition, but we all like to feel sexy and special, and competing for best outfit is a bit passé.”

Sidebars relay historical points of interest, such as, “Beer shows up in the first set of laws. Around 1780 BCE, Hammurabi created his code...and included in it rules for fairly pricing beer. He places responsibility for this on the tavern keeper (sometimes referred to as a female). If the beer was overpriced, the tavern keeper would be drowned.”

A chapter titled “The Promiscuous” ensures the reader that the beers you are about to consider will make you “want to slip out of your things and say howdy.” Readers will learn the merits of Champagne-style Biere de Champagne, barrel-aged beer, smoked beer, stouts and barleywine. "The Naked Pint" also considers Franciscan Monks, volcanic deaths and the great war between Czechoslovakia and Anheuser-Busch.

The result is a lasting understanding of beer, and how to order, drink and brew it. To this end, Perozzi and Beaune offer some lasting words of wisdom: “Communication is a continuing challenge for any relationship, and learning how to ask for what you want from beer can take some practice, but the Universal Law of Attraction and the Secret of Beer is, if you know how to ask for what you want, you just might get it.”

 

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