Book Review – The Anchor Steam Story

With many brewery histories, you know the story in broad strokes already because most breweries have only been around since the 1980’s. (please do not call that ancient history)

But after you read the glorious coffee table book, The Anchor Brewing Story by David Burkhart, you will have been taken on a tour of beer in San Francisco that will be brand new to you.

That is because Anchor Brewing has been around since 1896 but its DNA goes even further back. Burkhart takes you to 1848 and the gold rush and to 1856 and Gottlieb Brekle and his Golden City Brewery which then became part of the Co-Operative Brewery before raising Anchor in 1896. This brewery went through earthquakes and owners and moved around San Francisco so much that you need a map app to orient yourself.

The book picks up steam when Fritz Maytag enters the picture. His drive for quality and “Wholicity” rescued Anchor from obscurity. His arrival finally brought stability to the brewery and innovation and curiosity as well.

Maytag was there at practically every important milestone in California craft brewing history. He was also there for distilling which was really not a thing when he dipped his toe in. Wine, he did that too.

A good history book takes you back in time and then whisks you through major events. The balance and tone of the writing is balanced and fun. Burkhart does that in the coffee book format which doesn’t provide as much word space. For that he is to be commended and the book purchased.

Fifty To Be Precise

I am a sucker for a beer book.  I am pretty much a sucker for books, especially if there is a clever hook. I just bought Eoghan Walsh’s Brussels Beer in Fifty Objects. 

Mostly because the hook is that instead of a narrative or another summary of the brewing process, this is about Brussels and beer told via beer related items.

Sorta like telling a history of the Anderlecht Football club through their jerseys.

Full review to come later, I have a lot of books in line to get through.

The Botany of Beer

Agriculture and beer are inextricably linked. Plant life and beer are as well, especially when beer and creativity are mixed. That is why The Botany of Beer is important.

This synopsis should convince you, like it did me, to dive into what the book offers…

“This book is a comprehensive and beautifully illustrated compendium of the characteristics and properties of the plants used in making beer around the world. The botanical expert Giuseppe Caruso presents scientifically rigorous descriptions, accompanied by his own hand-drawn ink images, of more than 500 species. For each one, he gives the scientific classification, common names, and information about morphology, geographical distribution and habitat, and cultivation range. Caruso provides detailed information about each plant’s applications in beer making, including which of its parts are employed, as well as its chemical composition, its potential toxicity, and examples of beers and styles in which it is typically used. The book also considers historical uses, aiding brewers who seek to rediscover ancient and early modern concoctions.”

Beer Book Binge

It is good to see more and more craft beer books on the shelves. Here are three that you should peruse online or, heavens forbid, in an actual bookstore.

Wood & Beer – combine Peter Bouckaert from New Belgium with Dick Cantwell, the quality ambassador for the Brewer’s Association and you will get some seriously in depth knowledge about wood an what happens when beer comes into contact with it. Just bought it and will review later.

The Beer Geek Handbook – I really enjoyed the slim cellaring book from Patrick Dawson, Vintage Beer. His latest seems heavy on illustrations and is more jokey in tone. Might be better as a gift to those outside the craft scene to help them understand why beer ignites such passion.

The Opposite of Woe – For this political season, combine one Denver craft beer entrepreneur with the mayor’s office and the governorship and see how brewing a beer is similar to getting a bill passed.  From two-time Mayor of Denver and Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper.

Session # 95 – The Next Great Beer Book


A Good Beer Blog is at the reins of the first blogging session of 2015 and has posed a very thought provoking topic for one, such as myself, that thinks bookstore gift cards are the best.

What beer book which has yet to be written would you like to see published?

“What is the book you would want to write about good beer? What book would you want to read? Is there a dream team of authors your would want to see gathered to make that “World Encyclopedia of Beer and Brewing”? Or is there one person you would like to see on a life long generous pension to assure that the volumes flow from his or her pen? Let us know. ”

There are times when it would be easier to make a list of often used and over used beer topics.

Be it invoking Ninkasi or Alewives in beer history, short summations of the brewing process, the 10-50-100 or 1,000 Beers you MUST try or how to start a brewery by an irreverent brewer.  Worthy topics all.  But they have been done and covered both badly and well.

Instead of broad histories or an inventory of a beer style, I would like to peek behind the curtain, so to speak, of the Humulus Lupulin.

I can hear the howls of hypocrite.  How dare you call some books re-hashes and then propose a book about the most hyped beer ingredient that fuels a hop boom that shows no sign of abating and crowds out other styles on tap and in bottles.

But I propose something more focused.  Specifically on the both the science and art of designing and growing a new hop from start to finish.  We hear code designations bandied about.  Then a fancy name gets attached like Mosaic or Mandarina.  But I want to know (in laymans terms) how the cross of Hop Parent # 1 with Hop Parent # 2, creates Equinox.  I want to see a hop family tree.  I want to hear from the farmers from Washington to New York states and the scientists at UC-Davis and Oregon State.

Since hops in brewing has been covered by Mitch Steele and hops in history and practice extensively covered by For the Love of Hops by Stan Hieronymus, with Pete Brown hitting the history of IPA angle, the narrative should hone in on one single hop.  The tension coming from will it be successful both from an agricultural standpoint and successful in a beer.  Akin to focusing on a bill becoming a law and then analyzing the impact of that law.

Side by side with this narrative could be digressions to see how some hops became name brands like Citra and why other hops labor in obscurity or become workhorses and not stars. Or a discussion of buying hop futures and how that affects the brewing schedules.  Maybe get a look into the world of HopUnion and finish off with plunge into tasting the winner of an Alpha King competition of the Great American Beer Festival.

The journey of hop from drawing board to pint glass.  It could be called, The Bitterness Project.

The Brewer’s Tale

William Bostwick has penned a new book on the evolution of brewing through history. The Brewer’s Tale about “Jumping through time as he weaves ancient lore with today’s craft scene,”


Since Bostwick is a journalist with a Wall Street Journal pedigree, I expect this book to be well researched especially if it wants to cover 5,000 years of beer in 300 pages.

It is on my reading list, so when I have finished, expect a review here.

Two More books to Put on Your Radar + One to get Now

I am a book fiend.  The only thing I consume more of is beer. And two more books are in the publishing pipeline that I think are worthy of reading the first few pages of.  (That’s what I always do, to see if the writer has a good style).

First up is….

Proof: The Science of Booze

Probably to be read before any beer intake.  This is the from the lab look at this fascinating part of our beverage. And it involves not only neurobiology and psychology but metallurgy as well.  That is the part that intrigues me.

Then, we head to Brooklyn for….

The Craft Beer Revolution

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The co-founder of Brooklyn Brewery dives into the relatively recent history of America’s microbreweries. You might see some overlap between this and the Audacity of Hops book from last year.  But the perspective is different since Hindy is inside the industry, as opposed to being a journalist looking in.

Lastly, I know you might want to spend money on beer and not books so check out from a library (which I also love) a copy of….

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…the 2013 edition of the Best Food Writing. Does it have anything about craft beer?  No.  Sadly. But it does touch on many topics that if you replaced carrots or restaurant and inserted craft beer, the writing might shed light on how we look at beer.  What is local?  What is slow food?  We are all kin and this book will enlighten you.

Britain’s Lost Breweries and Beers by Chris Arnot


With England on a new trajectory of breweries, it is probably a good time to do some recollecting of the old times as well. Don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past, and all that. I am a sucker for beer books, toss in history and I am swooning. This one is going on my Christmas list this year.

“an elegy for the loss of so many of our classic homes of beer.” is all I need to see on the book jacket.

You can find it on Amazon UK, HERE.

2 Beer Books on the horizon

There are two books on the near and far horizon that will appeal to craft beer fans and especially to the lot who have been bitten by the home brewing bug. And though the Amazon site has been glitchy with me. I have ordered one in Kindle version to arrive next year. But first…..

Mitch Steele – IPA. It makes sense. Stone has a definite bitter style and this book which includes both history and recipes. As the liner notes to the book go on to explain, “Explore the evolution of one of craft beer’s most popular styles, India pale ale. Loaded with brewing tips from some of the country’s best brewers, IPA covers techniques from water treatment to hopping procedures. Included are 48 recipes ranging from historical beers to recipes for the most popular contemporary IPAs made by craft brewers such as Deschutes Brewery, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Pizza Port Brewing and Russian River Brewing Company.” And even if you are not a brewer but a fan of the style the recipes should be interesting from the vantage point of which hops are used and how much.

Ken Grossman – Sierra Nevada. I wish I didn’t have to wait until 2013 to read this one but I will. I hope this is a harbinger for more books on craft beer pioneers. I read a slim tome about the famous Bert Grant that did not meet expectations and I think there are quite a few newbies who can stand to learn about the old guard. I know the outlines of the Sierra Nevada story but I hope this book digs a little deeper.

1001 Beers


First A Beer a Day, now 1001 Beers to try.

Why should you get another gargantuan coffee table book on beer?
A) We need to encourage more talk about craft beer
B) This is aimed at those on the fence who need a nudge into the world of craft beer.

Here is what one of the contributors and the editor had to say on a recent thread on the always enlightening Hop Press blog.

Mario Rubio
“I think people are missing why someone issues a book like this. It’s not for the people like us who use RateBeer and such (although many of us are interested in it). This book is for our friends, the ones on the outside looking in. They are the people who will flip through and say “I’ve seen that on tap” or “I can buy that at the grocery store” and start ticking off the beers in the book.”

Adam Tierney Jones
“this is for those who might be slightly intimidated by beer, who are ripe for moving on from Bud, enjoy Sierra Nevada occasionally but wonder what on earth is or who is Dogfish Head”