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Book Review: The Beer Geek Handbook

Beer geek. While this moniker might seem like an insult at first, it has been fully embraced by craft beer fanatics – so much so that claiming yourself as one is more a badge of honor rather than a self-deprecating aside. Just as “nerd culture” has permeated modern society (Who doesn’t know who J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon are?), so too has the term “beer geek” become the calling card for any discerning craft beer drinker.

Patrick Dawson is a proud beer geek, and from the very first line of The Beer Geek Handbook he wears his geekdom on his brewery t-shirt sleeve. And even before the first line, Dawson exposes his powerful geekery – trying to curry favor with whale-makers by dedicating the book to “craft brewers everywhere – especially those who make really rare, barrel-aged beer.”

Of course, a book specifically aimed at beer geeks should both cajole and prod its intended audience into learning about their chosen hobby, which TBGH (excessive acronyms are the mark of a true beer geek, according to Dawson) does in spades.

Dawson’s prose is laced with wit, verve and snide humor, and the book is loaded with tips, tricks and the history of beer geekdom the world over. Numerous how-to’s and suggestions are also present, such as how to trade beer online, the types of bars that serve the best beer and how to host a perfect bottle share.

While reading it, I felt myself becoming more and more interested in rustling up whales (after reading Chapter 2, Beer: The Root of all Beer Geekery), and I could feel my disdain for frosted mugs grow ever stronger (after reading the short blurb “Damn You and Your Frosted Mugs.”)

Dawson crams a truly impressive amount of stuff into this book’s 192 pages (similar to the amount of ingredients in collaboration beers, of which Dawson is not a fan) including various quizzes to decide what kind of Beer Geek you are or whether or not you’re a fanboy/girl for a certain brewery, ideal beer vacation spots (or beercations) and the best days for a truly discerning beer geek to attend the GABF. There’s even a section written by Dawson’s wife about being the spouse or significant other of a beer geek (something she is obviously well-acquainted with).

While the organization of the book might be a little scattershot, the omnipresent humor and singularity of vision from Dawson makes it an engaging, entertaining and informative read. Also, almost every page in the book has eye-catching graphics and blurbs, as well as terrific, amusing artwork from Dawson’s collaborator Greg Kletsel. His cartoony portraits of some of the founding fathers of craft brewing are worth the price of admission alone, including The Beer Hunter Michael Jackson replacing The King of Pop Michael Jackson on the cover of Thriller.

This book has been a constant fixture on my desk since it crossed the transom, and with good reason. Dawson’s sparkling prose coupled with Kletsel’s kooky drawings kept me picking up The Beer Geek Handbook again and again for both entertainment and information.

Dawson claims that “the natural path for every gluten-tolerant adult should lead them to falling in love with beer.” And while I was certainly on board with that statement before, I now agree that being a beer geek might be the purest form of that devotion, fermented into a whale-hunting, breweriana-toting fanatic.


Images courtesy of Storey Publishing

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