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Book Review Roundup

Three more beer books for your reading (and drinking) pleasure.
Mikkeller's Book of Beer Cover

Mikkeller’s Book of Beer

by Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and Pernille Pang

Jacqui Small LLP, Hardcover, $29.99, 253 pp.

At the heart of Mikkeller is a kaleidoscopic sense of style, both in beer and on the label.

Flavor-wise, nothing is out of bounds, and Mikkel Borg Bjergsø’s generally noteworthy beer recipes are further distinguished by their presentation, which is equally recognizable.

This sense of style translates well to Mikkeller’s Book of Beer, co-authored by Bjergsø and his wife, Pernille Pang.

The book is colorful and well laid out, with various eye-catching fonts and a wealth of bright Mikkeller labels and aesthetically pleasing shots of beer and its tangential relations.

The visual composition is enough to put it ahead of the pack of catch-all beer books, a rather inundated category that focuses heavily on the breadth of the craft beer universe without delving too deeply into any one topic.

While Mikkeller’s Book of Beer does fall into this category, offering broad overviews of various styles, recipes and beer history, his perspective helps to set it apart.

The beer industry is full of people who came to it after exhausting their options and patience elsewhere, and Bjorgso’s version is insightful – into both the industry and his mind.

This isn’t a homebrewing book, nor is it a definitive book on the state of craft beer. At its best, Mikkeller’s Book of Beer is a unique view into a vibrant community from one of its more prominent figures.

– Jim Dykstra

Jesus, Bread, and Chocolate

Crafting a Handmade Faith in a Mass-Market World

by John J. Thompson

Zondervan, Softcover, $15.99, 270 pp.

John J. Thompson’s Jesus, Bread, and Chocolate draws numerous parallels between the quest for spiritual enlightenment and the cultivation of “artisanal discernment” in everything we consume.

Though beer is nowhere in the title, Thompson devotes an entire chapter to the “craft beer revolution,” and how it coincides with piousness.

Thompson likens a taste for the finer things in life and the quest for a finely honed palate to the discovery of a higher power and the search for God.

One would think that a discussion of the Belgian Trappist monks, who veritably saved brewing during the Middle Ages, would be appropriate, but Thompson steers clear of this low-hanging fruit and instead focuses on two modern breweries that are both run by devout Christians. One of them is The Black Abbey, which is named after the Lutherhaus, where Martin Luther’s wife brewed numerous Belgian ale styles.

Alcoholism is discussed as well, and Thompson remembers when he was a church leader and several non-alcoholic beers were found in his fridge during a church gathering. Even though the brews were non-alcoholic and left there by a guest, a furor ensued and a heated inquisition followed a few weeks later. Many congregants went so far as to abandon the church after Thompson’s fellow elders defended their position of “everything in moderation, including moderation.”

Despite the negative connotations of beer as a gateway to addiction in some religious circles, Thompson explains the truth: The ingredients found in beer (water, hops, barley and yeast) are completely natural and therefore “came from God.” It’s hard to argue with that.

– Chris Guest

Beer O’ Clock

An Insider’s Guide to History, Craft, and Culture

by Jane Peyton

Skyhorse Publishing, Hardcover, $14.99, 208 pp.

Jane Peyton takes her role as a beer evangelist seriously, and her enthusiasm shines in Beer O’ Clock, a draft on all things beer pulled into an easily quaffable narrative.

Peyton is not the first to write a general interest book on beer, but her ability to weave a broad topic into a cohesive, flowing entity sets Beer O’ Clock apart from the vast majority of all-things-beer books.

There’s something for any beer buff within these pages. I found the list of hop varietals and their dominant characteristics particularly interesting. Have you ever heard of Pride of Ringwood hops? They’re from Australia, and add herbal, cedar and oak flavor notes to your beer.

Peyton’s mission to bring beer to the masses also sets it apart. She relates the story of her first Fuller’s pint upon returning to England, and the emotions it brought forth.

To Peyton, the value in beer lies in its ability to create and enhance memories, rather than to purge or blur. That’s a big distinction, and one that makes Beer O’ Clock worth the time of any beer-enthused individual.

– Jim Dykstra