When I first received this book I thought that reviewing it would be a doddle; My wife’s uncle is a horticulturist who specialised in hop growing and processing during the 50s and 60s at the Greenmount Agricultural College. However my plan backfired because every paragraph he read sent him into reveries and he would recount in extraordinary detail the time he spent working with Ireland’s last commercial hop growers.
This was all well and good, but it wasn’t going to get the book reviewed.
The book combines the history with the chemistry of the hop. It starts by discussing the aroma of hops and an in-depth view of the odour compounds found in hop oils. It then goes on to examine the perception of aroma and how it varies from person-to-person. All the way through the information is backed up with data and examples (all easily understood by a hop novice like me).
The recent surge in craft brewing and specialist pubs in London means that the Borough of Southwark is perhaps not the standalone beer mecca it once was. That said, it remains home to such luminaries as The Rake, Brew Wharf, The Market Porter and The Dean Swift, as well as more understated beery excellence down at Harvey's Royal Oak.
The modern visitor supping his Kernel IPA in The Rake may not be aware, however, that Southwark's beeriness stretches far back into history. Borough High Street was the thoroughfare along which Kent's precious hop harvest was transported north each year and the old Hop Exchange building is still standing in the area. One of London's most famous breweries was also based in Southwark: Thrale's, later Barclay Perkins, later yet Courage. The first Russian Imperial Stout was brewed here on the south bank of the Thames. The stories of London and its beer are bound up together in Southwark and it's this history that Pete Brown explores in Shakespeare's Local: Six Centuries of History Seen Through One Extraordinary Pub.
The Oxford Companion to Wine was first published in 1994 and is now in its third edition. It is widely regarded as the authoritative work on wine by both connoisseurs and those in the trade, with contributions from the most well-respected writers in the field of viticulture and oenology. It is, in short, a book for people who take their wine seriously.
That in 2011 the Oxford University Press published an equivalent volume for beer is the clearest sign yet that our poor relation of the drinks industry is suddenly finding respect among the public at large. But does The Oxford Companion to Beer rise to the task of being beer’s authoritative work?
The title of this book is ambitious, and the author’s credentials are certainly impressive enough to back up the book's claim to completeness. George Hummel is a home brewer and writer from Philadelphia. His shop, Homebrew Sweet Homebrew, has been located in the city since 1986 and both his beers and writing have won numerous awards. Don’t be fooled by the title though, this book is not a complete guide to the art of brewing aimed at the established brewer. Instead, it’s aimed very much at the novice brewer. Simple and accessible, it focuses exclusively on extract brewing. With 200 recipes from ales and lagers to extreme beers and even ginger ale, George Hummel may have written the complete guide to extract home-brewing.
Professor Charles W. Bamforth is the author of several books on the science and history of beer and brewing. His Lancashire roots, long career in the industry and current role as Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences at the University of California have led to some interesting perspectives: while very much concerned about beer quality, he has no truck with the notion that this is the exclusive preserve of small-batch breweries. And though steeped in the Real Ale traditions of Northern England he has an appreciation of all kinds of beer from around the world, a believer in consistency and good presentation as much as flavour.