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The Beer Book - Foreword by Sam Calagione

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks

Foreword by Sam Calagione

I believe that all beer is good. I also believe some beers are better than others. But my list of top beers would hopefully look very different from yours. The Beer Book is the ultimate toolbox for constructing and expanding your own list of favorites.

This is not a guide for beer snobs: folks who want to impress their friends with fancy terminology. It is a guide for beer lovers and beer geeks: people who want to learn more about beer because they love to drink it and share it with friends and loved ones.

My biggest hope is that this guide will give you the courage and conviction to cheat on your go-to beer. That’s right: being a hardcore beer lover means not being afraid to be promiscuous. Experiment. Go nuts. Step outside your comfort zone. Every person’s palate is unique, which means we won’t all love the same beers, and that is a beautiful thing. Within these pages you will likely find long-lost loves and new flames. With beer, there is nothing immoral about playing the field. Or as the folks at Wasatch Brewery in Utah say in an advertisement for their Polygamy Porter: “Why have just one?”

If we all had the same taste in beer there would only be one kind of beer available. I know—it sounds like the apocalypse. But it really almost happened in the United States not so long ago. Before Prohibition almost every major town had its own local brewery that made beers that reflected the background of the local people. After Prohibition came the mass consolidation and expansion of national breweries that made the light lager style ubiquitous and nearly wiped out the diversity of the local brewing scenes. At our low point in 1978, the United States had a mere 89 breweries (owned by 41 companies); before Prohibition, America had more than 1,500.

Today such a barren beer landscape seems almost unimaginable. There are more than 1,400 breweries in America and our country is not alone in the renaissance of great beer. As the owner of Dogfish Head, I’ve been lucky enough to travel, speak, and brew abroad in countries such as Denmark, Italy, Canada, The Czech Republic, Norway, and Belgium. Vibrant brewing scenes are thriving in these countries and many more. The passion, pride, and enthusiasm of today’s commercial brewers, big and small, are boundless and infectious. I love talking shop and knocking back pints with brewers from other parts of the world. Of course, our native tongues are different, but we all speak the same language when it comes to beer.

Breweries around the world are pushing the envelope, looking backward to indigenous, historical recipes. At the same time many are looking forward and creating their own styles as they follow their brewing muse. Others are putting their own unique thumbprints on traditional styles. World-class examples of all three of these brewing philosophies are well-represented throughout this guide.

There is no better time in history to be a beer lover than at this very moment. The breadth of high-quality choices is at an all time high. The best part about this renaissance (aside from the glorious beer itself, of course) is that it wasn’t funded by the half-billion dollar advertising campaigns of a few giant breweries. It was fueled by you: the beer lover. This has truly been an international, grassroots movement where the consumers voted with their wallets for more choice, more diversity, and more flavor. Friends, family members, and neighbors introduced one another to their favorite stouts, pilsners, lambics, IPAs, bocks, extreme beers, and tripel—expanding the international beer appreciation community one member at a time. The word has spread through the work of advocacy groups such as CAMRA, Beer Advocate, Rate Beer, and The Brewers Association. Beer bars, brewpubs, and better restaurants with broad beer lists drew us in and allowed us to further our experience. And now The Beer Book has arrived as an encyclopedic roadmap to our ever-expanding beer world.

Experts in the beer world believe in conveying pertinent information to consumers so that they can make up their own minds about what they want to drink. The Beer Book was written in this tradition: it gets right to the point, telling you about the beer, how and where it is made, and what the label looks like so you can actually find it in the store. It doesn’t tell you if the beer is good or bad – it doesn’t score the beer. It respectfully presents the beer, clearly and concisely, for you to score for yourself.

I remember taking part in a tasting at New Belgium Brewery in Colorado a few years ago. A group of brewers were presenting a few of their more exotic beers for the beer press and connoisseurs. Michael Jackson, the recently departed Bard of Beer and patriarch of beer journalism, was leading the tasting. He spoke about La Folie, a great wood-aged sour beer from New Belgium, for a moment, then took questions. The first question was “What do you think of the beer?” Michael answered, “Well I like it, but we have many beer writers and experts in the room, what do YOU think of the beer?” This kicked off a 20-minute open forum where beer lovers shared their personal thoughts and impressions of the beer. To my mind this was the quintessential beer experience: a bunch of beer lovers gathered around the object of their affection, sharing enthusiastic opinions in a welcoming environment.

I get the same warm and fuzzy feeling when I read The Beer Book. This is especially true if I am enjoying an IPA or an Imperial Stout as I thumb the pages and make notes next to the interesting beers I have yet to try. Whether you are a novice beer lover or a seasoned brewmaster, there are sure to be some rewarding discoveries within these pages. Every beer in here isn’t for everybody. That’s why there are so many amazing beers to choose from. Beautiful beers are in the eyes of their beholders. Cheers.


Sam Calagione

President and founder, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

Author of Brewing Up A Business, Extreme Brewing, and He Said Beer, She Said Wine.

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