Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
Recently, I've been sent a few books that I've been asked to review. While for the most part I've enjoyed reading them I felt that none of them were aimed directly at beer lovers like myself and so, by proxy, none of you that enjoy reading this blog. Then it hit me, these books would be ideal for beer geeks, like ourselves, seeking gifts for friends and family on the fringes of booze. If, like me, you'll be forcing your love of the drink on those around you over the holiday season then these might make for ideal stocking stuffers.
Drink London from Euan Ferguson is an immaculately presented guide to London's best bars and it's compact enough to fit comfortably in the front pocket of your Kånken. It journeys from cocktail speakeasies to wine bars and dedicates a healthy portion of its pages to beer houses, both in the 'traditional' and 'craft' sense. It even goes so far as to include some of the best brewery tap rooms. The real highlight though is the wonderful photography throughout which really ties this book together.
Together, drink writers Tom Sandham and Ben McFarland form the Thinking Drinkers, which is also the title of their latest book. Thinking Drinkers describes itself as 'the enlightened imbibers guide to alcohol' when in truth, those rare imbibers that have genuinely found enlightenment will find little between these pages that they don't already know. This is another list book that veers off onto the next subject before the one they're discussing really gets interesting. What I did like was as well as covering more fashionable drinks such as beer, whisky and gin it also goes into tequila, rum and even sherry but again only really scratches the surface of each subject. The humour is quite 'laddish' and it think this would appeal to the younger drinker who is just discovering what they like. It's also the first and only book I've seen that juxtaposes Pliny the Elder next to Chiswick Bitter, quite the achievement in itself.
Finally we have Artisan Drinks from seasoned food writer Lindy Wildsmith. There's only a fleeting mention of beer here where Wildsmith recreates a Woodforde's recipe but other than a few pages on home brewing that's it for the ale. Artisan Drinks is a nice collection of recipes for both interesting sounding alcoholic and *gasp* soft drinks for people who have a lot more time on their hands than the rest of us. Someone who spends a lot of time in the kitchen or throws a lot of parties and get-togethers would probably enjoy attempting to recreate many of these recipes. A special mention must go to the excellent photography from Kevin Summers which really brings the recipes in this coffee table style hardback to life.
So there we have it, if you're short on gift ideas for the booze-curious this Christmas, you could do a lot worse than taking a look at these three books. If, however, you are looking for something wholly focused on beer for someone who is just getting into it then I'd highly recommend the excellent Let Me Tell You About Beer by Melissa Cole. For the beer history buff in your life you will do no better than the award winning Brew Britannia by Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey and for the craft beer enthusiast why not check out Craft Beer World by Mark Dredge.
These books were sent to me by the publishers to review although I don't think that this has influenced my opinion of them. They're all available now but before you jump on Amazon why not pop down to your local independent bookseller first.