Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cool Yule #7! Beer Books for 2011: Designing Great Beers

Cool Yule! #7
Cool Yule! 12 Beer Books for 2011

Not a list of the dozen best-of-the-best books about beer of 2011, but, rather, my list of 12, some personal delights, others of unique or deserved merit. Some of the books have been published this year, while others are worthy chestnuts.

Between 20 November and the Winter Solstice, I'll reveal my selections.

Then, on Christmas Day: put your feet up, pour yourself a good beer, and read a good book. Or, better yet: give a friend the gift of a beer and a book. December 22nd may be too late to arrange shipping by Christmas (unless available as an e-book), but it's time sufficient to pay a visit to your local brick and mortar —and book— store.

So ... cue seven swans-a-swimming.

Cool Yule Beer Book for 2011:

Designing Great Beers

Designing Great Beers
The Ultimate Guide to Brewing Classic Beer Styles
Ray Daniels
paperback: 404 pages
Publisher: Brewers Publications (US, 1996)
ISBN: 0937381500

My previous selection, The Best of American Beer & Food, was a cookbook. Cool Yule #7 is a recipe book as well ... of beers.

Designing Great Beers was written by Ray Daniels, highly regarded as the brains behind the Cicerone Program, a certification for restaurant servers on beer knowledge, just as sommelier programs train servers of wine. But Mr. Daniels has quite the extensive resume in the furtherment of good beer. From his website:
  • Author, editor and publisher of more than a dozen books on brewing and beer
  • Diploma graduate and senior faculty member at the Siebel Institute of Technology
  • Internationally known beer judge
  • Organizer of scores of beer tasting events including Chicago’s Real Ale Festival (1996-2003)
  • Experienced beer marketer, past director of the Brewers Association Craft Beer Marketing Program
His Craft Beer Institute was and is integral to education on real ale. From one of his "Perfect Pint" sessions in the 1990s, I still have a pencil packed away from an even earlier run of his for Chicago-land political office. That unsuccessful campaign was good beer's gain!

Designing Great Beers is divided into two sections. The first is recipe formulation. This is not a how-to for brewing step-by-step. There are other books for that. But, even for beginners, these chapters will reveal the reasons why they are following those simpler steps and procedures. Daniels provides formaulae and charts for determining extract, water adjustment, hop bitterness, yeast attenuation, etc. I would wager that even professional 'craft' brewers have used these chapters for reference.

There's one quite valuable formula that Daniels has created just for the book —the BU:GU. Technically, it's the ratio of bittering units of the hops used to the gravity units (the amount of fermentable sugar present before fermentation). In plain English, it's the perception of the bitterness of a beer. Simply because a beer contains a lot of hops doesn't mean it will taste bitter; just because a beer is not of high alcoholic strength doesn't mean it won't pack a hoppy punch. It's the perception of bitterness —the balance between malt and hops— that the BU:GU addresses. Great stuff, and useful for those reductive "How many IBUs?" conversations about beer.

The second part of Designing Great Beers is about brewing to 'style.' Daniels' definition of 'beer style' is one of the better I've read.
A beer style comes into being when several brewers, often in close geographic proximity to each other, create beers that share a similar set of distinctive traits. These traits include body, alcohol content, bitterness, color, and profile. In the end, the traits of a style incorporate the variation seen from brewer to brewer [emphasis mine] while still defining a formulation that is generally distinguishable from other styles of beer.

Perhaps the most important function of style is beer flavor. <...> This shorthand is very useful for communication between brewers, retailers, and consumers. It allows brewers to tell others what they have brewed without long, drawn-out explanations.

In today's milieu run amok of 140 or so 'styles,' it's quaintly refreshing (pun intended) to find only 14 chapters of styles. That the book was published in 1996 in very little way outdates its style information. Quite the contrary!

Daniels started with published guidelines as a baseline, but rather than relying on them unquestioned, he researched actual historical commercial records and homebrew competitions, identifying and quantifing style parameters. Daniels' work predates and anticipates, by more than decade, much of the current style revisionism of such historians as Martyn Cornell and Ron Pattinson.

As valuable as this book might be for brewers of avocation or profession, the wealth of information in Designing Great Beers will help anyone —even a non-brewer— appreciate the flavors in beer and more easily identify them. For a proto-brewer, Designing Great Beers can help provide a practical understanding of brewing; for a beer consumer, the skill involved. For all, it can provide an historical understanding of styles, and why and where they developed. By gaining an understanding of all of this, the reader will better enjoy the next well-made beer she brews or drinks. And the next.

And, after reading, consider taking the next step, by becoming accredited as a Beer Cicerone.
Anyone can call themselves an expert on beer. [Emphasis mine.] But when consumers want great beer they need help from a server who really knows beer flavors, styles and brands. They also want to buy from a place that understands proper storage and serving so the beer they drink will be of the highest quality. Too often great beer is harmed by improper service practices.

The website is: You can follow Ray Daniels on Twitter @Cicerone_org.

Cool Yule for 2011, so far:
  • #8: The Best of American Beer & Food
  • #9: Beer & Philosophy
  • #10: Evaluating Beer
  • #11: Windows on The World
  • #12: The Story of Brewing in Burton on Trent

  • For on-line purchasing, I link to the Brewers Association book store, or to the marvelous resource, When not available there, or if published as an ebook, I link to
  • The 12 Books for Christmas 2009: here.

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