Beer Is Proof God Loves Us: Reaching for the Soul of Beer and Brewing
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Legendary beer expert Charlie Bamforth presents the most compelling social history of beer ever written: where it’s come from, and where it’s headed. From centuries-old cultural values to radical new approaches, craft brewing to globalization, it’s an amazing story. Bamforth tells it all–with humor, behind-the-scenes insight, and sheer joy!
- Amazon Sales Rank: #32991 in Books
- Published on: 2010-10-09
- Original language: English
- Number of items: 1
- Binding: Hardcover
- 304 pages
- ISBN13: 9780137065073
- Condition: New
- Notes: BRAND NEW FROM PUBLISHER! BUY WITH CONFIDENCE, Over one million books sold! 98% Positive feedback. Compare our books, prices and service to the competition. 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed
From the Back Cover
“A delightful book that not only reaches the soul of brewing but also tells us much about the soul and humanity of the author. Bamforth skillfully weaves a holistic and philosophical story about our complex society and the positive role that beer has, does, and will play in it. It is a joy to read and will leave the reader refreshed in mind and soul.”
–Simon Jackson, Executive Director, Institute of Brewing and Distilling, London, England
“A heartfelt account of beer that reads as though I’m sitting at a pub table across from the ‘Beer Professor’ himself as he reveals personal tales and experiences over many pints of beer. A concise snapshot of the world of beer–past, present, and future. Remarkable insight into the behind-the-scenes world of beer.”
–Charlie Papazian, Author of Complete Joy of Homebrewing; National Beer Examiner, http://Examiner.com/beer; President, Brewers Association (USA); and Founder, Great American Beer Festival
Don’t just drink beer: Experience it. All of it.
Discover the extraordinary culture and history of brewing: the remarkable craft that reaches back before written history. Visit legendary British pubs now fading sadly into memory…and the craft breweries, corporate boardrooms, and home brewers that are the new future of beer. Learn how to tell a great beer from a good one…find surprising new research on beer and human health…uncover beer in the Bible (and other unlikely places)…and discover divinity and transcendence in your very next brew.
Yes, there’s more to beer than you ever imagined: It is the most complex, subtle, and remarkable beverage humans have ever created. Its story deserves to be told with love and passion. Charles W. Bamforth brings all that, plus a lifetime of brewing knowledge and wisdom. Read his book, and you’ll agree with Benjamin Franklin’s apocryphal quote: Beer truly is proof that God loves us.
- From Bangkok’s Singha to the Sierra Nevadas
How institutional investing, indexing, and efficient markets theory promote herding
- Secrets of foam, color, clarity, and freshness
From the bottle inward: the makings of a great brew
- Discovering the “Slow Beer” movement
Traditional brewers, true beer culture, and real heritage
- God in a glass: the spiritual dimensions of beer
Experiencing the magnificence of transformation and deliverance
About the Author
Charles W. Bamforth has been in the brewing industry for 32 years, including 13 years in research, 11 in academia, and 8 with the famed brewing company Bass. After an international search, he was selected as UC Davis’ first Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences. His Web site gives fuller details of his career and much interesting information about beer and brewing, besides: http://www-foodsci.ucdavis.edu/bamforth/.
Throughout his diverse career, he has embraced every dimension of beer, from raw materials and processing, through quality, to beer’s impact on the body. This makes him unique among “beer people” worldwide. He has published many research papers in the peer-reviewed domain, but also those targeted at the layperson, seeking to engage awareness and debate about beer as a product and as part of social fabric. This is his ninth book on beer (one of his earlier ones is in its third edition), and he is generally considered to be one of the world’s leading writers and speakers on beer, from an authoritative, but also humorous and engaging, perspective. In recent years his major research thrust has been on the wholesomeness and public perception of beer.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
My regular haunt as a boy was a pub called The Owl (see Figure 0.1). I was not yet 17, and the legal drinking age in England was (and still is) 18. Friday evenings. One or two pints of Walker’s Best Bitter.1 A bag of crisps (a.k.a. chips) with a tiny blue bag of salt in every pack.2 And Woodbine cigarettes, of which perhaps three or four would tremble on my lips. I would observe the comings and goings, mostly of the male gender (women then, as now, pleased my eyes more, but in those days they were heavily outnumbered in the pub). Many of the men were tough-as-teak workers, some clad in clogs, leaning against the bar, throwing darts, or rattling dominoes as they took their accustomed places in the dusty oaken furniture solidly set on rustic flooring. No television, no piped music. The food was restricted to pickled eggs, crisps, scratchings,3 and perhaps the offerings from the basket of the fish man who did his rounds of the pubs, with his cockles, whelks, and mussels.4 He jockeyed for position with the bonneted Sally Army woman and her War Cry.5
Arthur Koestler6 wrote, “When all is said, its atmosphere (England’s) still contains fewer germs of aggression and brutality per cubic foot in a crowded bus, pub or queue than in any other country in which I have lived.” Not once in the pubs of 1960s Lancashire did I witness anything to contradict this truth.
Who were these men, in their flat caps and overalls, or their simple and well-worn woolen suits? What unfolded in their lives? Were they drinking away their babies’ or teenagers’ futures, or were they rather savoring precious moments of content amidst the harsh cruelty of their labors? Were they stoking the fire of violence that would afterwards roar through the family home or were they merely rejoicing in bonds of brotherhood with others who knew only too well the rocky roads and unforgiving fields that each of them traversed as laborers and farmers, bricklayers, and quarrymen? This was no less their sanctuary than St Thomas’s church7 or Central Park, the home of nearby Wigan’s prestigious Rugby League team.8 This was oasis.
And in their glasses would be English ales, nary a lager in sight. Pints (seldom halves) of bitter or mild.9 The occasional bottle of Jubilee or Mackeson.10 Perhaps a Bass No. 1 or a Gold Label.11 Beers with depth and warmth and, yes, nutritional value to complement their impact on conviviality and thirst.
Wigan, immortalized by George Orwell in his Road to Wigan Pier,12 was a few pennies away on a Ribble13 bus. The pier was a landing stage by the Leeds-Liverpool canal, a place for goods to be offloaded, notably cotton for the mills of the grimy but glorious town. The folks lived in row upon row of small houses, all joined together in grey, damp blocks. Two rooms down and two up and a toilet a freezing trek away down the narrow back yard, with newspaper to clean oneself up and often no light to ensure a satisfactory result. Baths were taken in front of the coal fire in the living room, in a pecking order of father first, mother next, then the children. For those with coal-miner dads it was no treat to be the youngest offspring.
Was it then a wonder that the pub held appeal? Warm, cozy, buzzing with camaraderie and escape.
In England today, pubs are shuttering their doors at a rate of 52 every week. I blame Thatcher, whose ill-judged Beer Laws of the late 1980s led to revered brewers like Bass and Whitbread and Watney selling their breweries to focus on serving the brews of others in spruced-up pubs that are now more restaurant and sports bar than back street boozer. Cleaner, smarter, livelier? Sure. But do they have heart or soul? Yes, they are smoke-free zones,14 but there are as many folks on the sidewalk outside, spilling into the roadway and littering the pavement with butts and spittle.
Perhaps it is small wonder that many choose no longer to head to the pub and prefer to stay in front of their 70-inch surround-sound televisions, chugging on canned lager bought at fiercely competitive rates from a supermarket chain that commands one in every seven pounds of disposable income in the British Isles and which squeezes the remaining UK brewers to the measliest of margins as they entice the shopper to become solitary suppers of beers with names very different from those of yore.
Beers from breweries like the multinational behemoth Anheuser-Busch InBev, which commands nearly 25 percent of the world’s beer market, more than twice as much as the nearest competitor, South African Breweries-Miller. Stella Artois, Budweiser, Becks: all brands owned by the biggest of breweries. Excellent beers, of course, but at what risk to other smaller traditional labels?
The world of beer is hugely different from that I first glimpsed as a too young drinker close to the dark satanic mills15 of my native Northern England. Has beer, I wonder, lost its soul?
Or is it, rather, me that is the dinosaur? Is the enormous consolidation that has been the hallmark of the world’s brewing industry for decades nothing more than business evolution writ large as survival of the fittest? Do the beers that folks enjoy today—and the latter day “near beer” which is the malternative (think Smirnoff Ice)—speak to a new age of Kindle, Facebook, and fast food?
In truth, there remains much for this hoary old traditionalist to delight in: the burgeoning craft beer sector in his new motherland, the United States. A growing global realization that beer, rather than wine, is the ideal accompaniment to foods of all types and (whisper it) is actually good for you, in moderation.
All is not lost in the world of beer. Let’s go there.
© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.
The state of the beer market
I'm an avowed beer and food snob, and we used to brew our own beer. We have chosen vacation destinations based on what we'll eat and drink; this stuff is important to us. As a result, choosing a book about "the soul of beer and brewing" was a no-brainer selection from my Amazon Vine options. And there is no doubt that Charles Bamforth, the UC Davis Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences, knows his stuff.
I have strongly mixed feelings about this book. In some ways, I want to give it five stars; in others -- particularly when I disagree with the author's premises -- I have a violent urge to click hard on the two-star button.
Let me be descriptive, first. Despite a title that hearkens to an emotional relationship with beer (and I dare say that most readers recognize the Ben Franklin quote in his title), the book would be better called, "The business of beer." Bamforth gives an exhaustive, educational, and entertaining overview of the state of the beer market and how we got here. Chapters are devoted to such topics as "the re-birth of a beer ethos," anti-alcohol forces, and the merger of so many beer brands under a very few companies.
I am definitely smarter after reading Bamforth's book. I had lots of, "Oh, so THAT's what happened!" realizations from his explanation of the Thatcher-era Beer Laws of the 1980s and their effect on the UK beer market, for instance. (In the UK, 52 pubs are closing their doors every week.) I learned more than I ever imagined about the chemistry of foam (that is, the head on your glass of beer). And I appreciated his thoughtful pro-and-con discussions of the health claims for beer (in which he manages to be far more balanced than you'd expect from an allegedly biased author).
These are very different discussions, as you might imagine, and Bamforth manages to communicate and educate with both technical depth and a highly personal anecdotal style. I felt like I was listening to a college professor -- but the entertaining professor whose classes everyone wants to get into.
There are two problems that I have with the book: one my own preconceptions (which you may not agree with), and the other a matter of book organization.
The book's organization is... odd. It's one thing to include endnotes in a technical book, but almost half the book is given over to endnotes -- enough so that I used two bookmarks, so as to read the "main" text and addenda in concert. Many of the endnotes really should have been incorporated in the main text (such as the aforementioned foam discussion); others are personal and entertaining tangents that make me suspect Bamforth could not bear to part with the storytelling but couldn't justify it in the chapters he'd chosen. As an editor in my day job, I kept wanting to restructure his chapters. This isn't a killer problem for those who are interested in the topic or in Bamforth the person, but it certainly interrupted the flow of information since I was never sure which end notes were important, which were just technical citations, and which were "how 'bout that!" info.
The larger problem for me is that Bamforth *does* work for one of the "big guys" in the beer industry, and his personal opinions reflect that. Anheuser-Busch InBev, he says, commands almost 25% of the world's beer market, and so his concerns with beer-making are somewhat different than mine. Consistency is a stronger watchword for a business in which every glass of Bud (which I persist in thinking of as "barley soda pop") must taste the same. And as a dedicated hop-head, I'm a little overwhelmed by a beer expert who told the owner of Sierra Nevada that "Some of your beers are just about at my upper limit for hoppiness." ("He calmly looked back at me and... replied, 'Charlie, 25 years ago I was brewing in a bucket. Now I am producing more than 500,000 barrels every year and selling into every state in the nation. Do you mind if I leave things as they are?'") Bamforth gives credit to the craft brew market for giving beer attention again. And he asks us beer snobs to respect his own preferences; I do, honest I do, but it takes some effort on my part. It colored my reading of the book; depending on your background maybe it'll matter to you, too.
I don't think Bamforth's book will be enjoyed, especially, by someone who isn't "into" beer, as Bamforth doesn't take time to explain the role of wort or what a fermenter is. It isn't a book about "Isn't beer wonderful?" This book will appeal to home brewers and fans of craft brews -- at least for understanding the "big business" viewpoint of the industry. But you find that you are as uncomfortable-yet-interested as I am.
Doesn't match the publisher claims -- flimsy, fragmented and very short
The title of the book is its best element but it implies far more than it delivers. It's a raconteur's set of disconnected bits and pieces rather than an author's crafting of a coherent work. It's also very short, with a third of the thin volume being just end notes - an indicator of the fragmentation. There are enjoyable flashes of wit but little beyond opinion. The writer is a Brit (I am, too) and far too much of the book is built on his comments about the industry and his own contacts and experiences when working for Bass, one of the leading UK brewers in the heyday of pubs. Too much of this is of no interest to even a Brit - the Thatcher move to break the tied house practices (versus free house) where the pub owner bought the property from one of the brewers and was required to serve only its beers. That began the erosion of the traditonal pub but also fueled the growth of the Real Ale movement that in turn was paralleled by the micro breweries in the U.S.
The result has been the plethora of outlets that are not really pubs, not restaurants and not really family hangouts but a mixture. They are chains run by Punch Taverns, Enterprise Inns and the like. Woven into this fragmented narrative (and if what I've just written isn't of interest to you, then the book won't be) are Mr. Bamforth's memories of brands, personalities and executives of note in the UK, U.S., Canadian, German and Brazilian industry. There are plenty of statistics about the industry, national patterns of consumption, mergers, etc. The "etc." lacks focus and few of the pages grab interest or stay in one's memory. There are too few pages to cover them in more than sketchy outline.
It also gets in the way of the discussions of beer: brewing, history, social issues of health, UK soccer rowdies, storage and so on. It's almost as if the book was dictated and transcribed - an after dinner set of conversations. "Did you know...." facts are interspersed with "I knew X" and "In my opnion..."
The tone is light and lucid. But it's very flimsy. It takes little more than 1-2 hours to read and even so I found myself wanting to skip ahead.
Perspectives on Beer and Brewing from an Industry Insider
Someone once posted a comment in an Amazon review that said: Review the book the author wrote, NOT the book you WISH the author had written. I found that to be very useful advice when I reviewed a pre-publication Vine program copy of Charles W. Bamforth's "Beer Is Proof God Loves Us."
"Extreme" craft beers with character are where it's at for me--Imperial I.P.A.s, Imperial stouts, barleywines, funky Belgians, over-the-top strong ales made with insane quantities of malt and even more insane quantities of hops. I'm an unabashed beer snob. When I'm trying to be polite, I describe the products of today's global brewing conglomerates, some of which Dr. Bamforth has been associated with in his career, as "industrial brews" (a term he finds "reprehensible"). If I'm not trying to be polite, I use somewhat different terms. Much of "Beer Is Proof God Loves Us" is about industrial-scale brewing rather than about craft- and micro-brewing. So what did I think of it--the book he wrote, that is, not the one I WISH he had written?
Well, I have to say that I enjoyed it very much. It contains a lot of esoteric information on many different aspects of beers and brewing. For example, even though I don't drink their products, I found his perspectives on the rise of the few huge international corporations that today brew most of the world's beer to be very interesting. He describes their frenetic consolidations and acquisitions in detail in Chapter 1, "Global Concerns." In Chapter 2, "The Not-So-Slow Death of a Beer Culture," he laments the near-demise of one of the world's most fascinating institutions--the British pub. In Chapter 3, "On the Other Hand: the Rebirth of a Beer Ethos," he tells the stories of a few American brewing enthusiasts and the companies they founded--companies that have grown large but still produce high-quality beers (although, with a few exceptions, they're not assertive enough for my tastes). Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada Brewing Company), Fritz Maytag (Anchor Brewing), Jim Koch (Boston Beer Company), and Dan Gordon and Dean Biersch (Gordon Biersch) all played big roles in the evolution of the modern American brewing scene. Other chapters deal with such topics as beer quality and the factors that influence it, neo-prohibitionism, health effects of beer (good and bad), societal perceptions of beer drinkers, etc. Most of it is pretty interesting stuff. As a bonus, an Appendix provides an exceptionally good, brief but informative description of the beer brewing process.
"Beer Is Proof God Loves Us" is a good source of information about parts of the beer business that, with my intense focus on extreme craft brews, I do not normally consider. As such, it was a short but enlightening and educational read, which I recommend to any curious beer enthusiast.