Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

July 21, 1996|Kevin Baxter

BEER: A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Best By Christopher Finch (Abbeville Press: $29.95, 216 pp.). Christopher Finch knows far too much--and cares far too passionately--about beer. But then only a person so obsessed would be capable of putting together a book as unique as this one.

Like a fine stout, this is a book that should be savored slowly, not chugged like something that comes out of a keg during rush week. After all, this is a serious look at beer, not some pop culture paean exploring which brand is less filling and which one tastes great.

The first 63 pages make up a kind of Pilsener primer, with chapters on the history of beer and the art of the brewer. Those of you who liken beer drinking to a religious experience, for example, will be happy to know that beer has played a role in worship ceremonies for centuries. And those couch potatoes among us who find beer goes best with a remote control and a wide-screen TV will no doubt be proud to learn that sedentariness may be one of the natural side-effects of beer drinking: Some scientists believe early man gave up the nomadic life and settled in specific locations largely for the purpose of growing grains to produce beer.

Finch is particularly hard on the U.S. mega-breweries, accusing them of producing monotonous products "devoid of character and identifiable less by taste than by packaging and advertising slogan." He blames this lack of variety in part on Prohibition, which helped drive a number of small, independent brewers out of business and turned the industry over to a handful of large breweries.

The rising popularity of microbreweries and regional beers is reversing that trend, however, and the book devotes an entire chapter to what Finch calls "the American beer renaissance." The author also devotes ample space to rating beers from around the world. But perhaps the best thing about the book is its use of 152 exquisite color photos showing beer in every conceivable setting and from every conceivable angle. There's bottled beer, beer on tap and beer in cans; there's beer on boats, beer with Mexican food and even some yuppie beer posed in front of yachts behind a heaping platter of lobster tail and calamari.

It was enough to drive me to the 'fridge in search of my favorite brew, a beer that would probably do little to satisfy Finch's obviously refined palate. I love you, man. Now can I have your Bud Light?

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|