I picked up my copy of Joshua Bernstein’s Complete Beer Course (Boot Camp for Beer Geeks), not as a complete novice, but as a beer geek who enjoys reading about beer from a diverse perspective. The unique approach proclaiming to progress readers from “Novice to Expert In Twelve Tasting Classes” was enough to spark my interest.
On first glance, I was particularly impressed by the books presentation, with it’s superbly tactile front sleeve and overall coffee table quality presentation. I also couldn’t help but notice an endorsement on the back from Canadian beer writer, Stephen Beaumont whose World Beer Atlas also makes for excellent reading.
To kick things off, tasting class one covers the beer essentials (as any beer course should). From the basic ingredients and brewing process, through to common positive and negative tasting terms – this book has you covered.
A lot of reference books in the beer category are quite dry, but this is not so with the Complete Beer Course. The next eleven tasting sessions walk you eloquently through a diverse world of beer, from the crisp pleasures of cold fermented lagers to the mouth puckering delights of Sour and Wild Ales. During each tasting class, Bernstein manages to inject just enough of his own personal style, while retaining the decorum of a professional.
As a “Boot Camp for Beer Geeks,” the Complete Beer Course packs enough detail to excite aficionados while maintaining an approachability rarely seen in this category. Newbies will quickly pick up the key styles in each category, while the most experienced among us will enjoy the story and description behind more unusual styles, such as Gose and White IPA (for example).
The experienced and newcomer alike will also enjoy the intertwined brewer profiles that allow readers to learn more in context with what’s actually happening in the industry. It’s always nice to meet the people behind the beer.
Class number twelve serves to bring everything together and make you a well-rounded beer connoisseur. You’ll find easy-to-understand lessons on weighty topics such as food pairing and cellaring before the book signs off with plenty of craft beer festival weeks from the US and beyond to add to your calendar.
Who is this book for?
As I return to the list of endorsements and reviews on the back cover, it’s easy to spot a general consensus; Bernstein manages to strike a perfect balance between crash course for newbs and all-around good read for the more seasoned beer enthusiast. The Complete Beer Course is undoubtedly the most complete (but also enjoyable) book of its kind.
It is, however, worth mentioning that much of the beers and brewers cited in this book are very US centric, which is worth bearing in mind if you don’t live in North America. Intrigued Brits – such as myself – looking for an insight into the US craft beer scene (or just a solid overview of beer styles) will enjoy this book regardless.
If anything, I can see myself seeking out the many featured beers (and copious “backup beers”) listed in each tasting class for many years to come. Each class is accurate and beautifully presented – earning the Complete Beer Course a well-deserved place on my coffee table (or even, beer drinking table) for the foreseeable future.
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