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Monday, October 10, 2011

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Beer

OK, I admit it…..I know nothing about beer.  But, there are many savvy gourmands who love the stuff.   And, what I do know is that beer culture has moved way beyond fraternity keg parties and backyard family barbeques with mass-marketed canned brews of the 1970’s.  Upscale metropolitan restaurants catering to a dressed-up crowd are now expanding their offerings of expensive beers presented beautifully in designer stemware, paired with foods that amplify their taste.  Perfectly timed on the wave of this shift in beer culture is the The Oxford Companion to Beer.

Recently released by the Oxford Press, this mammoth undertaking by New Yorker Garrett Oliver, is encyclopedic in scope.  Like the changing restaurant landscape in relation to beers, it reinforces just how far the beverage has evolved, particularly in the United Sates.  The US, once the ugly step-sister of worldwide beer production, has moved to Cinderella status.  American micro brewers are now inspiring legions of suds lovers in traditional beer meccas such as England, Germany and Belgium.  Moreover, the renaissance in the US has surprisingly jump-started artisinal beer movements in places such as Italy, Mexico and Japan.
Mr. Oliver’s well researched compendium is a definitive resource which consolidates everything that is known about beer.  It’s not, however, just for beer lovers, but for amateur and professional brewers, as well as restaurants and their serving staff.  As with wine, knowledge about how and where the beverage was crafted, and the tradition surrounding the varying cuvees, is part of the pleasure of enjoying a bit of the brew. 

French and Italian foodie magazines along with their books on gastronomy now discuss beer, as well as wine lists.  The trend is continuing in Manhattan where upscale restaurants are beginning to offer <100 beers by the glass which are paired with everything from appetizers to desserts.   I’d say this is a trend to watch.

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