If you have read my previous post or have read much on beer and brewing you have probably already heard of Michale Jackson the beer writer. Before I read this book I thought that Mr. Jackson was the only major beer writer in the nineteen eighty’s and early ninety’s. While Jackson focused on writing about British beers Fred Eckhardt focused on American Beers. He was the writer for the beer column in the Portland Oregonian and published multiple books such as The Essentials of Beer Styles, Beer Tasting and Evaluation for the Amateur, A Treties on Lager Beer, and Sake U.S.A. After reading this book and researching this post I stumbled on a website that has collected his writing. Oregon State University has his writings collected here. Obviously reading old books on brewing interest me so I see this as a gold mine of more things to read. If you feel the same… enjoy.
I picked up this book with a huge stack of much more modern brewing books. I saw this tiny one on the top and didn’t think it would be much of anything. It was only after planning out my writing schedule that I learned that today (May 10th) is Mr. Eckhardt’s birthday. I figured it would be fitting that I review his book on his birthday as a way to remember him on his special day. It was only after I began to read and look into Mr. Eckhardt’s life that I realized how much of a beer writer he was and how much I have been missing without knowing about him.
The book does an early version of laying out the different styles of beer. He himself does not take full credit for this. He borrows and references greatly from Michael Jackson’s earlier work in classifying beers. He lays out beers in five different styles (lager, pale, ale, wheat) with each style having between 9 and 15 subclasses. For each subclass there are several commercial beers that mark the style. These list a beer’s gravity, ABV IBU, SRM. This is something that is not specifically in the current BJCP Style Guidelines.
What I liked about the book: It was a great look at the origins of classifying beers and the beginning of writing about beer tasting. When this book was written The BJCP guidelines had not been established like they are today. He mentions another judging style from the one that people who are familiar with the BJCP score sheet. Fred’s judging style is based upon a 20 point scale. This is broken into four areas: prior to taste, flavor, in-mouthfeel and taste, after taste. It also gives advice on beginning to learn to judge and evaluate beers. Fred’s recommendation of testing large commercial beers multiple times until you get a good consistent score for them. He also gives a simple way to spike your beers to facilitate learning to pick up off flavors. Although there are kits available out there to spike beers to help you learn off flavors this is a simple method using ingredients you already have at the house.
What I disliked about this book: Something’s are wrong. He states that breweries are not allowed to print the alcohol content on their labels and that states have limits on how high the alcohol content can be. While true for some states this says more about the changing times than the accuracy of Mr. Eckhardt’s book. It also provides a nice footnote of beer history.
Will this book stay on my shelf: Yes. I think this hood provides a great early look on classifying beer styles and how beer is judged. Although there is so much more that has been written on the subject of beer this gives a good backstory of how we got to where we are today. The book also gives a bibliography of further reading books that when I have time I would like to explore these titles.
Would I recommend this book to someone else: For individuals who are very interested in reading about beer I believe that this book is worth seeking out. It is well out of print but can be found second hand fairly easily on the internet.