We receive—and I read—a lot of books about beer. Tasting beer, the history of beer, traveling for beer… they can start to blend together. Not Mikkeller’s Book of Beer, though. (Can I say I’m surprised? Not really. Its author, Danish gypsy brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergso has never cared much for convention.)
The 250-page book isn’t a bible, the way a Michael Jackson or Randy Mosher tome is. It’s a snapshot of the international beer world as it stands in 2015, so there are plenty of styles and histories that Bjergso doesn’t explore.
No matter, though. What’s in these pages is delightful and wide-ranging: a brief history of world beer, a highly useful chapter on beer styles, a brief section on tasting beer that blissfully avoids pedagogy, and 25 recipes to homebrew your own clones of beers by Mikkeller, Three Floyds, de Molen and more.
The conversational tone of the writing is interspersed with entertaining asides. There’s artwork from Keith Shore, which should be recognizable to anyone who’s seen a Mikkeller label. There are also “Intermezzos,” or peeks behind the making of beers like Mexas Ranger, Beer Geek Brunch and Stateside.
Most useful, though, is the chapter on styles. Bjergso groups styles by pale/mild, bitter, dark, sour, strong and barrel-aged, with classifications under each. It’s hardly the complete range of global beer, but it’s useful for examining where the forefront of beer is today. I note, for example, that session beers have their own entry while dubbel, tripels and quads are grouped together. Each style is explained plainly and digestibly; saisons are summed up in six sentences. Bjergso lists his recommendations of exemplary versions of the style, and a minimalistic photo illustrates the concept. Quick and easy.
I recommend this book for plenty of reasons: its straight-forwardness makes it accessible and interesting to even the newest beer drinker, while the recipes and behind-the-scenes peek into the creative minds at Mikkeller appeal to the more insider set. If nothing else, the book is beautiful and deserves to be left out on your coffee table—or bar top.