Below is a roundup of books that will get you in the mood for happy hour. The two best, Trappist Beer Travels and Rum Curious, offer a mixture of history and reviews that will leave you feeling smarter about your drink choices.
Trappist Beer Travels
Beer writers Caroline Wallace, Sarah Wood and Jessica Deahl undertook the enviable task of visiting every Trappist brewery in the world. The result of their work is Trappist Beer Travels, which combines beer history with their travel journal.
Originally beer was brewed for the monks’ consumption as it was a reliable way to make water safe and provided calories and nutrients. But brewing evolved into a source of revenue that helped support monastic operations and charitable projects.
Each of the breweries is closely regulated by the International Trappist Association closely, which make sure they all meet strict production and quality guidelines. Currently there are only 11 breweries recognized by the group.
Trappist Beer Travels (Schiffer, digital galley) dedicates a chapter to each of the 11 breweries, making the book a useful guide if you plan on making a pilgrimage to any of the monasteries. It’s important to note that some of the facilities are rarely, if ever open to the public. And some of the breweries only offer tours a couple of days a year.
The authors provide a history of each monastery and its brewing operations, along with information on visiting hours and tastings, if they are available. Several photos accompany each chapter, providing views of the beautiful facilities and grounds at the breweries. Each chapter finishes with thoughtful reviews of the beers produced at each monastery, making this a useful guide to anyone looking for Trappist beers to try.
Rum Curious: The Indispensable Tasting Guide to the World’s Spirit
In Rum Curious, Fred Minnick gives a shot history of rum and its distillation methods and a tumbler full of reviews of current rum releases.
I found the thorough rum reviews at the back of the book to be interesting and well worth the purchase for anyone hoping to explore the shelves of their local liquor store. Thought I imagine most of the releases would be hard to find at your corner store.
Rum Curious also includes a useful section on mixing cocktails. I do wish this part of the book had been expanded with more detail given into how to properly drink and sample different rums.
The author does have a chip on his shoulder about rum’s place in the spirits world. He complains a little too much about the lack of respect rum gets from consumers. While the book would have benefited from less complaining and more positive proselytizing, I did learn a lot about the current state of rum production across the world, and particularly in the Caribbean where it is centered.
This book will be of most interest to brewers looking for very specific information about brewing session beers, which have a more modest alcohol level that allows for multiple drinks at a sitting. For the recreational drinker looking for a book to help guide them on their visits to local breweries, however, Session Beers (Brewer Publications, digital galley) may be a little overwhelming.
The first half of the book, by Jennifer Talley, is an overview of the concept of session beers and the many types available. The second part is dedicated to recipes for specific session beers. Unfortunately even the first part of the book gets too tied up with the process of brewing to be of much interest to recreational drinkers. But if your a serious brewer looking for guidance, this might be the book for you.
Glass Half Full: The Ups and Downs of Vineyard Life in France
Running a small winery can be tough. Running a small, organic winery can be tougher. But running a small, organic winery in France, with its strict labor and business regulations, seems a Herculean task. In Glass Half Full (Trafalgar Square Publishing, digital galley) Caro Feely shares the ups and many downs of running the organic Chateau Feely winery along with her husband Seán.
Unfortunately this third installment of the Feely wine odyssey is a muddled affair as the author tries to pull together too many themes. She writes of a troubled marriage, life as an outsider, the trials of running a small business, the joys of organic living and the dangers of chemicals in society. Glass Half Full (Trafalgar Square Publishing, digital galley) jumps from topic to topic without exploring any one in a satisfying way.