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Amber, Gold & Black: The History of Britain's Great Beers Hardcover – June 1, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


One of the best and most thoroughly researched accounts of the history of British beer styles. If you already think you know it all, this is the book for you. --Jay Brooks, Bay Area News

This is essential reading for anyone with an interest in beer as a drinker, a retailer or a brewer. --John Cryne, former chairman, Campaign for Real Ale, London Drinker

This book is absolutely brilliantly revelatory ... the painstaking research that has gone into this work is phenomenal This is definitely a books that belongs on any beer-lover's bookshelf. It is a must read. --Brewsnews.com.au

A wonderful job of laying out the history of bitter, mild, porter and IPA based on research, not myth, and styles you may have only heard about such as Burton Ale and Stingo, as well as those news to me, such as Gale Ale. --beerwineandwhisky.com

About the Author

Martyn Cornell is an award-winning author and journalist, a founding member of the British Guild of Beer Writers, and a former Beer Writer of the Year. His other titles include Beer: The Story of the Pint and Beer Memorabilia.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press; 1St Edition edition (June 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752455672
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752455679
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #390,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Martyn Cornell has been a journalist and a writer for more than 30 years, and first began writing about beer in 1980. Beer is far from the most important thing in his life (that would be his family first, music second and Queens Park Rangers soccer club third) but he enjoys beer greatly, and he enjoy talking about it and and writing about it, and exploring its many and varied ways. He was born on the site of an old pub - the Upper Flask, in Hampstead, North London, which vanished some time in the 18th century - and went to school in a building that had been an old coaching inn where Samuel Pepys once stayed on his way north, so perhaps he absorbed beery history from those walls. He can remember clearly his first pint, at the age of *hem*teen, in the garden of a pub owned by the Fremlins brewery in Kent, not far from Whitstable, and being shocked at how amazingly, deliciously hoppy it tasted. Thousands of pubs, and many tens of thousands of beers later, he still looks forward to each new pint. Learning about beer, and the history of beer, has been a journey that has taken him around the world, and made him a huge number of friends. He was a founder member of the British Guild of Beer Writers and has won four Guild awards, including Beer Writer of the Year and Beer Blogger of the Year. He invented the word zythophilia, meaning 'love of beer', and his blog, zythophile.wordpress.com, is one of the most popular beer blogs in Britain. He tweets as @zythophiliac

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I added this book to my Amazon wish list because it looked somewhat interesting... I then bought it when I was given Amazon gift vouchers for my birthday and I've now almost finished reading it. I am so glad I did because it is way more than "somewhat interesting"! It is a very well-researched and easy to read review of the history of brewing.

Even though I thought I knew most things about beer and brewing (and I've even written a book about beer myself - The Home Brewer's Recipe Database), I learned several new (to me) facts from reading this book. If asked, I'd have assumed that "Burton Ale" was a strong pale ale such as Inde Coope Burton Ale but this book shows that I'd have been wrong. Not only is Burton Ale a stronger, darker brew than any pale ale but I've actually drank several examples of the style and thoroughly enjoyed them!

Martyn also dispels some often-repeated myths about the origins of Porter, IPA and other styles. This is very refreshing (pun intended). It is perhaps not surprising that many changes in brewing practice were driven by changes in government tax legislation.

The chapter on use of herbs in brewing is fascinating - I never realised how many of the weeds growing my garden contained hallucinogens! These probably added to the experience of drinking ales brewing using them during history. Brewers probably didn't stop brewing with herbs because of any issues with beer quality - it was because it was banned by the government. Hops were taxed, herbs weren't.

Although this book is focussed on British brewing history, there are some connection with other country's beers.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Cornell is my kind of historian, and I follow his excellent online blog, because his outlook is one that I usually share. This small book is full of details, but not great as a style introduction book. I would highly recommend Randy Mosher's book: "Tasting Beer", which I believe is where I first heard of Martyn Cornell. (It may have been Randy's other great book for homebrewer's: Radical Brewing) This book gets much further into what these styles really were or may have been as time passed. It provides a much greater understanding on what these styles really were, and helps you to appreciate those who try to perpetuate some of them. An example of a brewery in New England, where I live, that works at this fairly well is the "Pretty Things Ale Project". They're not always a hit, but often provide some interesting contemplation. What is missing here in southern New England, as far as I'm aware, is the ability to taste some of these styles naturally - i.e. cask conditioned. This book is great for details and for its research, but it isn't the kind of book that is florid. It is laid out well and sometimes bears re-reading once certain parts of history from style to style overlap, but it doesn't seem overly complicated. Nor does it read like poetry. Sometimes I really appreciate this as a reader, where the imagination of the writer can improve the absorption of the topic. I find his writing style interesting enough on these topics, especially when contemplated with a beer that is as close as possible to the style being read about. Cheers!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wasn't sure of what to expect from Martyn Cornell's "Amber, Gold & Black" but I was pleasantly surprised!

As a professional brewer myself, I'm happy to report that he's included enough technical information (i.e. gravities, etc.) to make the book very useful. At the same time, the information is just put out there and a layman can either skim past it, or use it as a general comparison.

Any home-brewer who has an interest in English ales should definitely look into it; and I'm hoping that it will help to champion a wide range of British beers that are currently falling below the radar for many as the United States (and others: Brew Dog & Mikkeler, for example) push towards and promote bigger and bolder, more overwhelming ales and lagers.

More importantly, he writes quite well and it reads smoothly, and without side-treks. He takes the reader down a clear track, covering all of the bases (some of which I was even unaware of - wheat beer, chapter 10!). It's easy and entertaining to the point that almost anyone who has any interest in beer might find it worthwhile.

In conclusion, I'll bow my head and take a moment of silence before I write this as I knew Michael myself, but I feel that Martyn Cornell has taken the baton that Michael Jackson handed him and he's running with it. Check out his blog as well - there's even more crazy stuff there!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This should be required reading for any beer lover. This book is one of the top beer books I have read about beer styles and helps to demystify where Pale Ale and the famous IPA comes from.

I do not rate beers, not make them, but I love learning about various ideas and stories. This book is a definite reference material guide that you can read a chapter at a time, and ultimately learn about the basic mechanics of beers we drink.

Cornell is one of the key beer writers of our time and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend spending the $10 on book that you can refer back to when required. I referenced this book in writing my own e-book on Craft Beer Trends.
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