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70 of 74 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'm an avowed beer and food snob, and we used to brew our own beer. We have chosen vacation destinations based on what we'll eat and drink; this stuff is important to us. As a result, choosing a book about "the soul of beer and brewing" was a no-brainer selection from my Amazon Vine options. And there is no doubt that Charles Bamforth, the UC Davis Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences, knows his stuff.

I have strongly mixed feelings about this book. In some ways, I want to give it five stars; in others -- particularly when I disagree with the author's premises -- I have a violent urge to click hard on the two-star button.

Let me be descriptive, first. Despite a title that hearkens to an emotional relationship with beer (and I dare say that most readers recognize the Ben Franklin quote in his title), the book would be better called, "The business of beer." Bamforth gives an exhaustive, educational, and entertaining overview of the state of the beer market and how we got here. Chapters are devoted to such topics as "the re-birth of a beer ethos," anti-alcohol forces, and the merger of so many beer brands under a very few companies.

I am definitely smarter after reading Bamforth's book. I had lots of, "Oh, so THAT's what happened!" realizations from his explanation of the Thatcher-era Beer Laws of the 1980s and their effect on the UK beer market, for instance. (In the UK, 52 pubs are closing their doors every week.) I learned more than I ever imagined about the chemistry of foam (that is, the head on your glass of beer). And I appreciated his thoughtful pro-and-con discussions of the health claims for beer (in which he manages to be far more balanced than you'd expect from an allegedly biased author).

These are very different discussions, as you might imagine, and Bamforth manages to communicate and educate with both technical depth and a highly personal anecdotal style. I felt like I was listening to a college professor -- but the entertaining professor whose classes everyone wants to get into.

There are two problems that I have with the book: one my own preconceptions (which you may not agree with), and the other a matter of book organization.

The book's organization is... odd. It's one thing to include endnotes in a technical book, but almost half the book is given over to endnotes -- enough so that I used two bookmarks, so as to read the "main" text and addenda in concert. Many of the endnotes really should have been incorporated in the main text (such as the aforementioned foam discussion); others are personal and entertaining tangents that make me suspect Bamforth could not bear to part with the storytelling but couldn't justify it in the chapters he'd chosen. As an editor in my day job, I kept wanting to restructure his chapters. This isn't a killer problem for those who are interested in the topic or in Bamforth the person, but it certainly interrupted the flow of information since I was never sure which end notes were important, which were just technical citations, and which were "how 'bout that!" info.

The larger problem for me is that Bamforth *does* work for one of the "big guys" in the beer industry, and his personal opinions reflect that. Anheuser-Busch InBev, he says, commands almost 25% of the world's beer market, and so his concerns with beer-making are somewhat different than mine. Consistency is a stronger watchword for a business in which every glass of Bud (which I persist in thinking of as "barley soda pop") must taste the same. And as a dedicated hop-head, I'm a little overwhelmed by a beer expert who told the owner of Sierra Nevada that "Some of your beers are just about at my upper limit for hoppiness." ("He calmly looked back at me and... replied, 'Charlie, 25 years ago I was brewing in a bucket. Now I am producing more than 500,000 barrels every year and selling into every state in the nation. Do you mind if I leave things as they are?'") Bamforth gives credit to the craft brew market for giving beer attention again. And he asks us beer snobs to respect his own preferences; I do, honest I do, but it takes some effort on my part. It colored my reading of the book; depending on your background maybe it'll matter to you, too.

I don't think Bamforth's book will be enjoyed, especially, by someone who isn't "into" beer, as Bamforth doesn't take time to explain the role of wort or what a fermenter is. It isn't a book about "Isn't beer wonderful?" This book will appeal to home brewers and fans of craft brews -- at least for understanding the "big business" viewpoint of the industry. But you find that you are as uncomfortable-yet-interested as I am.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Someone once posted a comment in an Amazon review that said: Review the book the author wrote, NOT the book you WISH the author had written. I found that to be very useful advice when I reviewed a pre-publication Vine program copy of Charles W. Bamforth's "Beer Is Proof God Loves Us."

"Extreme" craft beers with character are where it's at for me--Imperial I.P.A.s, Imperial stouts, barleywines, funky Belgians, over-the-top strong ales made with insane quantities of malt and even more insane quantities of hops. I'm an unabashed beer snob. When I'm trying to be polite, I describe the products of today's global brewing conglomerates, some of which Dr. Bamforth has been associated with in his career, as "industrial brews" (a term he finds "reprehensible"). If I'm not trying to be polite, I use somewhat different terms. Much of "Beer Is Proof God Loves Us" is about industrial-scale brewing rather than about craft- and micro-brewing. So what did I think of it--the book he wrote, that is, not the one I WISH he had written?

Well, I have to say that I enjoyed it very much. It contains a lot of esoteric information on many different aspects of beers and brewing. For example, even though I don't drink their products, I found his perspectives on the rise of the few huge international corporations that today brew most of the world's beer to be very interesting. He describes their frenetic consolidations and acquisitions in detail in Chapter 1, "Global Concerns." In Chapter 2, "The Not-So-Slow Death of a Beer Culture," he laments the near-demise of one of the world's most fascinating institutions--the British pub. In Chapter 3, "On the Other Hand: the Rebirth of a Beer Ethos," he tells the stories of a few American brewing enthusiasts and the companies they founded--companies that have grown large but still produce high-quality beers (although, with a few exceptions, they're not assertive enough for my tastes). Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada Brewing Company), Fritz Maytag (Anchor Brewing), Jim Koch (Boston Beer Company), and Dan Gordon and Dean Biersch (Gordon Biersch) all played big roles in the evolution of the modern American brewing scene. Other chapters deal with such topics as beer quality and the factors that influence it, neo-prohibitionism, health effects of beer (good and bad), societal perceptions of beer drinkers, etc. Most of it is pretty interesting stuff. As a bonus, an Appendix provides an exceptionally good, brief but informative description of the beer brewing process.

"Beer Is Proof God Loves Us" is a good source of information about parts of the beer business that, with my intense focus on extreme craft brews, I do not normally consider. As such, it was a short but enlightening and educational read, which I recommend to any curious beer enthusiast.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 18, 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Though the book initially starts out somewhat dry, the book offers promising insight into the beverage industry. The initial chapters document the developments in the beer industry. These developments are fairly publicized, at least in terms of the big corporations. The charming side of this book is explored in the new trends in the beer industry, craft brews.

It is unlikely that any of the crafts brews will ever reach the proportions of the megabeer corporations. But even as the taste of their beer is unique, their stories also have a unique flavor. Visiting such microbreweries as Anchor, Coopers, and Sierra Nevada, I hope this book opens the hearts and coolers of many people.

One need not be a beer nerd to appreciate this book. It can be a learning experience for the layman and expert. The author does suggest reading the endnotes, as they add something to the story. I would tend to disagree. One man's idle chatter is another man's squandering of time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 7, 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'm a beer aficionado and home-brewer, and I still learned from and enjoyed Bamforth's book. He covers various and diverse topics from history of beer, history of breweries, history of the English pub system, brewing concerns, and (if you read all his endnotes, which I recommend) various tangents on cricket, the Premier League, and his past jobs.
The parts I found most fascinating were the origins of breweries and the ensuing corporate mergers and buyouts that have left which brands under which ownership. I also have a renewed respect for Sierra Nevada Brewery after reading about their green initiatives.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I loved this book from the very moment I started reading it! Written by Charles W. Bamforth, Beer Is Proof God Loves Us is a personal look at the history of beer, from its roots in ancient times to the state of the brewing industry today. It touches on such topics as canned vs. bottled beer, the brewery-owned pubs of Great Britain, Oktoberfest, and the mergers of American and foreign breweries. Bamforth's prose is witty, engaging, and sometimes shocking, but he certainly takes the reader on a wild ride. I would heartily recommend this book to anyone who loves beer and history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Bamforth has captured it!
In "Beer Is Proof God Loves Us: Reaching for the Soul of Beer and Brewing", Professor Bamforth takes the reader for a ride unlike that offered in any of his previous works. I had to set the book down for a few days after reading the first chapter. Being reminded of the current climate in the brewing industry required that I reach for that which keeps me professionally passionate and motivated.....a healthy and delicious glass of beer. Acquisition and consolidation are initially described which inevitably mean fewer jobs and the possibility of squeezing some talented and passionate brewers out of the industry as the Professor points out. However, just as it would seem all is lost, Dr. Bamforth reminds and informs us of the new culture of beer and brewing ushered in by craft brewing pioneers such as Ken Grossman, Fritz Maytag and Jim Koch. Charlie defines many of the principle quality attributes of beer for the reader which further aid to justify its rightful place on the highest of beverage pedestals. The book takes a turn to describe many of the challenges the beer industry has faced and is currently facing with dealing with anti-alcohol forces as it also addresses the stigma associated with extreme beer and drinking events such as the great Oktoberfest celebration in Munich. Bamforth enlightens the reader as to the numerous health benefits associated with the moderate consumption of beer. In closing, the author speaks of tolerance, tolerance of people, people of one another, people's choices. The reader must indulge in the footnotes. They offer insight into the mind of the author. More importantly, and perhaps as a first in a Bamforth writing, they offer insight into the heart of the author. At times, the book reads as if it is the final chapter in the career of a brewing scholar, researcher and teacher........let us hope this is not the case. Regardless of one's level of intimacy with beer and/or the brewing process as a home brewer, professional brewer or beer enthusiast, "Beer Is Proof God Loves Us: Reaching for the Soul of Beer and Brewing" deserves a place on the library shelf.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Beer Is Proof God Loves Us is at first glance a book about the international beer industry and its associated technology. However, that's about as accurate a description as calling Bill Bryson's latest book, At Home, a treatise on domestic architecture. In both cases, the authors use the nominal subject as a structure on which to hang many and varied digressions. In Charles Bamford's case, the book consists of three interlinked themes: the beer business, his autobiography, and his philosophy. The digressions are substantial: half the book consists of endnotes, some of which are normal academic elucidations, but by far the greater part concern the author's would-be career as soccer goalie in the British Midlands.
The core of the book could almost be a text assigned in business school. It describes the increasing dominance of a few international brewing companies and their perennial quest to maintain product quality and consistency while, at the same time, to increase their markets. This, of course, brings these companies, or rather their products, into conflict with both religious and prohibitionist groups. This is an issue Bamford explores neutrally, despite his position as Anheuser-Busch Professor of Brewing at UC Davis.
Lest this sound too prosaic, it is written in an unusual English dialect, varying from now-outdated British Midlands expressions ("pitch in", meaning to arrive) to current Californian idioms. This is used the better to depict the digressions, which go from under-age drinking (the author's) in Up Holland (20 miles NE of Liverpool) to a discussion of American college beer drinking games. The style is humorous and ironic; the political analysis resigned. The importance of beer as a mild social lubricant, particularly in the dying British traditional pub, is emphasized. Sitting at home in front of a TV with a can of beer in hand isn't quite the same thing.
I am neither a regular beer drinker nor a brewer. For me, Beer Is Proof God Loves Us is an outstanding and entertaining mixture of technology, business, autobiography, analysis, and opinion, viewed from a slightly Buddhist perspective. The endnotes are not to be skipped - they constitute an entertaining autobiography (soccer and cricket related) that simply doesn't fit conveniently in the first part of the book. Highly recommended, and not just to brewing majors!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
It is hard to write a review for this book as it is difficult to find something comparable.

If you are on this website looking for a technical brewing textbook then this book clearly isn't for you. Charlie Bamforth has, however, managed to create an entertaining yet informative message on the crafting and quality of beer within his superb collection of personal tales, experiences, and industry anecdotes.

Most importantly it reminds me WHY I work in the brewing industry; a senior brewing executive I previously worked under used to remind his team that, above all, the brewing and beer industry should be fun to reflect the product we are producing (..... when consumed in moderation, of course), a message re-enforced by Charlie in this book.

I read this in one sitting on holiday this summer between my usual collection of crime thrillers and celebrity biographies (borrowed from Mrs C, obviously) - I have to say that I haven't enjoyed a book so much in a long time. I would recommend that you use a bookmark so you don't lose track of where you are in the various notes that follow the main body of the book, these in themselves are a worthy read and give a valuable insight into the life of the author.

My advice to students of brewing technology would be to continue working hard at studying your textbooks, technical literature, course notes, publications, and whatever else you think important, put them away in the last few days before your examination (if you don't know it now, it's too late!), and then remind yourself why you are putting yourself through more examination stress (like you swore you never would do again) by reading "Beer is proof that God loves us". I can't guarantee a higher exam score, but can certainly guarantee a better frame of mind!

For brewers all over the world, whether involved in homebrewing, craft brewing, regional breweries, or large multinational brewing companies. A cracking read !
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I had the privilege of once attending a lecture on beer by Charlie Bamforth. Not only was he very entertaining, but I learned more in on evening about how to get the most out of the beer I was buying than I had learned while living in a fraternity during college and while drinking beer for many years after college. I wish I had met Charlie, or known of his books, years ago.

Charlie's latest book is part beer advice, part philosophy, part business, part personal history, and all-around fun. Don't be misled by those who claim that Charlie is biased because he has done work for Budweiser; he has done work for many other brewers as well and seems to count all of the world's most respected microbrewers as friends. Charlie knows his stuff and is remarkably candid about all beers, regardlesso of who brews them. As to his praise of uniformity, well, he is the head of U.C. Davis' brewing technologies department and he trains commercial brewers, so what would you expect? Even the best brewery would soon lose its customers if it failed to deliver a consistent product.

While not what you'd normally expect in a book like this, the endnotes are marvelous and I very much recommend you follow Charlie's advice in his introduction and read every one of them. You'll learn a lot about the major breweries, both those of today and those of days gone by, and you'll even pick up some information on British soccer and business in general. And you may learn a thing or two about beer and the way it is made by the major breweries along the way. You won't learn any recipes for making your own beer, but then that's not the point of this book.

Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
It is important to understand what this book is seeking to do, and that is to put forth the message of mindfulness and tolerance illustrated through the medium of beer. It might even be argued that it is more a book about life than it is a book about beer. This book will probably not interest those looking to learn more about the science or practice of brewing beer. For that, you might find interest in one of Bamforth's other books such as Grape vs. Grain: A Historical, Technological, and Social Comparison of Wine and Beer or Beer: Tap into the Art and Science of Brewing.

The reader expecting a book celebrating or criticizing different styles of beer will be sorely disappointed and will likely regret reading the book. The thesis of this book is one of acceptance: it is okay to like the beer of your choice, no matter whether it is a "bland" US lager or an in-your-face hophead brew stoked with bitterness and more. Likewise it is important to tolerate others' food, religion or sexual preferences. This book seeks out the middle ground with lots of personal reminiscences along the way.

The book does not advocate the big brewers over the small brewers - it mourns the impact that consolidation has had on local breweries of historical significance and on local society.

When I read this book, I actually didn't even flip to the endnotes but instead read them separately after reading the book first. The book makes complete sense without them, they are obviously just intended to add some more color and flavor and make for an entertaining read after the fact.
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