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Erratic history of beer and Bamforth,
This review is from: Beer Is Proof God Loves Us: Reaching for the Soul of Beer and Brewing (FT Press Science) (Hardcover)
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Charlie Bamforth's tribute to beer is a strange mixture of interesting historical tidbits (often including the author) and the author's personal opinions on beer itself.
Unfortunately, my enjoyment of the former was often ruined by the latter. Bamforth's insights into the death of the UK pub culture, his experiences working with Bass and the various unions early in his brewing career, homilies on the absurdities of the temperance movement, and informative comments on the effect of globalization on the beer world are well-told and enjoyable to read.
Bamforth quickly loses me, however, when he touts the high-quality product that his employer, Anheuser-Busch, produces. It is one thing to make the argument that Budweiser is amazingly consistent, regardless of where it produced. That is quite true and their consistency is quite impressive. However, let it lie at that--do not attempt to parlay consistency into drinkability. Fast-food chains make remarkably consistent burgers--that doesn't make them steak.
So, to whom would I recommend this book? It will be enjoyable to anyone who has a true interest in beer, particularly its history and role in society. It is very likely to appeal to a home brewer or someone who frequents brewpubs and perhaps "foodies". It is not likely to appeal to a casual reader otherwise. While it is at times humorous, it is not "funny" in the comedic sense. The potential reader should understand that this is essentially a text book (about half of it is made up by references and footnotes).
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 18, 2011 5:27:29 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 18, 2011 5:38:14 PM PST
David Huber says:
As far as I am aware, Bamforth is not employed by Anheuser-Busch. He is the Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences at the University of California, Davis, which is one of the two places to go (in the US) if you want to get a degree to enter the brewing industry (the Siebel Institute of Technology is the other). In other words, he holds a prestigious chair at one of the top brewing schools. It would not surprise me if he knows the brewmasters at A-B personally, and probably knows more brewmasters than I have acquaintances, but he doesn't work for A-B.
Also, don't confuse drinkability with something that meets your taste standards. Budweiser is almost the definition of drinkability, in both the technical sense as well as the colloquial. Budweiser is a Standard American Lager, which may or may not be the style of beer you like, but it is one of the beers that defines that style. Incidentally, it is far easier to brew a rich and tasty stout, or a mouth puckering IPA, than it is to brew a clean tasting American Lager, because in those other cases there are so many other flavors and sensations going on to hide brewing flaws. That is basically Bamforth's point, and the fact that they can make so much of it so consistently is what is so remarkable to him.
Edit: I have seen a second reviewer say that Bamforth works for A-B. I would be interested to know if this is stated in the book because that was not my understanding.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 22, 2011 9:59:52 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 22, 2011 10:00:38 PM PST
Bamforth does not work for Anheuser-Busch-Inbev. Indeed if you read the book carefully he states quite clearly that he is concerned about the consolidation in the industry that has led to ever bigger companies. His research program has been supported by many brewing companies, not all of them large ones. He views his role as supplying people and information into the entire brewing industry. I suggest you go to his website at UC Davis and click on Newsletters to get a feel for what he is seeking to do. Whatever support has come from Anheuser-Busch and others is used in furtherance of the whole industry. And you are right that a key point he makes in the book is that there is an enormous diversity of beers from the very gently flavored to those that are very richly flavored. It's fine to select your preference but it would be wrong to rubbish somebody else's choice.
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