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Grape vs. Grain: A Historical, Technological, and Social Comparison of Wine and Beer Hardcover – March 10, 2008
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"Wine results from a shaky art, beer from a stately science asserts Charles Bamforth who guides the reader through the history and production of both from vine to vintage, and barley to beer bubbles. So why is it that in countries such as the United States wine is revered as sophisticated and beer dismissed as common? In pondering such questions Grape vs. Grain offers humorous as well as penetrating insights into two of the world's favorite beverages."
-Kenneth Kiple, Author of A Movable Feast
"Which do you prefer, Beer or Wine? Irrespective of your response, this highly entertaining and informative text is a valued reference for wine and beer aficionados. It will give you a much better insight and appreciation of both. Charlie Bamforth, Chair Department of Food Science and Technology and Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences, is well qualified to discuss wine and beer. It is obvious which one is his first love, but he demonstrates impressive knowledge and profound respect for professionals in both fields and their efforts. He has comparable disdain for inferior products, tacky marketing ploys, and intemperate consumption. He rightfully laments beer's second class image and presents compelling counter arguments.
From the history and tradition to modern developments and health benefits--both good and bad--Charlie provides a fascinating, reasonably objective comparison of beer and wine. The complex technical details (more so beer than wine) are presented in easily understandable language; even the lay reader can grasp the whys and wherefore from raw material to consumption. There's an instructive mix of technology, history, geography, sociology, medicine, economics, even politics. So be it beer or wine, using Charlie's guidelines for selection and tasting, savor your favorite - slowly, thoughtfully, and in moderation. But don't neglect the alternate beverage or unfamiliar styles; you'll learn much and be pleasantly surprised."
- Robert Bates, University of Florida
"Many great books have been written about wine, and many about beer, but until now there has been no comprehensive work comparing the two. Charles Bamforth's Grapes and Grain delves into the social history and technology of both wine and beer, and out of this yeasty mix, provocative insights flow. Bamforth gives the edge to brewed beverages, but wine connoisseurs will be fascinated, and everybody will enjoy his infectious enthusiasm."
- Andrew F. Smith, Editor in chief, The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink
"Grape vs. Grain offers a thorough, comparative look at mankind's two most beloved and culturally significant beverages that will surely change the mind of anyone who thinks of beer as wine's less-sophisticated 'poor relation'. Charles Bamforth's jovial approach to the subject is as clean and refreshing as a Blanche de Bruges on a hot summer day. Not only did I learn a lot from this book, I enjoyed reading it too; I'd love to sit down and share a pint with its author!"
-Alan Tardi, Author of Romancing the Vine (Winner of the 2006 James Beard Best Wine and Spirits Book)
"...readers will find that the book presents a wealth of interesting material that will correct a number of common myths about the subject of beer and wine."
Agricultural History, David Hanson, University of North-Carolina- Chapel Hill
"...good in covering the technical side of both wine making and beer brewing..." -Gastronomica
Both beer and wine have histories spanning thousands of years. This is the first book to compare them from the perspectives of history, technology, nature of the market for each, quality attributes, types and styles, and the effect that they have on human health and nutrition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The first problem is the author's huge inferiority complex over being a brewer. He keeps going on and on about how much harder it is to brew beer than to make wine. (Without much nod to the challenges of growing and picking grapes so that the rest flows smoothly.) I kept wanting to shake him and say "beer and wine are different, but they both have their place; get over it".
Then there is the pompous, lecturing style of the prose. The author actually seems like he would be better suited to writing the ridiculous kind of over the top descriptions sometimes given wines by their producers than the simple prose that a defender of beer ought to be able to summon. Despite the interesting facts, this book is a hard slog. (Which is saying a lot given that it is under 200 pages.)
If you want to read a short book that tells you how beer and wine are made, and why they taste the way they do, the information is here. But the premise could have been much better realized with a better writer or a suitably ruthless editor.
If you want to be "knowledgeable", this book will tell you, in a long and rambling style, everything you could learn in a few weeks of pub-crawls and talking to a homebrewer for an hour or two.
If you want to be "skillful", The Joy of Homebrewing is available here on Amazon for cheaper, teaches you most the same info much more concisely, and includes a chapter of recipes for beers and wines. Then you can decide for yourself which you prefer, instead of taking someone else's word for it.
Or, like me, you'll find both are good in the right use.
I actually prefer the taste of wine over beer, and not being an expert about either, had no idea how each is made in great detail. From all the advertisements I have ever been exposed to however, beer certainly has always been made to look like the lesser form of the two beverages. Now that I have been exposed to more information from Dr. Bamforth, I know that's not true. They both take a lot of skill and expertise to produce a good product.
I mean, when it all boils down to it, just like anything, no one is better or worse than the other and I think Dr. Bamforth would heartily agree it is all about individual preference. I think beer has just gotten a bad rap and the book was intended to give readers a little clearer perspective as to what it is really all about.