Lynn Hoffman almost lost me at 'beer started the Crusades.' It was an implication on page two of his new book, The Short Course In Beer. But later on he writes, "If brewers brag about their source of water, it should suggest to the consumer that maybe they don’t have much else to brag about." A Coors slam! All is forgiven.
You've got to realize right off that this book is not an in-depth guide to brewing or beer history or homebrewing guide. It has some of those elements, to be sure, but the book is really just a primer for people who are new to the world of beer, those guys and gals still stuck on 'industrial' beers who are beginning to realize there's more out there. It covers very basic information, from beer's ingredients to the brewing process — even discussing why head disappears in a pint of beer. It introduces the novice to things like beer styles and proper glassware and reviews the jargon of craft beer drinkers. In eight chapters it covers quite a bit of ground. Hoffman lives up to the title he placed on his tome, so kudos to him.
For those who already know the joys of beer this is not a book that will need to be kept on the shelf for reference. But, as noted above, it's not intended for that crowd. So I tried to read the book as an amateur beer geek. Would this be useful to me? If I were to engage in a conversation with someone who'd read this book, would they be able to understand and even add to the conversation? My answer would be yes. After reading this book I'd be interested in finding out more about beer.
The first three chapters felt mostly like an extended blog rant about the lecherous aspect of drinking and extended discussions of Dionysus and Bacchus and other old alcohol(ic) gods. After that, it improves. His descriptions of beer styles and the like seemed mostly accurate. His tasting directions seemed useful. The brief account of how the 'industrial' brewers came into being was useful, too. I especially liked his moniker for yeast: "sugar mushrooms." That one will stick with me, I know.