When it comes to books aimed at the craft beer enthusiast, there’s a wide variety of styles to choose from. Like most topics, there is a varied range, from technical brewing guides to anecdotal travel books. From books on the history of beer right up to an image-heavy craft beer encyclopaedia.
No matter your literary interest, there’s a book out there for you which covers all aspects of craft beer which will make the perfect craft beer gift idea.
What follows is a list of 10 of the best beer books available right now that should really be on your bookshelf. These books are in no particular order by the way and are not rated. They are simply 10 of the best out there and each for different reasons.
World Atlas of Beer: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO THE BEERS OF THE WORLD
by Tim Webb & Stephen Beaumont
Who is this book for? Everyone – but owning a large coffee table or bookshelf will help
Kicking things off with a beast of a book, we have the World Atlas of Beer. This second edition was published in 2016 and traces the complete story of beer throughout the many centuries, right up to the craft beer revolution of the past 20 years.
This is a veritable craft beer bible for the beer lover and written by two of the most knowledgeable and experienced beer experts in the world. It explores a plethora of international craft beers in one table sized volume.
I’d think twice about trying to take this book with you on holidays though. Its size and weight will easily put you over your baggage limit. Keep it on the coffee table for casual browsing.
The Beer Kitchen: The Art and Science of Cooking, & Pairing, with Beer
by Melissa Cole
Who is this book for? Beer lovers and foodies
Melissa Cole is one of the UK’s best-known beer experts. If you’ve been following her over the past year on social media, you will have seen many scrumptious looking photos of food as she used trial and error to create the perfect beer and food pairings, as well as recipes which call for beer. Melissa might call that “research” but some might call it being a lush. Either way, the results are in this book.
We’re not talking Beef & Guinness stew here. There are over 70 recipes to sink your teeth into along with a wealth of knowledge about beer in general. Some examples of the type of food you will learn to make are creamy Celeriac Croquettes with Hefeweizen Sauce, Beer-brined Pork Chops with Blue Cheese Polenta, and even dips and snacks.
By the way, if you want a book that concentrates more on beer but also includes plenty of food pairings and recipes, Melissa’s 2017 book is a good option: The Little Book of Craft Beer: A guide to over 100 of the world’s finest brews.
The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World’s Favorite Beverage from 7000 BC to Today’s Craft Brewing Revolution
by Jonathan Hennessey, Mike Smith, and illustrated by Aaron McConnell
Who is this book for? Self-professed craft beer geeks
This New York Times Bestseller is a must for any craft beer aficionado, especially if they are fans of graphic novels / comics. Yes, it’s exactly as it sounds! It’s an illustrated graphic novel which talks about beer over the last few thousand years right up to the often-overwhelming choice of craft beer we have today.
This is perhaps the most refreshingly different book about beer on the market and will make the perfect gift for the self-professed craft beer geek who “thinks” they have everything already.
The Beer Bucket List: Over 150 essential beer experiences from around the world
by Mark Dredge
Who is this book for? People who like lists or those with OCD. Being a beer lover helps
Mark Dredge had one of the most famous beer blogs in the UK, Pencil & Spoon, and has won numerous awards over the years such as the British Guild of Beer Writers’ Beer and Food Writer of the Year in 2011.
The Beer Bucket List is his latest book which concentrates on 150 beer experiences rather than simply listing off 150 beers to try. He even lists off his own personal top 10 Beer Bucket List Ticks, which includes visiting the Cantillon lambic brewery in Brussels, drinking a Pilsner Urquell in the brewery’s cellar in Pilzen.
The easiest one of course for someone based in the UK is drinking Guinness in Dublin but for those of us who live in Ireland, we get to do that by default.
Of course, if you do just want to learn about a load of beers you need to try, his 2013 book is worth picking up: Craft Beer World: A guide to over 350 of the finest beers known to man.
The Beer Bible
by Jeff Alworth
Who is this book for? Everyone
Christians have their Bible; wine drinkers even have a Wine Bible. So it’s only fitting that beer drinkers have their own sacred text. After all, we pretty much worship the almighty beverage and let’s not forget that beer and many religions have gone hand-in-hand over the centuries.
The fermentation process was once seen as a divine process performed by God. And for many centuries, brewing was performed by religious orders, many of which still brew to this day, like the various Trappist orders around Europe and even in the USA.
If there’s anything you ever wanted to know about beer, you can be sure The Beer Bible has the answer but more than that, it will invite more questions along the way and pretty soon, you will have researched thousands of years of beer history while engrossed in this impressive volume.
The author is from the Pacific Northwest of the USA, a region known for the explosion of craft breweries over the last 20 years. He has been at the forefront of what many might refer to as the ‘craft beer revolution’.
How to Brew: Everything You Need to Know to Brew Great Beer Every Time
by John Palmer
Who is this book for? Advanced homebrewers, plus beginners too
If you have been brewing your own beer at home for any length of time, chances are you have heard of John Palmer and this book. In fact, even if you haven’t, you have very likely read snippets online from his work.
Why is that? It’s because John Palmer made the first edition of his book free to read and print on his website. The latest revision from 2017 is the 4th revision of the book. As John explains: “The online first edition has all the information you need to get started in this wonderful hobby, but the 4th edition has a lot more, enabling you to really take control of your beer.”
Almost every homebrewer I have ever met has owned a copy of this book, usually the 3rd edition from 2006 and this new version has 200 more pages, 5 new chapters, and more pictures and diagrams than ever before.
If The Beer Bible is the Bible for beer enthusiasts, How To Brew is the Bible for homebrewers.
Craft Brew: 50 Homebrew Recipes
by Euan Ferguson
Who is this book for? Homebrewers (beginners to advanced)
Sticking with the homebrew theme, Craft Brew expands on what you might learn in John Palmer’s How to Brew by proving a much simpler format. It simply explains how to create your own version of 50 of the best commercial craft beers in the world.
It contains the basic knowledge you need to get started in brewing and then provides you with easy to understand recipes. An example of some of the beers you can learn to brew from a UK & Ireland perspective would be Trouble Brewing’s Hidden Agenda from Ireland and Brewdog’s Punk IPA from Scotland.
If you are starting out in homebrewing, this is a good starting point before moving on to a more advanced book like John Palmer’s How to Brew.
Slainte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer and Cider
by Caroline Hennessy & Kristin Jensen
Who is this book for? Visitors to Ireland or those new to Irish Craft Beer
We don’t have many craft beer books in Ireland and this is by far the best of them. Slainte may have been published in 2014 but it’s still very relevant today.
Caroline is an award-winning food writer and broadcaster as well as co-founder of Eight Degrees brewing. Kristen is a freelance editor and writer who specialises in cookbooks and recipes. Together, they have a vast knowledge of the Irish beer scene.
This book is perfect for anyone planning on visiting Ireland and wants to learn more about Irish craft beer and cider. As you might expect from their background, they also guide you though pairing Irish beer and cider with Irish farmhouse cheese and recipes that incorporate Irish beer.
Strange Tales of Ale
by Martyn Cornell
Who is this book for? History fans or those who love a good tale
If you have any interest in beer history, you have probably encountered Martyn Cornell before. If not by his real name, probably by his online name of Zythophile and his blog of the same name.
In his books and blog, Martyn explores the hidden history of beer. He dismisses the myths and dives straight in to the real stories through rigorous research. I’m only surprised Martyn hasn’t published more books than he already has because there’s enough fascinating material on his blog for dozens of publications.
Strange Tales of Ale from 2015 was winner of Beer Book of the Year at the 2016 British Guild of Beer Writers Awards. Rather than being purely a history book, it looks at some odd and humorous tales involving beer. Stories such as how after D-Day, British RAF pilots filled their fuel drop-tanks with beer and flew their Spitfires over to Normandy to provide the troops with beer.
You will even learn about the origin of the ploughman’s lunch or ploughman’s sandwich as we tend to know it these days. Yes, there was of course beer involved but you’ll just have to read the book to find out.
Miracle Brew: Hops, Barley, Water, Yeast and the Nature of Beer
by Pete Brown
Who is this book for? Everyone – but an interest in anecdotes, history, beer, science, and people will help
Pete Brown is often described as the beer drinker’s Bill Bryson. He certainly has Bill Bryson’s wit and seems to be just as inept a traveller as Bryson, who is possibly the most beloved and humorous travel writer in the word.
Miracle Brew looks at the subject of beer as a whole. It breaks down a lot of the history and production methods with stories and anecdotes from around the world. The 4 main subjects covered here are the 4 simple ingredients which make up beer. hops, barley, water, and yeast.
Each of the four is required to make beer and yet each one is unique and plays a major role in the finished beer, not just in how it tastes but how it smells and even the texture of the liquid.
This book is for both newcomers to the exciting world of beer as well as long time beer enthusiasts who think they know everything. I suspect the latter cohort will be pleasantly surprised by what they learn in Miracle Brew.
I can also especially recommend this unofficial trilogy of books by Pete Brown.
• Man Walks into a Pub: A Sociable History of Beer
• Hops and Glory: One man’s search for the beer that built the British Empire: the original IPA
• Three Sheets to The Wind: 300 bars in 13 countries: One man’s quest for the meaning of beer
Pete has other books of course but these three are iconic to so many beer lovers that it would be remiss of this author not to mention them.
And there we have it. Ten very different books about beer each covering a slightly different audience with one shared topic: beer. While this list features books that in our opinion are among the best out there, we encourage the reader to explore the ever-increasing world of beer books themselves to find something they will enjoy.
Drinking beer while reading a beer book isn’t strictly necessary by the way – and it may not even be wise. But if there’s one thing that the TV show Drunk History has taught us, it’s that everything is more interesting with a pint in your hand.