You love beer. You have strong opinions on the hazy IPA trend (and we won’t even get you started on brut IPAs). You know the best spot in town to get a flight of hard-to-find brews. You know all that, but you want to know more. Maybe you want to learn the science behind brewing, or take a deep dive into the history of beer. You might be curious why some brewers suggest specific glassware for their brews or perhaps you’re interested in starting your own brewery or taking a coast to coast craft beer road trip.
While all of this information can be found with a few well-worded internet searches, there’s something to be said about buying a good old-fashioned book to guide the way. These are the top five best craft beer books for would-be aficionados. (We must note, though, that many of these books have been reprinted and updated, so always make sure you’re getting the latest edition for the most up-to-date information.)
‘Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion’ by Michael Jackson
Not to be confused with the King of Pop, the beer world’s Michael Jackson was a journalist and critic who elevated the way beer is perceived in academic and culinary circles. Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion: The World’s Great Beer Styles, Gastronomy, and Traditions is an epic tome chock full of knowledge, offering a comprehensive guide to the history of brewing, style definitions, and beer pairings. Have a question about beer? You’re going to find the answer here.
‘Tasting Beer’ by Randy Mosher
After you’ve learned the background on beer, it’s time to get into the weeds. For budding Cicerone certificate applicants or future beer judges, there’s no better place to learn about the art of tasting beer than Mosher’s fun, accessible Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink. Readers will learn how water affects the taste of a beer and other factors that influence color, aroma, mouthfeel and (of course) flavor in a variety of beer styles. Even if you don’t want to become a judge, this book is a great way to get a handle on what you’re doing when you’re trying new beers.
‘The United States Of Craft Beer’ by Jess Lebow
Now that you know how to properly taste and evaluate beer, it’s time for a road trip. Lebow’s The United States Of Craft Beer: A Guide to the Best Craft Breweries Across America is a state-by-state travel guide that provides insight into the various regional differences in the craft beer scene. It’s full of excellent pictures and brewer profiles, along with lists of some of the best beers available in each state. It’s by no means an encyclopedic compendium of the nation’s craft breweries, but it’s a great place to start.
‘The Complete Joy of Homebrewing’ by Charlie Papazian
You know beer’s history, how to drink it, and you’ve tried some of the best in the country. Now it’s time to make beer yourself. Papazian’s Complete Joy of Homebrewing is the bible for DIY beer nerds. This book covers the chemistry of brewing, explains the ingredients involved, and (most importantly) offers easy-to-follow recipes. This may very well be the only homebrewing book you ever need to buy. The book has been in print since 1984, and there’s a good chance it’s the guide your favorite commercial brewer used to get started as well.
‘Brewing Up a Business’ by Sam Calagione
At this point, you’ve absorbed so much beer knowledge, you may as well start your own brewery. Calagione — more on him here — is one of the most charismatic figures in craft beer. His memoir, Brewing Up a Business: Adventures in Beer from the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, is full of entertaining stories from how he got his start to the rigors of running one of the United States’ largest craft breweries. You’ll laugh, you’ll be inspired, you’ll gain knowledge about entrepreneurship, and perhaps learn whether or not you have the mettle to become a craft beer professional.