Froth: The Science of Beer
John Hopkins University Press
Take a look at the title of this book. See, that subtitle? “The Science of Beer”? Well, if you’re like me, that’d make you assume that this is, well, a book about the science of beer.
And yet the first chapter is an unnecessarily long history of beer. Hell, forget unnecessarily long. It’s simply unnecessary – to understand the science of beer you don’t need to know that beer features on hieroglyphics in Egypt, that porter came from Britain or that mainstream brewers make beer that isn’t very nice. You don’t need to know any of it.
Then there’s the second chapter, which is a guide to homebrewing. Yeah, Denny is a homebrewer and for reasons that make absolutely no frigging sense, he devotes an entire chapter to making your own beer. It’s not until after this chapter, nearly halfway through the book, that chapters on science start. And contrary to Denny’s oft-repeated claim, they aren’t simple or easy to understand. They’re full of calculations and are just very dull. He obviously doesn’t have any skill in explaining science to the layman.
He also doesn’t seem to know as much about beer as he thinks he does. Witness the following excerpt: “Let us adopt this increasingly common convention; ale refers to beer that contains little or no hops, whereas beer refers to the hopped product.” What? “Increasingly common convention?” I have never once heard anyone use these distinctions – and I read a fair bit about beer.
Another is his claim that “I have brewed about 80 batches of beer over the years, and not one has developed off-flavours.”. Now that’s pretty hard to swallow; any homebrewer you ask will have a tale of batches that went wrong. It’s a rite of passage. I don’t think Denny is lying; rather he probably doesn’t know enough about beer to recognise off-flavours.
While he’s making odd statements like these he’s painting himself as a “sophisticated” beer lover. He might like it, but he doesn’t seem to know that much about it. He also seems to think he’s a pretty funny guy and wastes a bit of space in the book making sad efforts at humour.
To summarise, if you’re looking for an accessible book about the science of beer, don’t bother with this one.
Categories: Book review