Draught Diversions: Book Review – DRINK BETTER BEER by Joshua M. Bernstein

Name: Drink Better Beer: Discover the Secrets of the Brewing Experts
Author: Joshua M. Bernstein
Publication Date: September 2019
Publisher: Sterling Books

Don’t we all want to drink better beer? Beer these days, isn’t cheap (at least the good stuff). There are many choices and if you’re taking a potentially $20 risk on a beer you’ve never had, and if you only have a beer a day or don’t drink more than a few a weekend, you want to make sure you’re time and the space in your beer drinking calendar aren’t wasted. Joshua Bernstein’s Drink Better Beer is a great book to help make sure the beer you drink isn’t wasting your time or money.

Cover courtesy of the publisher, Sterling Publishing

From the publisher’s landing page for the book:

With thousands of breweries creating a bewildering array of beers each year, learning from the experts is practically a necessity for the modern beer lover. Luckily, beer guru Joshua M. Bernstein is here to tap their wisdom for you, with sage advice about which brews to buy, how to taste your beers, and what to eat with them.

Drink Better Beer features the must-know insights of more than 100 professionals, including competition judges, beer consultants, and master brewers. Find out how to shop clever by heeding two simple rules. Learn the art of selecting the right glass, cleaning it, and executing the perfect pour. Make sense of all those aromas with just a couple of sniffing tricks. Unlock the taste secrets of different styles, learn when to drink, and how to know if your favorite beer store is treating their beer the way they should. Beer is getting complicated—Drink Better Beer will give you the confidence to buy smart and enjoy your pour even more.

In Drink Better Beer, Bernstein delivers his message in a wonderful, welcoming, conversational tone. He clearly has a passion and expertise for that wonderful liquid made from water, grain, yeast, and hops. It isn’t difficult to gain an expertise in something you thoroughly study and constant entrenchment in the subject will eventually gain a person a decent level of knowledge. The ability to convey and deliver that knowledge? That’s a combination of Skill and Talent not everybody has, but Joshua Bernstein is just such a person. He is able to extol the virtues of the granular elements that eventually lead to a person consuming better beer and Bernstein does so through the voice a celebratory, friendly enthusiast. There’s no holier-than-thou overtones nor is there the dusty voice professorial voice. The tone in Drink Better Beer is much more like “Beer is great, this is why Beer is great, have fun with it! Let’s have a beer together!”

The organization, formatting, feel, and structure of the book from a physical perspective is glorious. It isn’t quite a coffee table, it is almost like a textbook: enough to convey a sense of authority, but not too much to be off-putting. The book also has lovely pictures and has a fairly substantial size and heft to it. Bernstein covers elements about beer that many people take for granted – the water, the vessel in which the beer is consumed, the dating on the beer, etc. Other writers have done so, writers I’ve mentioned here at the Tap Takeover. Joshua Bernstein’s particular brand of enthusiasm; however, helps to bring these elements together in a freshly engaging manner. Think of a Pilsner – a delicious beer style that can be interpreted differently and can be of equal quality by numerous brewers.

(At this point, I’m switching from “Bernstein” to “Josh” for the author because of the convivial and gregarious tone of his words.)

Josh has broken down how to drink better beer into the following categories/chapters:

  • “What’s in Store: Buying Beer”
  • “The Pour Move: Glassware and the New Rules of Serving Beer”
  • “Scents and Sensibility: Cracking the Code on Flavors and Aromas”
  • “Eat These Words: The New World of Food and Beer Pairings”
  • “Toasting the Future: A Road Map of Delicious New Directions”

Peppered throughout the book are interesting and engaging sidebars featuring the things like the top five beers Josh consumed while writing the book (in fact, I picked up a six pack of one of those beers – a favorite – while I was reading the book), or a page on highlighting what some of the less-known data points on a label mean, or “Six IPAs to Buy to Understand the Style’s Evolution,” and recurring features on “Drinking Destinations.” Noted beer people like Lindsay Barr from New Belgium and founder of DraughtLab; Jeff Alworth, author of The Beer Bible, and Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, the Diversity Ambassador of the Brewers Association are featured, among others.

Image courtesy of the publisher, Sterling Publishing (Click the image to embiggen)

This whole book, especially, the first one third or so of the tome, made me want to hang out with Josh and other like-minded people at a bar or brewery to muse over the quality of the beer in our glasses. In all the books I’ve read, fiction (mostly Science Fiction and Fantasy) and non-fiction, I have found the best books to essentially represent a conversation between reader and writer, forging a connection between the two. Joshua Bernstein’s Drink Better Beer captures that conversational ideal about as good as any book I’ve read. As a result, I yearned for that “meatspace”/in-person social interaction that beer facilitates so wonderfully thanks to Josh’s delightfully spun words. Unfortunately, that has become somewhat difficult in the current COVID pandemic.

Over the past few years my library of beer books has been growing. Drink Better Beer is a highlight and a book I expect I’ll be revisiting casually for some time to come. In other words, I’d call this an essential book for anybody building out a shelf of books dedicated to beer.

Cover courtesy of the publisher, Sterling Publishing

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