The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer – Book Review

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The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer, An Unpretentious Guide to Craft Beer lays out a solid foundation of knowledge for some of the most common beer styles while covering a breadth of interesting concepts for beer and food pairings, cooking with beer and even creating beer cocktails.  The author, Ashley Routson is an accomplished writer and true beer connoisseur whose innovative approach to enjoying beer leaves its imprint on The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer.

If you are just starting out on your pathway to beer-nerdery there are few books that will cover as many topics as The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer covers.  This is not a book that will teach you to homebrew or provide you with the expected statistical characteristics and ingredients of each style of beer, there are other books that do those things very well.  This book will provide the reader with a solid foundation to the general characteristics of each style in a fun and easy to remember way.  Ms. Routson first breaks down each style by the general characteristics of the style; hoppy, malty, sour, Belgian, etc.  This allows the reader to jump to sections of the books that they want to understand better or to gain additional information about their favorite styles.  Where Ms. Routson really shines is in her interpretation of the styles for sections she calls “My Two Cents” and “The Gist”.  If you memorized only these two sections of each style, you would have a level of knowledge that would rival most beer servers at the bars and breweries that you frequent.  Her explanations of the styles use clear and concise language that even the uninitiated craft beer consumer will understand.

After the style section The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer includes a section on how to progress your knowledge base beyond the basics with “Becoming an Expert”.  This section will outline the next steps to becoming an experienced beer evaluator and references several other high quality sources to expand the knowledge base that Ms. Rouston has presented.  The “Respecting beer” section is very interesting and includes information on cellaring, serving and proper glassware to use for different beers.  Again this does not go in depth, but it covers the topics sufficiently to have you be aware of each topic.  The third section of the book was the most interesting to us at Educate.Beer because things go on a different route from all the other books that we’ve read.  We have complete compendiums on beer and food pairings that include lists of rules and recommendations and while The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer covers most of those topics, Ms. Routson includes an entire section on beer cocktails.  Beer cocktails… in other words, mixing beer with other things.  We are beer purists and we aren’t afraid to admit it.  When a brewer crafts a beverage, we believe that they are laboring over a product that is meant to be enjoyed as it is.  This isn’t the same approach that The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer takes and was the first book that we’ve read that included this.  We can appreciate a new perspective that this section provides the reader.

Everyone knows some of the more standard beer cocktails including the Black and Tan (Guinness typically layered with Bass Ale) or even a summer shandy (a lighter beer mixed with lemonade).  The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer brings out a litany of new mixes that have never occurred to us, probably because we’ve never wanted to change the flavor of our beers.  How about a Strawberry Blonde Brewjito or The Mad Botinist (gin and beer combination)?  So if you’re feeling adventurous and in a creative mood, as Ms. Routson says, to each their own.  Give one of the mixed drinks in this book a shot, it may be an epiphany for you and you may never drink a beer straight again.

In the third section of the book there is also a list of recipes that include beer as one of the ingredients.  As we’ve said in another article, a prominent chef once told us that if you are thinking of cooking with beer, don’t.  Cooking with beer is not as simple as cooking with wine because there are interactions that may occur that are not anticipated by the untrained culinary wiz.  The exception to this is following a recipe exactly and the recipes that Ms. Routon lists are stellar to say the least.  Our favorite recipe without a doubt is Beer Mustard with Deschutes Black Butte Porter.  We’ve been to the brewpub that Deschutes has in Bend, Oregon and will attest that this is nearly identical to what they serve.  This mustard is fantastic with pretzels or on a sandwich; just make sure that you make enough to have it on hand when the craving hits!

Overall, The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer is like a general education class in college, you will gain a basic understanding of a broad reach of topics and this may inspire you to further study one aspect or another.  Ms. Routon’s writings are able to condense enormous topics like beer styles and beer food pairings into simple, understandable sections that can start you on a quest to delve into aspects of beer beyond the average consumer and for that, Educate.Beer is pleased to recommend this book to anyone looking to understand more about the world’s greatest beverage!