Book Review: Craft Beer World

Detail of Mark Dredge's book Craft Beer World.

The mar­ket for lists of ‘beers to drink before you die’ is crowd­ed – are there rea­sons to choose Mark ‘Pen­cil and Spoon’ Dredge’s offer over any oth­er?

If you’re just start­ing to take an inter­est in beer, it’s use­ful to have a more expe­ri­enced friend who can point you in the right direc­tion until you start to form your own opin­ions. If that friend hap­pens to have sim­i­lar tastes to you then all the bet­ter. If you’re a real ale drinker who wants to explore, then Roger Protz has you cov­ered; if you are fun­da­men­tal­ly turned off by the very idea of real ale cul­ture, then Dredge is your man.

Some peo­ple will find this book annoy­ing. They’ll roll their eyes at sug­ges­tions Amer­i­ca is the beat­ing heart of craft beer, and that hops ‘only real­ly got excit­ing in the 1970s’ when Amer­i­can brew­ers worked out how to get the best from them. They’ll be rubbed the wrong way by food and drink pair­ing sug­ges­tions, and by the focus on big beers over every­day ‘drinkers’. They are not the mar­ket for this book and prob­a­bly should­n’t read it for the sake of their blood pres­sure. Dredge has, and has always had, a dis­tinct voice, loved by some, sneered at by oth­ers, but cer­tain­ly not ‘vanil­la’. Read his blog before you buy the book and you’ll know what to expect.

Hav­ing said that, from our per­spec­tive, there is prob­a­bly not enough Dredge in the book. There are pho­tos of beer labels and bot­tles, but not many of him and his drink­ing bud­dies on their excit­ing sound­ing trav­els. (Jamie Oliv­er would not miss this trick…) Occa­sion­al­ly, he sets the scene for when and where a par­tic­u­lar beer was con­sumed –  the entry on Crate Brew­ery Lager, for exam­ple – and we’d have liked more.

Even though we’re got our own opin­ions on beer, and no longer need the ‘begin­ner’s guide’ asides, we did get some­thing out of this book, as we’ve tried very few of the beers Dredge rec­om­mends. We won’t be car­ry­ing it round with us every­where we go, as we did with our first Michael Jack­son pock­et guide, but we’ve made men­tal notes of a few brews and will keep an eye out for them on our trav­els.

We were also inter­est­ed in his cus­tomised style clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tem – descrip­tive rather than pre­scrip­tive – which acknowl­edges the emer­gence of, for exam­ple, ‘pale and hop­py ses­sion beer’ and ‘Pacif­ic pale ale’ as recog­nis­able cat­e­gories. IPA is at the cen­tre of his view of ‘craft beer’ and so almost every vari­a­tion there­on – e.g. ‘Bel­gian IPA’ – gets its own sub-style. This is an hon­est reflec­tion of what’s going on, like it or not, and makes sense to us.

If there is a boun­cy twen­ty-some­thing in your life who is just begin­ning to take an inter­est in beer, this might be the per­fect birth­day or Christ­mas present.

Dis­clo­sure: we were sent a free copy of this book by the pub­lish­ers, Dog’n’Bone, and this blog gets a men­tion in the ‘learn more’ sec­tion at the back.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Craft Beer World”

  1. Pret­ty much spot on. Mark is a very good writer but there was­n’t enough per­son­al­is­ing of the beer choice to make it more than an amped ver­sion of the list of great beers. Hav­ing said that I am not­ing beers I’ll be able to track down.

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