Book Review: The Beer Select-o-Pedia

This is yet another beginners’ guide to beer, albeit with a gimmick: it is built around a ‘periodic table’ of beers, and is designed to help you choose what to drink next.

Michael Larson's Beer Select-o-Pedia.The author, Michael Lar­son, is an Amer­i­can, and across the Atlantic, his book is pub­lished with a dif­fer­ent title and cov­er. For the UK mar­ket, under the care of the Cam­paign for Real Ale’s pub­lish­ing arm, it has been tai­lored and spruced up by con­sul­tant edi­tor Roger Protz.

An attrac­tive­ly designed ‘pre­mi­um’ paper­back of just over 200 pages in length, it could prob­a­bly be con­densed into 75 pages of pure text. The bulk of the space is tak­en up by full-page ‘atom­ic struc­ture dia­grams’ for each beer style, con­tin­u­ing the ‘peri­od­ic table’ theme. These, frankly, did­n’t work for us at all, using a lot of real estate to con­vey very lit­tle infor­ma­tion in a hard-to-read for­mat which made us yearn for sim­ple bul­let-point lists.

Some of the icon-style graph­ics are also con­fus­ing: ‘spici­ness’, for exam­ple, even when sub­tle and derived from yeast, is indi­cat­ed with a pic­ture of a chilli pep­per as on a cur­ry house menu. This might well lead the tar­get audi­ence of begin­ners to won­der about the Scov­ille rat­ing of Marston’s Pedi­gree.

Gose 'element' from the periodic table of beer.The ‘peri­od­ic table’ itself, how­ev­er, is rather more effec­tive. The idea is that the begin­ner knows they like, say, Hoe­gaar­den, and so finds Bel­gian Wit in the sec­tion of the table devot­ed to ‘Ales of Con­ti­nen­tal Euro­pean Ori­gin’. They then choose what to explore next based on which styles are adja­cent. In prac­tice, that would direct them to Leipziger Gose (yes, that makes sense), Bel­gian ‘strong pale ale’ (e.g. La Chouffe, which also works). It isn’t per­fect, how­ev­er: ‘Gluten Free’ (that’s a style now?) is next to ‘Amer­i­can Style Wheat’. Oops!

As we’re not begin­ners, we found our­selves pick­ing holes in the his­to­ry and grip­ing about ter­mi­nol­o­gy but, on the whole, most of the worst Cor­nell and Pat­tin­son bait­ing myths have been avoid­ed and, any­way, this book is about learn­ing to love beer in the here and now.

In con­clu­sion, we found the Select-o-Pedia like­able enough, and it is as good a place as any for a would-be beer geek to start. It might also make a good gift for a beer-lov­ing friend or rel­a­tive who seems unhap­pi­ly stuck in a rut with bit­ter or lager.

The RRP is £12.99 and it is due for release on 3 April 2014. We were sent a review copy.

One thought on “Book Review: The Beer Select-o-Pedia”

  1. just what the world needs, yeh, anoth­er beer book. All these peo­ple knock­ing out beer books need to take a good look at them­selves and fig­ure out where it all went wrong.

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