I like to sound smart when it comes to beer. So do many of you. Because you follow the Washington Beer Blog, I hope you know more about beer than the typical Homer sitting next to you at the bar. For many of you, that is why you read this blog. That is not criticism. I totally get it. When considering the many topics about which you could potentially attain expert status, beer is an excellent choice.
By writing this blog I try to help you get in touch with your inner beer nerd. Today I have some advice for you. Think of it as a road map to your goal of beery enlightenment.
Check this out. So you think that English beer has always been hoppy? Au contraire, mon frère. Hops didn’t make it to England until the 1400s, when Flemish settlers began to introduce them to the Kent countryside. It was hundreds of years later that they became common in English ales. In the 1530s King Henry VIII actually forbade the use of hops in beer, considering hops an aphrodisiac that would “drive the populace to sinful behavior.” (Yes, that Henry VIII.) When Samuel Johnson published the very first dictionary of the English language in the 1750s, he defined beer as “…liquor made by infusing malt in hot water and fermenting the liquor.” No mention of hops. Luckily by the 1770s the use of hops in English beer became quite common. And the rest is history.
How do I know all this? What exactly am I quoting above? The Oxford University Press has just released the very first Oxford Companion to Beer. This is the new beer bible: the Encyclopedia Beertanica. The person behind this 920-page masterpiece is Garrett Oliver, the longtime Brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewing Company.
You must have this book. It is magnificent. Whether you are an aspiring beer geek, an avid home brewer, or a professional brewer, you must have this book. It is the beer book. From Abbey Beers to Zymurgy, from Acidulated Malt to Young’s Brewery, the Oxford Companion to Beer discusses every topic imaginable. Not just hearsay or regurgitation, this book stands upon real research and investigation. When the Beer Ox talks about India Pale Ale, rest assured that someone dug through piles of 250 year-old records to find out what really happened. They did not simply redraft the same old mythology about George Hodgson and the East India Company.