In high school, my dad’s side of the family had a restaurant and bar in Whitehall, Michigan. The Galleon was a high-end (well, for the local price range, anyway) seafood and steak restaurant on the shores of White Lake, and we catered to the tourists and well-off locals with a taste for the finer things. Between the restaurant’s target market and my family’s penchant for alcohol, I just bypassed the whole beer thing and went straight for the hard stuff.
I never tasted a beer until the ripe old age of eighteen; I went to the University of Houston and someone handed me a Shiner Bock. I said to myself, “Hey, this beer thing isn’t bad at all! I’ve been missing out.”
So I tried a few other beers, and … wow, was I disappointed. In the early 90s, everybody in Houston drank Corona, and more often than not, that beer left a really bad taste in my mouth. Literally. I couldn’t understand why sometimes it was great, but most of the time it tasted skunky. How could there really be so much variation in the same brand of beer?
For a decade, I stuck with Shiner Bock, venturing out only when a restaurant didn’t have it or when they offered a flight of beers. I discovered a few other good beers in different styles, and I built up a little repertoire of favorites. I enjoyed Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA (thanks to Houston beer guru, IT guru, and all around nice guy Sean Stoner, aka @MaslowBeer), Guinness, a few hefeweizens, and preferred Kirin Ichiban with my sushi.
When Alexis Herschkowitsch, one of the authors of The Wine Trials (see my review), shipped me a review copy of their new book, I gotta confess that I wasn’t expecting much. I figured they did a file-save-as, called it The Beer Trials, and had tried – and failed – to reproduce the awesome parts of The Wine Trials. I was very, very, very pleasantly surprised to be wrong.
Thanks to page 52 of The Beer Trials, I now know why Corona is usually skunky. The clear glass lets in unfiltered light in a way that harms the beer. If I want to find better Corona, it’s just a matter of finding places that know how to store beer properly. Even better, I can simply glance at a beer bottle and rule it out because it’s got clear or green glass, thereby making it more likely to be skunky. Presto – book price saved.
Thanks to the categories on page 59, I discovered that Ayinger Celebrator is even better than Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. I’d been trying to figure out what kinds of beers were most like 90minIPA, and I hadn’t been very successful. I never would have gambled on Ayinger because of its fancypants packaging – I mean, really, a plastic thingamabob hanging around the beer’s neck? What kind of jerkface drinks something like that? Well, now, I do, because it’s unbelievably smooth, very rich and complex, and it tastes like I’m drinking warm brown velvet. That may not sound appetizing, I admit, but that’s why I write about databases instead of beer.
I tried several 9-rated beers out of the book before etching the pixels in stone for this review. I wanted to know that the book was more reliable than a typical bartender. I can report that I’m completely satisfied, and the only complaint I have is that the book doesn’t come with a companion iPhone app – at least, not yet. In the meantime, I’ve typed the list of 9 and 8 rated beers into RememberTheMilk by category so I can access ’em from anywhere.
Authors Seamus Campbell and Robin Goldstein have pulled off a winner. Thanks to them, I’ve found several new beers that have surprised me in a good way and made me interested in trying new beers again. I would wholeheartedly recommend trying any beer rated highly in their trials, and because of that, the book is a downright steal at under $15. The $15 you spend on this book will pay for itself in the first beer you try.
A few links: