November 29, 2011

Books About Beer and Design

My sources tell me it's a holiday season, so I figured I'd give you a quick rundown on some beer/design books I've read recently:

You can't click to look inside.
I hotlinked from Amazon.

  • For those of you shopping for the aspiring homebrewer, I just picked up William Bostwick and Jessi Rymill's Beer Craft: A Simple Guide to Making Great Beer (Rodale, $17.99). There are certainly more comprehensive guides to brewing and beer, but there are none that are easier to read and enjoy. It's colorful, extremely well-designed, and features good quotes by big name brewers, conversational language, and engaging design. It's also - and this is important - small. The taxonomies and infographics make it a nice pocket guide to beer ingredients, even when not brewing. It's a perfect book for a beer geek who is thinking about brewing some batches and wants to understand the process better, or someone like myself that has done a bit of brewing but wants a handy way to read and look up some of the more technical information. It's also on sale right now at Amazon for around $11.
  • For those shopping for the more experienced or just more hip homebrewer, consider Brooklyn Brew Shop's Beer Making Book: 52 Seasonal Recipes for Small Batches by Erica Shea and Stephen Valand (Clarkson Potter, $19.99). The book, by the owners of the Brooklyn Brew Shop, focuses on making beer in small spaces, and organizes some very interesting recipes by season. Like Beer Craft, there's a heavy design focus in this book. Instead of color, the design emphasis is on simplicity and readability, and it is a very handy guide and reference. It can certainly be a guide for beginners, but the recipes are different enough that a vet could still find it valuable. Also on sale, around $13.
  • On a design front, my father just gave me Simon Garfield's Just My Type: A Book About Fonts (Profile, $27.50). It is delightful, and one needn't be a design geek to love it (my father, for example, is not what one might call design-conscious, but since reading can't stop talking to me about Helvetica and Gill Sans). It is engaging and extraordinarily well-designed. The Introduction by Chip Kidd alone is awesome, and it makes a great gift for damn near anyone. Amazon has it for around $16, or $11 in paperback.
  • Lastly, I did receive the Oxford Companion to Beer, and have finished reading a good bit of it. It is every bit as wonderfully written as I had imagined. I know there are fights over facts, and they haven't stopped. Roger Protz chimed in with an ill-intentioned diatribe against its critics, and various others have weighed in on the side of the "bloggerati" or "the treasure trove," but most reasonable people, I think, feel as I do: It is an excellent, engaging, ambitious work that is generally very well-executed, with some unfortunate historical inaccuracies made slightly more high-profile by author Garrett Oliver's unwillingness to acknowledge and apologize for them. Actually, reading it has kind of heightened my sadness. I just wish Oliver had come out and, instead of casting the debate as one of adults who respect progress versus childish bloggers who hate books, said "Thanks so much for all of the input; we're all in this together. Clearly we made some errors, and I made some mistakes editing out historians in favor of popular legend. I'll make sure we take care of it in the next edition." Thankfully, we have Alan to take care of us all. Still, though, if someone you know loves beer and doesn't have this book, get it for them. It's down to $26.
Some news and notes:
  • Apparently we're setting records on label applications to the TTB.
  • Nebraska Brewing Company and The Bruery showed us all how to be really damn cool about copyright. Instead of lawsuits, they made a joke out of it.
  • There have been another rush of release events, some of which went badly. Pelican had one where the phones went down and disaster ensued. More locally, Weyerbacher's Idiot's Drool release party went so badly that owner Dan Weirback issued an apology. By contrast, the Victory Dark Intrigue release went smoothly and successfully. Adam Nason aka Beersage has put together a modest proposal of a way breweries can manage these events better. I think it's worth following. One brilliant member of BA suggested that brewers should never have to apologize for design, and I think that person is a moron. If you pitch a massive event for which people show up at 4:30 am and will shell out a lot of money, you have a responsibility to be prepared and make the experience as positive as possible. None of this is rocket science, but it's worth pointing out that demand does not increase along a linear path, so breweries are often taken by surprise. For example, Weyerbacher had a release a couple months previously that was nowhere near as crazy, and there was no reason to believe a mad rush would occur. Then they apologized, and they'll do better next time, so I'm not sure what more people want from them. But still, the moral of the story is that breweries should probably plan for the crowds, rather than risk angering fans.

New work from Arcadia:
Very nice warm color palette and throwback style to old-school travel posters. Compositionally we see that nice rule of thirds with the pouring fountain and the woman forming the poles. The yellow sky and green mountains in the backdrop help the nice bright image pop out.

Also good stuff from New Albanian. I think the artist is still Tony Beard:
All of their stuff is a bit dark and intense, and this is no different. I love the paint splatter and the snowy floor on which the Valkyrie flies in. The path of fire and the spatter and the asymmetry give it a real violence and sense of dramatic movement.

Beard's stuff will be in the running for Best Beer Art of the Year. Start thinking (and feel free to share) about your recommendations and nominees.

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