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Hoops on Hops: Delve into the wide range of beer books

Books and beer bottles on the table.

Here are some of my favorite books about my favorite subject: beer. While there is almost unlimited information online, I still like holding a real-life book in my hands.

Lifestyle and beer

The first of my two favorite authors on beer lifestyle is Pete Brown. Brown is an amazing storyteller and a very astute writer on beer culture.

He has written four books; his first two are classics. "Man Walks into a Pub: A Sociable History of Beer" is basically a history of beer. Written in first-person, funny and insightful, it's so readable, you may not be able to put it down.

"Three Sheets to the Wind" by Brown has a high travel angle as he realizes countries other than his own Britain make beer, and he decides to investigate personally. This adventurous, beer and travel novel is wonderful. Brown has two more books to his credit: "Hops and Glory" and "Shakespeare's Local," both are very good but the first two are must-reads.

The second of my favorite authors on beer lifestyle is legendary brewer and student of beer and food, Garrett Oliver.

He has been the head brewer at Brooklyn Brewery in New York since 1994. In that time, he has been an influence for thousands of brewers. Oliver has two books for this list:

"The Brewmaster's Table" is the ultimate beer and food pairing book and includes a significant amount of information on how beer is made and how it can fit into your lifestyle.

"The Oxford Companion to Beer" can be called the dictionary of beer. Oliver covers every possible definition in the beer world. I reference this book more than any other I own.

No list is complete without a nod to the most influential beer writer of all time, the late Michael (James) Jackson. Jackson's career spanned more than 40 years, and he is widely credited for putting great beer and whiskey on the map. As a brewer who loves Belgian-style beers, I recommend "The Great Beers of Belgium." A history of Belgian brewing as much as a list of beers, this book is a treasure trove.

Business reads

"Beer School: Bottling Success at the Brooklyn Brewery" by Steve Hindy and Tom Potter is the story of the founding of the Brooklyn Brewery. My favorite how-to and adventurous story from one of the founders of the American craft beer movement.

"Beyond the Pale: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co." by Ken Grossman is the story of the beer that defined the American pale ale style. This is a great read as Grossman is a MacGyver-type that invented as much as he brewed in the early days. This book will make you thirst for Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Books on brewing

I could easily choose 50 books for this category, but I will keep it mellow.

The Brewers Association, the guiding trade organization of U.S. craft brewers, has a large publishing arm. The most helpful books to read about brewing and ingredients are part of its series called the Brewing Elements Series. Here are four outstanding books that come to mind:

"Water: A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers" by John Palmer and Colin Kaminski; "For The Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops"

by Stan Hieronymus; "Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation" by Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff; "Malt: A Practical Guide from Field to Brewhouse" by John Mallett.

These books were written by veteran brewers that have seen it all and done it all. They're not boring, technical books but outpourings of love and knowledge. If you are a brewer, want to be a brewer or want to learn all you can about beer, these four belong in your library.

"Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers: The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation" by Stephen Harrod Buhner is part medicinal and imparts a knowledge of brewing hundreds of years ago. It's a great look on how beer can be health-enriching. Buhner talks about hundreds of plants that can be used in brewing and the health benefits of doing so.

My last two books were written by friends and cover two subjects very dear to me as a brewer.

"IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale" by Mitch Steele, who has written a book that captures the history, flavors, uses, stories and fascination with hops that the modern craft beer drinker has embraced. It's a must-read for IPA lovers.

"Wood & Beer: A Brewer's Guide" by Dick Cantwell and Peter Bouckaert. Barrel-aging beer has always been a fascination for brewers. In the past 20 years in the U.S., these beers have become sought-after and much more familiar. The authors of this book both have more than 30 years under their belts brewing barrel-aged beers in the U.S. and Europe. They explain the process, flavors and culture of barrel-aged beer better than anyone else in the history of brewing.

Enjoy and please feel free to reach out and comment on your favorite books on beer.

Dave Hoops lives in Duluth, Minn., and is a veteran brewer and beer judge. Contact him at dave@hoopsbrewing.com.

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