Media Draft: Beer Books Go Beyond The Generic

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Despite the serious gains achieved by beer as a product in terms of respect, beer writing as profession or professional pursuit has never really achieved similar heights. In fact, beer writing doesn’t get much love, from the industry, the drinking public, and the media aristocracy. While editors and publishers over the last few months have begrudgingly begun to run favorable coverage of beer, those in the industry know that these same editors and publishers have given rise to dozens of, “beer is a fad” or “beer is dead” articles in the near past.

russell.jpgWhile beer writing in the news and magazine press is finally on the uptick, book publishers have been a little slower to see the growing popularity of such titles on beer. To date, most books on beer have either attempted (and generally failed at) an unwieldy, encyclopedic scope or restricted their focus to the local market (see American regional beer guides going back 20 years). When we look at the wine publishing industry, it’s not unusual to see a half dozen individual titles on a single varietal, say Chardonnay, in the course of a single year. Beyond that, book publishers have even been willing to release wine-related books on some pretty esoteric topics (see Wine Dogs USA Edition, a book dedicated to the dogs of American wineries…)

While it may be some time before we see a half-dozen titles per year on gueuze or even IPA, I recently came across a title that gave me some hope. Philadelphia-based beer writer Don Russell, whose lamentable shtick handle is Joe Sixpack, is set to release a book on winter seasonal beers titled, Christmas Beer: The Cheeriest, Tastiest and Most Unusual Holiday Brews, in November 2008. I’m sure the publisher spent some considerable time debating the title (especially its shelf-life post-holiday season). The title is a welcome departure from the generalized tome on far-away breweries on continents the author has never even visited (how you write about African beers when you’ve only had stale, beaten down versions in dusty, worn bottles in the states is beyond me).

I have no idea if this will be the final cover, but I have to admit being a little chagrined at a book on winter/holiday beers (and unusual ones at that) which employs the stereotypical pilsner glass and yellow beer on the cover. Baby steps, Andy, baby steps…

Published by Universe, a division of Rizzolli New York, the title will be released November 4, 2008, and will retail for $19.95.

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