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1001 beers you must try before you die

August 10, 2010

1001_beers Dealing as it does with male obsessionals, I suspect many readers of Brews News would be familiar with Nick Hornby’s classic book (or the book-inspired movie), High Fidelity.

Much of the story sees the lead character, Rob, in his record store compiling “top five” lists about music and just about any other aspect of life with his equally obsessive colleagues. It would not take too much re-writing and would change the story very little if the setting was changed from a record store specialising in vinyl to a modern day beer store specialising in craft beer. Instead of having a Jack Black-esque salesman ridiculing a customer wanting to buy ‘I just called to say I love you’ for his daughter, I can easily see the scene taking place with a carton of the latest clear-bottled, low-carb beer replacing the saccharine-sweet Stevie Wonder single.

A highlight of the book occurs when the compulsive list maker is interviewed by a journalist and asked for his ultimate top five list…and he freezes. He chops and changes, edits and clarifies. Once the man with a compulsive need to categorise his life through ‘top fives’ is asked to compile a simple list without clarification or explanation, he seizes up. This is because ‘best’ lists are notoriously difficult things. They are wildly subjective and based upon all sorts of qualifications, rationalisations and caveats. They are always subject to change and to the mood of the day and the season. They are subjective, flexible, reductive and never definitive. It is also very easy to criticise anyone else’s list and to justify your own choices…in private or amongst friends.

I admire anyone willing to go public with their list of best beers because the people most interested in the list are likely to be those who have one of their own and theirs will, invariably, differ wildly. And when topics of passion are involved, differences in opinion can become personal slights. The list’s author generally sets them-self up to be unfairly shot down by those whose list doesn’t agree with theirs.

Which brings me to the latest book of top beer lists, 1001 beers you must taste before you die. This is an impressive undertaking that sees 42 international beer writers combine to create a 960-page list that is billed as a comprehensive and indispensible guide to the very best beers in world. But even with 1001 beers included, there is bound to be plenty fodder for debate in any book that sees Tsingtao on a page facing Trumer Pils, or even Stone & Wood Pale Lager facing with Stone IPA.

The Australian section has been compiled by Brisbane-based lawyer and part-time chronicler of Australian beer life, David Downie. Downie, who has been running the website australianbeers.com.au for a decade, is aware of the controversy that his selections – or omissions – can cause.

“I don’t think there is any suggestion that there is only one list or that anyone should feel slighted for not being included,” he says.

“Every beer drinker would have their own list of Australian beers that could have been included. No doubt yours would be different. Many more beers could have been. I think that’s a good thing that we can say that in Australia now. You couldn’t have 20 years ago.”

Which is a very good point and shows how far Australian brewing has come in the last two decades.

One of the many strengths of this tome is that almost every great beer has a story behind it, and this book tells many of them giving the beers context and reason a for inclusion. Downie does an admirable job of telling the stories behind his selections and, through them, the modern history of Australian brewing. He writes engagingly and says much in the limited space allocated to each beer.

Whether you are a compulsive beer book buyer or looking for a lifetime of beer ticking, looking to start an argument or even just looking to learn a little about the world’s great beers, this is a good read and a worthy addition to your library.

For the record, here’s the Australian entries.

3 Ravens White
Alpha Pale Ale
Black Wattle Original Ale
Bluetongue Traditional Pilsner
Cascade Stout
Christmas Ale
Coopers Best Extra Stout
Coopers Extra Strong Vintage Ale
Coopers Sparkling Ale
Dogbolter Dark Lager
First Harvest Ale
Forester Pale Ale
Burleigh Brewing Hef
Mountain Goat Hightail Ale
Huon Dark Ale
James Boag’s Premium Lager
James Squire Golden Ale
James Squire Original Amber Ale
James Squire Pilsener
Knappstein Reserve Lager
Little Creatures Pale Ale
Moo Brew Pilsner
Grand Ridge Moonshine
Murray’s Best Extra Porter
Red Duck Porter
Redoak Baltic Porter
Redoak Framboise Froment
Redoak Special Reserve
Rogers’ Beer
Red Hill Scotch
Southwark Old Stout
Stone & Wood Pale Lager

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2 Responses to 1001 beers you must try before you die

  1. Books, part 1 « Nondakure on January 8, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    […] are actually quite impressive, and mercifully bereft
    of Fosters, Crown Lager and the like (click here for a full list of
    them). If any criticisms can be made concerning the Australian
    brews, it’s […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Adrian Tierney-Jones, AustralianBrewsNews. AustralianBrewsNews said: Latest on Brews News:: 1001 beers you must try before you die http://bit.ly/debjkC […]

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