The craft beer world welcomes you with these three beer books »

150 beers to try, a beer education and a sommelier's manual

By Kerry Scambler
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Beer garden at Bellarine Brewing Company, Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria

Beer garden at Bellarine Brewing Company, Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria [©Bellarine Estate]

Ploughman's lunch at Red Hill Brewery, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Beer and mussels, Red Hill Brewery, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Beer Buyers’ Guide Australia & New Zealand
Good company, good beer, good wine - Mornington Peninsula, Victoria


At we talk a lot about visiting wine country – getting out into the regions and tasting the local wines, chatting to the winemaker and enjoying the local produce. Tucked away between – or even at –  the vineyards, craft breweries are increasingly providing an extra, and very enjoyable, dimension to regional travel.

Awareness and fondness for craft beer have been growing for a number of years now resulting in a huge increase in the choice of beers and styles available in bars and bottleshops, not to mention the breweries opening up with bars, tours and restaurants.

With such diverse myriad of beers, brands and styles to choose from, it can be daunting to get into the beer world.  Time for some research…

We’ve reviewed a number of beer books in the past (scroll down to see links below) and if you’re a beer lover like me, they’re likely to all be on your shelf.  But if you’re just starting out on the amber journey, here’s three more that might help get you on your way:


150 Great Australian Beers: Your guide to craft beer and beyond by James Smith

This is an excellent all round book which gives you a great insight into how the industry has made it to this point today, from Matilda Bay’s birth against the odds and a roller coaster to the much healthier craft beer culture across the country today.

There are short, succinct sections on how beer is made, serving and enjoying beer (eg glasses and temperature) and importantly, beer and food – a subject to be reinforced at every opportunity. Wine and food matching gets a lot of attention but there are equally outstanding beer and food partnerships which thankfully are becoming more thought about.  As author James Smith says “…the concept of beer and food pairing moved on from pairing a snag in one hand with a tinny in the other.” Hooray for that we say!

From here there are informative sections on each style noting their histories, characteristics and with three beers noted as Top of the Hops in each which are then followed by a page for each of the beers falling into that style.

The actual tasting notes for each appear to have been written by the author and not simply provided by the brewery as has the story about each brewery. For me this is important as I can read the brewer's tasting notes on the bottle or their website (or in some publications) but having one person describe the beers means I can work out if our tastes are similar and then use it as a guide.

The style, strength, ideal serving temperature and glass type are also included with each as is the brewer’s food match (and these make for interesting reading in themselves!).

Availability and where to find each beer are noted and importantly, the location is titled either brewery location or brewery and cellar door location making it easy to see if you can plan a visit!

The verdict: an excellent beer book for the beer lover or novice and great value too. 150 beers with independent tasting notes – surely there's at least one or two that will get those amber bubbles flowing over your tastebuds!

150 Great Australian Beers: Your guide to craft beer and beyond by James Smith is published by Hardie Grant (Sydney, 2014; hc, 239 pp) and retails in Australia for A$29.95.


Australia and New Zealand Beer Buyers Guide edited by Ian Kingham

The contributors to this book represent some of the best and most passionate people in the industry. Chuck Hahn and Bill Taylor have almost 75 years experience between them, whilst some of the newer names have already made a significant mark for example Paul Mercurio (Cooking with Beer) and Chris Badenoch (The Entire Beast).

This Guide is actually more like a beer education book than a shopping list of beers to try, and provides outstanding background material on:

  • History
  • The brewing process
  • Ingredients and their characteristics
  • Tasting – a complete sensory analysis
  • Judging beer
  • Glassware
  • Buying beer (occasions for buying beer, which beer for which occasion)
  • Beer and food matching (with flavour chart)
  • Trade information for beer sommeliers
  • Style notes

And then come the tasting notes for over 330 beers, plus a beer and cider directory with 3,000 beers and ciders from Australia and NZ. There are also tasting notes for some international beers.

The verdict: the background information in this book is more comprehensive than in 150 Great Australian Craft Beers and is presented with images and easy to read tables and charts. A great book for those who want more detail and in-depth information. 

Personally I prefer the tasting notes in the 150 Great Beers but it’s also interesting to compare, after all tasting is an individual taste.

Australia and New Zealand Beer Buyers Guide edited by Ian Kingham is published by Beer and Brewer Media P/L (Sydney, 2013; hc, 258 pp) and retails in Australia for A$24.95. 

Note: can be hard to find but appears on booko »


Complete Beer Service & Sommelier’s Manual edited by Matt Kirkegaard

This book is aimed squarely at the hospitality industry and makes the case for a well-considered beer list as an integral part of any restaurant, bar, club or bottleshop.

It doesn’t preach an extensive list but a thoughtful one that caters for the consumers you want in your venue. Corey Crooks of the Albion Hotel in Newcastle asks “Why put good beer on? Because it attracts better customers. Good people drink good beer.”

When you spend time selecting your wines, beef, cheese, bread, staff etc. why wouldn’t you round out the whole offering with a good beer selection to show your consumers you care? And it doesn't have to be extensive if it's carefully chosen.

This Manual is mainly educational with further sections on brewing/ingredients, styles, building the beer list, how to sell beer, serving and care and (here we go again!) beer and food as presented by Paul Mercurio.

The last part of the book includes pages on Australian and New Zealand beer brands (with short tasting notes for the main beers for each).

The verdict: a good starting book for anyone in the hospitality industry who needs to understand why beer is an important component of most venue offerings.  From here you’d certainly invest in the two books above for a more comprehensive understanding and broader knowledge of the amber world.

Complete Beer Service & Sommelier’s Manual edited by Matt Kirkegaard is published by Barrel Media (Sydney, 2012; sc, 139 pp) and retails in Australia for A$29.95.

Note: currently hard to find

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January 31st, 2015
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