Filling your head with beer 

There are a lot of us who don't share an all-consuming passion for beer and we're made acutely aware of it when it comes time to socialize and entertain. When called upon to pick up a couple of six-packs, there's always a quandary. Go for cheap-but-generic for quantity? Or expensive-but-exotic for flavor? There are so many options and opinions between those two extremes, and everyone who can hold a can is an expert. Choose wrong, and the party could be over. Here's where Duane Swierczynski's just-released The Big Book o' Beer can be a face-saver.

Subtitled Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Greatest Beverage on Earth, the book sports a larger-than-life sweating can of beer on the cover – it's an eye-catcher. There are pages and pages of color photos and graphs inside, making for a fun and easy-reading introduction into the history, culture and business of beer. The author calls his chapters "cans," and there are six of them – "The History of Beer," "The Atlas of Beer," "Beer Connoisseurship," "Beer Crafts and Gear," "Beer and the Applied Sciences," "Beer and the Arts – plus a bonus can filled with beer resources, a beer glossary, toasts and roasts and drinking songs.

The entry on the United States in the atlas section gives you a taste of Swierczynski's wry voice. "American beer eerily mirrors American foreign policy: It's everywhere, yet nobody seems to like it very much. The British, in particular, have had a good old time mocking American beer, starting with the Monty Python joke about why American beer is like having sex in a canoe. (Answer: Because it's fucking near water.)"

After reading this, you'll know how to build beer-can votive candleholders, to sing the words to the "Beer Barrel Polka", and that July is "American Beer Month" because the Association of Brewers says it's so.

Speaking of On The Side


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