Timely new beer book

Although it skips along the surface, Greg Duncan Powell’s new ‘Beer – a gauge for enthusiasts’ hits a need. Its release coincided with brewer Lion Nathan’s startling news that ninety per cent of people aged over eighteen years don’t know what’s in beer.

In that light Greg’s 20-odd page précis at the beginning of the book could become a useful, friendly primer to ninety per cent of the adult population. It offers in twenty minutes of reading what might take an hour or two to pull together from Google.

The majority of the book (pages 28 to 187) delivers on the subtitle ‘a gauge for enthusiasts’. It presents Greg’s rating out of 100 points of about 150 beers. He groups the beers under metaphorical subheadings – ‘standard’, ‘premium’, ‘diesel’, ‘biofuel’ and ‘ethanol’ – and presents the ratings graphically as a fuel gauge.

I tested the book recently on a few beer-interested (in a casual sort of way) people. They connected with the metaphorical approach and understood the language. But interestingly, they tended to compare the reviews with their own tasting experiences – rather than seeing them as a guide. In other words they used the scores to rate the author’s palate.

Beer – a gauge for enthusiasts, Greg Duncan Powell, Murdoch Books, $29.95

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2008