Book review — The Australian beer companion, Willie Simpson, $49.95

This is the book Australian beer drinkers have been waiting for – a succinct chronicle of who’s brewing what, where. It’s written by journalist, turned specialty beer writer, turned brewer, Willie Simpson – an experienced beer sampler and keen judge of what’s important about each of the breweries described in the book.

The book starts with a few beer essentials: what goes into beer (including a brief history of hop-growing in Australia) and a summary of the major beer styles we’re likely to encounter. It’s jargon-free and written in plain English, but not dumbed down.

After that it’s a state-by-state tour of our brewers, big and small, starting with Willie’s top-five ranking. In the NSW and ACT section, for example, his selections are James Squire Pilsner, Wicked Elf Pale Ale, Wig & Pen IPA, Redoak Framboise Froment and Murray’s Dark Knight – an eclectic mix that includes beers from Australia’s second largest brewer (Lion Nathan’s James Squire) and Canberra’s tiny Wig & Pen.

The maps help us put the breweries in a place. And the pictures have been thoughtfully shot, capturing the personalities behind the beers as well as their breweries and products.

And the press release came with a wonderful Henry Lawson quote, “Beer makes you feel the way you ought to feel without beer”.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2009