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Archive for the 'booze' Category

A Natural History of Beer (Book Review)

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

A Natural History of Beer book cover

One of the most interesting books that I’ve read about beer in the last few years has been A Natural History of Beer by Rob DeSalle and Ian Tattersall. Rob DeSalle is a curator at the American Museum of Natural History’s Sackler Institute for Comparative Biology and its program for microbial research and Ian Tattersall is curator emeritus, AMNH Division of Anthropology. A small 256 page hardcover published in 2019 by Yale University Press. The authors draw on a wide variety of academic disciplines to discuss the history, science, sociology and physiology of beer.

I’ve been meaning to get around to reading this particular book for most of the last year. And I’m a little hard pressed to find the words to describe this one because I’m not a fan of book reviews that merely repeat content. No, I’m going to have to tell you how it is. There was a lot of information packed into the pages of this enjoyable, if challenging, read. This wasn’t a breeze of a read, but I found it a lovely book that sat on our coffee table for a month while I whittled away at the content.

This is an almost textbook discussion about biology and chemistry for the most part. And anthropology, archeology, sociology, history, law and culture. The story of beer reaches from the ancient world through to modern times; it touches our lives socially and culturally (and probably always has performed that role); beer makes us jump for joy and cry with unfettered release; it allows respite from the complexity of that burden that humans carry – the ability to predict the future consequences of our actions and the awareness of our mortality.

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Fine Grain Knowledge vs Abstraction in the Brewing Process

Thursday, March 25th, 2021

A friend recently pointed to the classic 1998 brewing text by Ray Daniels titled Designing Great Beers : The Ultimate Guide to Brewing Classic Beer Styles and pointed out the need for fine grain knowledge when it comes to beer recipe development. I used to have the same discussion with web designers a decade ago. Abstraction is a useful tool and we all enjoy the benefits of abstraction throughout our lives; but nothing really beats having fine grain knowledge when the shit hits the fan.

In my past life I was a web developer. Specifically, I would hand code quality HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) with attention to usability, accessibility and cross platform consistency. In short, I was a fine grain knowledge kind of guy. And I used to tell these DreamWeaver coders that it’s all fine until something breaks – then you need to know that code backwards. You need to be able to go into that code that makes the look and feel and functionality and understand how to tweak the fine pieces to fix issues.

Being a web developer isn’t just about making websites – it’s about understanding and employing web technologies to achieve a desired result. On reflection of what my friend was saying about the Ray Daniels book, I have to agree. While you don’t absolutely need to know the fine grain knowledge of brewing math and science to make beer, you will make better beer with those levers available.

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Homebrew All-Stars (Book Review)

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

Homebrew All-Stars cover

At Christmas I received a copy of Homebrew All-Stars by Drew Beechum and Denny Conn. Well, to be honest, I’d bought myself a copy of this book for Christmas (because I’m a big fan of their podcast Experimental Brewing) only to discover my other-half had bought me a copy as well. So I’ve read and am keeping her gift copy and have the extra good fortune to have one to pass onto somebody. That’s a win-win, I think. The first comment I’d like to make about Homebrew All-Stars is that it has extremely high production values from the copy and editing right down to the quality of paper stock and photography. Self-publishing authors should take note of this value from the customer perspective – quality professional publishing makes all the difference. This is a book that will pass on to another home brewer after I’m gone. Plus that copy I have to give away.

A quick flick through shows what a lovely coffee-table homebrewing book is all about. There isn’t any need to start in any specific place and it’s broken down into easily digestible pieces. Think of information design as the enzymatic action of the authors and editors breaking down complex sugars into simple sugars so you, the reader yeast, can consume the information.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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