Book Review: Beer and Philosophy

Beer and Philosophy: The Unexamined Beer Isn’t Worth Drinking is book about beer and philosophy (this is how all my grade school book reports started out, so it’s all I know..). It is a collection of short chapters from philosophers, beer lovers, beer makers, and beer drinkers–with most authors being more than one of those–and edited by a philospher and beer lover, Steven D. Hales. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that Alan McLeod, a fellow beer blogger at A Good Beer Blog was one of the authors. I was sent a review copy of this book courtesy of the editor/publisher.

Book Cover The book begins with a foreword from “The Beer Hunter” himself, Michael Jackson followed by an Editor’s Introduction. Both set the stage for the philosophical questions brought on, related to, and maybe even answered by beer. From there, Part 1 is The Art of Beer, followed by The Ethics of Beer. Not to be outdone, The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Beer and Beer in the History of Philosophy round out Parts III and IV. With the exception of Part 1 which has six chapters, the parts contain three chapters each. Since the chapters are written by different authors with very different backgrounds and writing styles, you may want to treat this like a collection of short stories and read one and let it sink in before tackling the next one.

Since this is a beer blog, here’s a quick list of the chapters written by beer folks:

  • The Beer Matrix: Reality vs Facsimile in Brewing by Garrett Oliver, the brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery.
  • Quality, Schmaility: Talking Naturally about the Aesthetics of Beer; or Why is American Beer So Lousy? by Martin Stack and George Gale. Martin Stack is an Associate Professor of Management at Rockhurst University who’s scholarly work is focused on the brewing industry.
  • Extreme Brewing in America by Sam Calagione, the founder of Dogfish Head.
  • Beer and Autonomy by Alan McLeod from A Good Beer Blog.
  • What’s a Beer Style by Matt Dunn, a homebrewer who wrote his biology master’s thesis on brewers yeast and evolution and is now completing his PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science.

These were my favorite chapters since they were written in a more natural writing style about topics I’m familiar with. In contrast, the chapters that were heavier on the philosophy ranged from very interesting to unreadable for me. I don’t fault the authors for this since they were writing about what they know in a more academic style that they are familiar with and for their audience.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone even if you don’t think you’re interested in philosophy. Many of the topics brought up by the authors were likely thoughts you’ve had while enjoying a beer but may not have taken the time to think about so it is nice to see someone take the ball and run with it. You can buy the book at Amazon Buy at Amazon.com (referral link which I make a few pennies from)

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