From abbey beers to zymurgy | Lit Feature | Chicago Reader

From abbey beers to zymurgy 

The Oxford Companion to Beer:the last word on suds

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"I truly believe it is possible to say, without any fear of successful contradiction, that The Oxford Companion to Beer is the most comprehensive book ever published on the subject of beer," editor Garrett Oliver (also the brewmaster for Brooklyn Brewery) writes in the preface to the 920-page tome. It's a bold claim, but I haven't found any evidence that he's wrong. With more than 1,000 entries from 166 contributors, the volume is encyclopedic in both scope and detail, and though I've spent hours looking through it, I've barely made a dent. What I have read, though, has been consistently fascinating. An entry on Chicago, for example (by local beer expert Randy Mosher), touches on Chicago's first brewery, the Lager Beer Riot of 1855, the construction of the Siebel Institute, the era of tied houses, and the current craft brewing scene in the city. And the enthusiasm the contributors and Oliver himself have for beer is contagious. Not given to understatement, Oliver kicks off the preface by asserting: "Beer can be crisply acidic and earthy, or it can be bracingly bitter and spectacularly aromatic. It can evince a mere prickle of carbonation or flourish on the palate into a fine mousse. It can be enjoyed days after it was brewed or emerge from a bottle more than a century later and produce rapturous delight." —Julia Thiel Oliver signs the book Tue 10/11, beginning at 5:30 PM at the Publican, 837 W. Fulton, 312-733-9555; there's an optional four-course prix fixe dinner for $55, $70 with beer pairings. The Hopleaf hosts a launch event with Oliver and Ray Daniels Thu 10/13, 7-9 PM, 5148 N. Clark, 773-334-9851, free.

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