Ultimate Beer


Ultimate Beer is a complete guide to every aspect of beer. Just as any wine can be consumed at any time, so can any beer, but like the grape, the grain has its favored moods and moments including the right beer for every occasion. Written for the novice as well as the connoisseur, Ultimate Beer elevates beer to the lofty status of wine and cigars. Encyclopedic presentation of more than 1000 beers from around the world. .Includes sections on beer and food and cooking with beer. ...
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Ultimate Beer is a complete guide to every aspect of beer. Just as any wine can be consumed at any time, so can any beer, but like the grape, the grain has its favored moods and moments including the right beer for every occasion. Written for the novice as well as the connoisseur, Ultimate Beer elevates beer to the lofty status of wine and cigars. Encyclopedic presentation of more than 1000 beers from around the world. .Includes sections on beer and food and cooking with beer.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
December 1998

With the holidays right around the corner, beer will surely be the staple for many adults who rejoice in celebrating the season with kindred spirits. Just in time for the holidays, world-renowned beer connoisseur Michael Jackson has written a book that educates both novices and experienced beer drinkers alike. With Ultimate Beer,Jackson provides insight into the vast array of beers that are now being brewed around the globe. He answers common beer questions while also delving into more serious topics of interest to the experienced beer drinker.

Ultimate Beer is a lavishly illustrated exploration of beer from its historical origins to the present day. Jackson writes about the various brewing methods and distinctive characteristics associated with all beer types. Why do certain beers taste the way they do? What does a stout, ale, or pilsner taste like? What is the best time to enjoy a specific beer? These questions and countless others are answered as Jackson reveals fascinating aspects of beer history while guiding readers to more than 500 individual beers.

Whether you are looking for a simple thirst quencher, an alternative to champagne, an appetizer, or a nightcap, Michael Jackson recommends exactly the right beer for the occasion, with numerous other examples that you can try.

Widely considered the world's leading authority on beer, Jackson offers a colorful guide for general readers. He briefly reviews the history of beer, the ingredients and process used to make it, and tips on tasting. Then he reviews some hundreds of brands, and finishes by discussing beer and food and cooking with beer.
Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Oregon
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780789435279
  • Publisher: DK Publishing, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/1998
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 9.24 (w) x 11.29 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Interviews & Essays

On Friday, December 4th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Michael Jackson to discuss ULTIMATE BEER.

Moderator: Hello, Michael Jackson. Thank you for taking the time to join us online this afternoon to discuss your new book, ULTIMATE BEER. How is everything in Washington, D.C., today?

Michael Jackson: It is all right. It is already four o'clock and I haven't had a beer, so I might have to head downstairs fairly soon.

Mike from Sudbury, MA: How is your book different from the countless other beer guides that line the shelves of bookstores across the country?

Michael Jackson: Good question. I would like to think that the most important difference is that it is written by Michael Jackson, which might sound arrogant, but I don't mean it to be. What I do mean by this is that I started beer hunting more than 20 years ago, and many of the beers and styles now being imported or made here became available as a result of my writing, so I think a rather broader and deeper overview than most other writers on the subject is the answer. Some of the more generous newer writers have started ad nauseam their own books.

PAC87@AOL.COM from XX: What to you are some of the best Christmas beers?

Michael Jackson: That is something I address in the new book, in that the whole matrix of the book is to discuss different moments and uses for different beers. The first section deals with seasonal beers. The biggest photographic image and the largest text in that section deals with a beer under threat at the moment, Samichlaus, from Switzerland. It would be nice to think that the coverage I and other writers have given to this beer will help to save it, but we will see. Some other Christmas classics that I mention in the book are Gordon Xmas, from Belgium; Koff Christmas beer, from Finland; Vaux St. Nicholas, from England; and the classic Anchor "Our Special Holiday Ale," from California.

Elke from NYC: Is Pilsner Urquell really the beer by which all other pilsners are judged? My mother told me that over Thanksgiving dinner -- that was the beer we served. It was delicious, but a little bitter.

Michael Jackson: The beer that you mentioned was the world's first clear, golden brew. It was, and still is, made in the town of Pilsen, in Bohemia, which is in the Czech Republic. Every other beer in the world that uses the term "pilsner" on the label was inspired by this one brew. It is the world's original pilsner, and until recently, I would have said that it was also the best. It is still a truly great beer but has lost some of its character in recent years as a result of more modern production methods. It is heavily featured in my new book, alongside such other classic pilsners as Jever, from Germany, Christoffel Blond, from the Netherlands...and some new favorites, like Con Domus, from Belgium, and Victory Prima Pils, from Pennsylvania.

Steve Hall from New Albany, Indiana: Mr. Jackson, what are your thoughts on style guidelines? Are they important? Should they always be followed? Should brewers be allowed to blend styles or to create new styles of beer? Thanks, Steve.

Michael Jackson: The importance of style guidelines is that they help us to understand the intention of the brewer and give us an idea what to expect. Without some sort of definition, the term "champagne" could be applied to Ripple, and in the past, similar misrepresentation has occurred in the world of beer. Despite my concerns in this matter, I obviously realize that there can be more than one interpretation of a classic style -- it is a matter of emphasis. Equally, I welcome the creation of completely new styles, especially when they bring genuine character and diversity to the world of beer.

Peter Lake from Villa Park, IL: How does Bud-Coors-Miller continue to get people to drink the swill they produce?

Michael Jackson: People drink these beers because they like them, not because of some sinister technique of persuasion. Whether they are swill or not is a matter of personal opinion and interpretation. I don't drink them, because I find them bland and uninteresting, and I hated it when they seemed to drive out all other types of beer. Today, thank heaven, we have a far greater choice. It is up to us to exercise that choice and encourage other people to do so. We get the beer we deserve.

Scott Zimmerle from Elmhurst, IL: Hello, Mr. Jackson. First off, thanks so much for helping myself and others discover the worlds of tastes in beer and whiskey. I recently obtained a case of 1997 Samichlaus beer. There is a glowing description of it in your ULTIMATE BEER book, but that description seems to have been written before the brewery announced its decision to discontinue the beer. I found it to be uniquely flavored, a rich, dark fruit essence. Can you speculate on how much bottles of this beer are worth or will be worth?

Michael Jackson: Thanks for your kind comment. As you suggest, this text was indeed written before the brewers of Samichlaus came off the fence concerning their intentions. No doubt the beer will gain in value in the future, and it is quite interesting to note that the Safeway stores in Britain have this Christmas bought every bottle of this beer that they can find. This is the first case I recall of a supermarket chain buying an entire vintage of a beer. Given that companies like Safeway are run by very hardheaded businessmen, it is clear that someone thinks that the consumer will like to be able to buy Samichlaus, and I hope that it rises from the threatened eternal sleep (see earlier answer).

Gary from Durham, NC: Mr. Jackson, welcome to the USA. As a beer lover and homebrewer, I'm a big fan of your writing. Since you are in D.C. and I'm not far away, in North Carolina, could you comment on some of the "local" beers -- Old Dominion, Victory? Are you familiar with Carolina Brewing Co. (they make a pale, nut brown, and just released a lager). Fresh beer is the best!

Michael Jackson: Yes, I agree that freshness makes a huge difference to beer. I love the Old Dominion beers, which are mentioned quite extensively in the new book and, of course, in some of my past works. As for Carolina Brewery, is this the one in Chapel Hill? I remember enjoying a very good pilsner there called Franklin Street Lager.

Jan Armstrong from Lombard, IL: I have seen that you support cask-conditioned ales. I had the chance to try one recently, and I can't say that I was overwhelmed. It was at Stoudt's Brewery in Pennsylvania. What is the idea behind cask-conditioned ale?

Michael Jackson: Good question. I think lots of people wonder about this. Cask-conditioned ale is very much a British phenomenon. The ale is put into casks unfiltered and unpasteurized and allowed to reach the peak of condition in the cellar of the pub. It is then served without any gas pressure, simply by a manual pump. The lack of filtration and pasteurization permits the beer to express its most subtle flavors to the full. The secondary fermentation in the cask develops a great complexity of flavors, and the lack of gas pressure means that the palate is not attacked by carbon dioxide. The result can seem flat and thin to a drinker who has not experienced it before. But once the taste has been acquired, no other beer seems quite as "live" in flavor.

Mark Williams from Washington, D.C.: I hope you don't mind a second question from me. But I'd like to know your opinion about American brewers' attempts at making various Belgian-style beers. I'm certainly enthusiastic about a great deal that American brewers have done over the years, but it seems to me that in this area (with the exception of Mr. Celis, but he doesn't really count), the attempts have been rather miserable overall. What do you think?

Michael Jackson: I agree that Pierre Celis produces some outstanding Belgian-style beers in the U.S. But I would also like to draw attention to Ommegang of Cooperstown, New York, the New Belgium brewing company of Fort Collins, Colorado, and New Glarus Brewing in Wisconsin. All are making some very interesting beers, though the competition from Belgium is very strong indeed.

Brandon from Skowhegan, Maine: I'm going to Ireland next year. What beers and ales do you recommend?

Michael Jackson: Although Ireland is one of the great brewing nations, on the strength of both its tradition and its role in popularizing dry stouts, it has very few breweries. You obviously know about Guinness, and perhaps about Smithwicks, Murphy's, and Beamish. Apart from those major brewers, there have been established in the last few years about ten micros and brew pubs. That may sound very few, and indeed it is, but bear in mind that Ireland has only about four million people. The best place to start is the Porterhouse Brew Pub, in Parliament Street, Dublin. They make outstanding beers, including an Irish Red Ale, a porter, a regular stout, and an oyster stout.

Niki from Niki_palek@yahoo.com: Why do you think Budweiser is so popular internationally? It can't be because of the taste....

Michael Jackson: It is because of the lack of taste. Serious American beer lovers often ask me why people in this country seem to like such bland beer, but the truth is that tasteless drinks (and foods) have a market everywhere in the world.

Mickey from Brooklyn: Which beers, if any, do you recommend serving not cold?

Michael Jackson: Good question. It is a misunderstanding to believe that people in Europe like their beer warm. This results from the specifically British custom of cask-conditioning beer, which requires a temperature in the lower to mid 50s. This is a good temperature for many types of ale, but is cellar temperature rather than room temperature. A lager with plenty of flavor will taste better at around 48° then it will at the typical 40° or less. Below about 45°, the cold begins to drive out the taste -- and to freeze the tongue.

Marisa Arevalo from Chicago, Illinois: Dear sir, here in Chicago one does need something to warm up the heart. What is a good choice when eating at a casual dinner? How did you become interested in beer?

Michael Jackson: It depends what you are eating. In my new book, I make a wide range of suggestions of beers that go with specific types of food. (And incidentally, I suggest serving temperatures for each.) How did I become interested in beer? I first drank it as bravado at the age of about 14, and later out of custom as a young newspaper journalist, and I was very curious to know exactly what I was smelling and tasting. So I have been interested for a long time, but did not get a chance to pursue these questions until newspapers began to run columns on wine. I argued for many years and at length with success that beer was the wine of our country and deserved equal respect.

Oskar Norlander from Minneapolis, MN: In the description of your new book, it says that you recommend several hundred beers. Did you pick beers that were representative of the style or beers that stand out from the rest of the beers in that style? For example, I believe Sierra Nevada Porter represents that style very well, while Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter is a unique porter.

Michael Jackson: While the focus of my last book, MICHAEL JACKSON'S BEER COMPANION, was to identify and explain styles, the new work focuses more on the uses of the beer. I did try to highlight classic examples of styles, but I think on reflection that I took a very broad view.

Steve from Indiana: I keep reading that the microbrew explosion in the U.S. has peaked and now a lot of Americans have gone back to the bland brews of yesteryear. Your thoughts?

Michael Jackson: Good question. I think that the microbrew movement is a very long way from peaking, but is going through a period of growing up. The myth of its having peaked results from the disappointment experienced by the infantile folk of Wall Street, who forever think they have discovered a crock of gold, then become very angry when they discover that they haven't. I can't see people who have enjoyed flavorful beer ever going back to the mass-market brews. It is like getting the boys back to the farm after they have seen Paris. The well-run breweries that make good beers will continue to thrive and will gain a bigger market share in the future.

Greg and Dan from Athens, GA: Mr. Jackson, we are two college students with limited funds. Please don't think this is a stupid question, but of the cheap American domestics, which do you think are some of the better ones? There has got to be something cheap that tastes better than Milwaukee's Best.

Michael Jackson: Bland beer is boring, however cheap it is. I would suggest that you drink characterful beer, but perhaps less of it, so that you can stay within your budget. Some of the micros are not a whole lot more expensive than standard beers.

Will from Washington, D.C.: Mr. Jackson, do you brew beer at home? Do you have any quick words of advice for homebrewers?

Michael Jackson: My advice to homebrewers is to experiment, persist, and enjoy themselves. Do I ever brew at home? I am never home. If I did, I am not sure how I would ever find time to consume my product. Every day the mailman, UPS, and FedEx bring me boxes of beer. At any one time I have about 1,500 beers in my house.

Moderator: Thanks so much for dropping by, Michael Jackson, to discuss ULTIMATE BEER! This has been a fascinating chat, and you've made us all very thirsty! Before we go out for a beer, do you have any closing comments for your online audience?

Michael Jackson: Yes, my final comment would be the thought that began the text in my previous book, MICHAEL JACKSON'S BEER COMPANION: Never ask for "a beer."

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