Beer Town: Five beer books for summer reading

With the July 4 holiday coming up, and many more weeks of hot weather ahead, it’s the season of summer reading lists. Novels and biographies are popular at the beach or the mountains or wherever a vacation offers the time and place to curl up. But here are five 2015 books for those of us who like to read about beer almost as much as we like to drink it.

"Beer O'Clock: An Insider's Guide to History, Craft, and Culture" by Jane Peyton (Skyhorse,$14.99) — The founder of the London-based School of Booze, Peyton writes from a British perspective. But in the intro to the North American edition of "Beer O'Clock," she declares that "one of the greatest things about beer is how it brings together people from all over the world." And she goes on to delve into beer history, styles, pairing theory, and even a bit of trivia with an easygoing style that keeps the pages turning.

"The Beer Wench's Guide to Beer: An Unpretentious Guide to Craft Beer" by Ashley V. Routson (Voyageur Press, $22.99) — Best known as the Beer Wench, Routson is a longtime American craft beer evangelist, writing for Draft and Beer Advocate magazines, and founding IPA Day. In what she calls an "unpretentious" guide, she covers a lot of beer territory, with nine chapters on beer styles, a major section on tasting and evaluating beer, and a well-conceived section on "having fun with beer" that includes pairing, and cooking with recipes for the likes of waffles made with wheat ale.

"Mikkeller's Book of Beer: Includes 25 Original Mikkeller Brewing Recipes" by Mikkel Borg Bjergs and Pernille Pang (Jacqui Small, $29.99) — A beer geek hero and one of the pioneers of "phantom brewing," Mikkel Borg Bjergs is the founder of the Danish brewery Mikkeller, beer bars in Copenhagen and San Francisco, and beer shops around the world. His "Book of Beer" is part autobiography, part guidebook, and part how-to manual, with recipes for home brewers who want to get serious about all-grain brewing. Lurking behind all the beer talk, though, is the fascinating tale of his identical and estranged twin brother, Jeppe, of the Brooklyn-based phantom brewing company, Evil Twin.

"Speed Brewing: Techniques and Recipes for Fast-Fermenting Beers, Ciders, Meads, and More" by Mary Izett (Voyageur Press, $19.99) — The subtitle says it all. And strange as it sounds at first, alcoholic beverages have been fermented fast during many periods of history and in many countries all over the world with reliable and even exciting results. Izett offers brewing insights and recipes for all sorts of styles, including session IPA, gose with smoked salt, short mead, city cider, and even more exotic drinks, such as kombucha, kefir, boozy buch and mauby. There's also an overview of basic techniques and equipment useful for brewing beginners.

"The Umami Factor: Full-Spectrum Fermentation for the 21st Century" by Robert Rivelle George (Schiffer, $39.99) — I'll admit, this is one I haven't spent an enough time with yet. George introduces a lot of theory and mad science, tweaking recipes in order to create a "full spectrum" in fermented beverages to achieve what he calls the "umami factor." At first glance, it's a strange book, maybe something like what a new age guru would write about brewing, with funny photos like those that might appear in a parody of an old textbook (Figure 4.5 "Maiden in Sublime Root Beer Repose"). Whether it's actually useful will take more research. But it's certainly one of the more interesting and provocative beverage books to come along in a while.