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Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Brewery, has literally written the book on beer. He’s the editor-in-chief of The Oxford Companion to Beer, a new five year-in-the-making 960-page tome covering everything from Aroma Hops to Zymurgy.

Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery, beer scholar, and editor of the new Oxford Companion to Beer

Does beer really require an encyclopedia? Apparently so–the book has already sold out its first printing. Beer is serious these days. The revival of craft breweries (Sixpoint, Kelso, and Brooklyn Brewery in our borough alone), the increased interest in homebrewing (thanks to people like Brooklyn Homebrew and Bitter & Esters), and the growing likelihood of overhearing in-depth conversations about the merits of rare hop varietals during your morning subway commute, all point to a beer drinking populace that is thirsty for knowledge – Oliver and Oxford have been kind enough to drop some on us.

According to Oxford, the book is perfect for “home brewers, restaurateurs, journalists, cooking school instructors, beer importers, distributors, and retailers” and includes “practical information and engaging beer anecdotes,” so expect to start hearing a lot more engaging beer anecdotes from your neighborhood beer importer any day now.

Gothamist ran a Q&A (which is, in fact, loaded with engaging beer anecdotes) with Oliver last week, asking him about the worst beer he’s ever had (a Vietnamese beer that was “really, really ghastly”) and why we have so many craft breweries these days (“…craft brewing is not a trend or a fad. What it actually is, is a return to normality.”)

Of the many things Garrett himself learned while compiling the book, one of our favorites has to be:

“…in the mid-1800s, porter—which was the great beer style of its day, especially in England—was in fact pumped full of drugs. So the same way that you had Coca Cola in the United States with cocaine in it, well, in England, porter was full of a drug called Cocculus indicus, which has a toxin in it that rendered people senseless. That was a standard ingredient for many of the beers of the day, so beer is much purer these days than it used to be.”

Not convinced? Here’s Garrett wrapping up the history of craft brewing in 100 seconds:

And here he is on why beer is better than wine (that’s right, he said it):

Curious why brewers used to add chili pepper to their brews? Always wanted to know what light beer was but too afraid to ask? Keep an eye out for the second printing of The Oxford Companion to Beer, and grab a cold (craft) one while you wait.


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