Books, part 1

8 01 2011

The Y-chromosome-deficient amongst us would have us believe (and undoubtedly themselves believe) that men are incapable of multitasking. Complete bullshit. I can drink whilst trawling the internet for awkward pictures of Kim Jong-Il, I can drink whilst riding a bicycle through a clusterfuck of Japanese bar hostesses and cube-shaped cars, hell, I can even drink whilst pouring another drink. And one of my favourite and frequent pastimes is drinking whilst reading.

This blog was partially inspired by Everyday Drinking by Kingsley Amis, a brilliant compendium of his spirituous oeuvre concerning any and all aspects of the drink; “Wives and such are constantly filling up any refrigerator they have a claim on, even its ice-compartment, with irrelevant rubbish like food.” It contains innumerable cocktails recipes (both widespread and of Amis’ own invention), commentary on drinking establishments, wily ways in which to throw a cheap party, how to deal with both the physical and metaphysical hangover, and so forth. The final portion of the book consists of booze-related quizzes to test the hardiest and worldliest of tipplers. The liquor perhaps got the better of Amis in his later years, but that’s aside the point.

My collection of books concerning drinks and drinking is rather on the lean side, but in terms of quality, is excellent, if I may say so. I’ve acquired a few more over the Christmas/holiday period; one of these, a gift from my lovely partner (she once gave me a greeting card featuring the classic W. C. Fields line, “A woman drove me to drink and I didn’t even have the decency to thank her”), was a copy of 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die by Adrian Tierney-Jones. I’ve always been a little suspicious of these compendiums covering an arbitrary number of, well, whatever it is – 50 places you must visit, 100 albums you must hear (especially anything compiled by a music journo), and so on. But let’s face it, you can never have enough beer. Spanning 960 pages and weighing almost two kilos, this book is elephantine, and the quality is fantastic – beers are divided into styles (and can also be searched by country index and brewery index) and are accompanied by information and anecdotes regarding the brewery, ideal serving temperatures, tasting notes, pictures of the label and/or bottle, historical beer posters and advertisements, and plenty of other general information regarding the brewing process and so forth. It’s exhaustive. The Australian beers featured within are actually quite impressive, and fortunately bereft of Fosters, Crown Lager and the like (click here for a full list of them). If any criticisms can be made concerning the Australian brews, it’s that they were all tasted (and hence written about) by a single person. I haven’t read all the entries for the Australian beers, but the majority I’ve seen so far feature cringe-worthy statements such as “best enjoyed with your mates at a barbecue”, or “best enjoyed with your mates whilst watching the cricket” or some similarly hackneyed nonsense. (“Tooheys New? Best enjoyed whilst rootin’ some sheila in the back of the ute with Farnsy on the stereo.”)

Anyway, that’s really a minor gripe in what is otherwise an imposing and first-class piece of work on one of the greatest drinks known to humankind. Highly recommended. Once I’ve perused this boozy opus in a more thorough fashion I’ll let you know how many of these 1001 beers I’ve actually tried, then I’ll likely drink myself into a depressive oblivion over how little of the beer world I’ve actually explored.