Book Review: Drinking with George by George Wendt

Norm is somewhat of a hero around these parts, I aspire to be as cool as Norm, I wish I was as quick with a one liner and had the time to devote to beer drinking as Normy does. Any man (or women for that matter) would be happy to have a local like Cheers, where indeed everyone knows your name, you never appear to actually pay for a beer, and your drinking buddies are always there.

We love Norm so much that we set out to prove that every beer can be linking back to this patron saint of barflys and I think you’ll find we have proven this time and time again.

So given my well know love for all things Norm it was only a matter of time before someone bought me this book. That person was (once again) my awesome brother Andre, he had found it at The Strand bookshop in New York  famous for its 18 miles of books, and he gave it to me way back in April in a suitably beer fuelled event

I started reading it a couple of months later (let most people I have a pile of books I’ve been meaning to read) when I was hungover one Saturday morning, again how apt is that?

Hungover is not usually the right state to be exploring literary tomes. But this book seems to have been written for the hungover (playing to their market obviously) as it’s an easy read.

The whole book reads like you are actually in the pub with George Wendt and he is telling you the story of his life as seen through beer goggles (I understand this style of writing quite well). And the reason this works is because George comes across as a genuinely likeable fellow who has led an interesting life filled with beer.

The book isn’t all stories of George getting drunk, spread throughout the book are facts about beer (I feel this is where ghost writer Jonathan Grotenstein comes in) such pearls of wisdom as The fastest way to cool a beer (check out the video below for the answer), What Irish handcuffs are (a beer in each hand), 100 ways to say your drunk and which came first beer or bread (sadly there is no discussion of the link between beards and beer, but maybe they are leaving themselves open to a sequel)

So long story short, buy this book, it’s the next best thing to actually having a beer with George Wendt, and who wouldn’t want to do that.      

The Special Music Video:  Extra special treat for you all (and the reason this review has taken so long to appear.) Behold this tribute to Norm, and Tipples and Me (how egoistical) all set to the awesome song called ‘Norm from Cheers’ by the early 90’s Sydney band The Welcome Mat. 

Yep that’s right Norm is so cool he has songs written about him.

The not so longbow YouTube Video: It’s George talking about the book (Sorry about the like but it won’t embed):

Book Review – Brewing up a Business by Sam Calagoine

This isn’t really a book about beer. I mean it’s written by Sam Calagoine who founded and still runs Dogfish Head Brewery, one of America’s leading craft breweries.  But really this is a book about how to run a business (which just happens to be a brewery) as opposed to how to brew beer, drink beer or do anything else with beer.

Now Sam is the darling of the American Craft brew scene, and he is a master of pushing the Dogfish Head brand, as well as brand Sam. You can see him in the movies (He has quite a big role in Brew Wars),  watch him on his own television show, the short lived Brewmasters and now read about him in this book which he wrote himself.

Quite frankly if he didn’t make such good beer, and didn’t seem like a genuinely nice guy and a true lover of beer you might hate him for all this over exposure, and success.  

But is this book any good? Sort of, assuming you are happy to read about business strategies rather than beer recipes.

He can write, he was a English major in College, and the book starts off with some great yarns, particularly from the pre business days, the stories from his boarding school days are like something out of a 1980’s high school movie, but as the book goes on, and the business becomes more and more successful it really does start to read like a business book, albeit a slightly new age, we should all love each other, hug, share ideas and profits sort of way.

Don’t get me wrong it’s quite inspiring. Sam makes owning a business sound so rewarding. In fact it inspired me enough to do some research into opening my own bar. Of course I quickly remembered that it’s much more fun to sit in bars that to actually own one, so this idea was quickly shelved.

Perhaps I should move to Delaware and petition Sam to let me join the Dogfish Head team – It certainly sounds like a great place to work. Plus I have some wicked rap skills so I would fit in well……

Book Review – Fermenting Revolution

If you read only one book about beer in the next 12 months, you could do a lot worse than ‘Fermenting Revolution’ by Christopher O’Brien. 

This is not your standard beer book. It isn’t 1000 beers to drink before you die, 500 of the world’s best beers, 100 best beers from the last year, 73 beers to drink whilst wearing a hat, or one of the thousands of other beer list books. The giveaway to this might be the subtitle ‘How to Drink Beer and Save the World’

It’s a big claim, and I’m not sure that it ever really convinces me that Beer is the ultimate environmental product, but this was written in the mid 2000’ so ecological fervour was at its zenith, and the sure fire way to sell books was to placate people’s environmental concerns. I also note that the Chris O’Brien does look  like a weedy Steve Irwin (I also think he might have played the landlord in Aussie the movie ‘48 Shades of Brown’) so I feel it might have more than a passing interest in the environment and beer.

What the book does do though is make you feel really fricken good about drinking craft beer, and if you save a the green bellied tree frog along the way then well and good.

Author Chris O'Brien

This is all done in a fascinating way. For instance did you know that every great ancient civilisation was built on beer? That beer is an excellent way to provide both water and nutrition to the starving.  That beer is one of the few products where a majority is distributed in bulk (kegs) meaning there are no empty bottles filling up landfills?

This book is all very American in focus, there is a lot of talk about brew pubs and micro breweries being confided to a single state or region, but it is very interesting to see the parallels between the movement being described in America 5 years ago with the scene in Australia currently.

So if you want to feel better about your place in the world as a craft beer drinker, and you want to learn some cool new stuff about beer to tell your friends about down the pub – then pick up this book, or check out the author’s website here.

The Long Bow YouTube Clip: Here is Chris O’Brien Doppelganger, drinking beer, who would have thought

Book Review – Australia’s Best Beers

Tipples has never really been much of an academic pursuit. Beer is not really thought of as inspiring great literature , but there are an increasing amount of books on my book shelf at home which in some way or another at connected to beer, and unlike many of the books I own, I’ve actually got around to reading some of them.

Clearly you dear reader are capable of reading text and comprehending basic sentences so I thought why not introduce a few reviews to the site, so on those days when you don’t feel like following my drinking advice you can follow my reading advice instead. .

First cab of the rank is an obvious choice – Australia’s Best Beers.

Now the beer fuelled interwebs was almost in meltdown when this tome was released nigh on six weeks ago. In a display of clever marketing the publishers drip feed us the top 12 beers in the 12 days leading up to release, and no doubt to the PR company’s delight there was a fair bit of internet chatter surrounding the choices. I resisted the urge to say that Stone & Wood is a massively overrated beer and thus unworthy of the number 1 spot (Oops looks like I ruined the ending)

But is the book any good? Well it’s not brilliant.

I love the idea. They found 39 beer experts (although how expert they can be I’m not sure as only 5 of them have beards) and got them to list their top 50 beers of the year, they then collected the votes and came up with top 100.

This would be fun discussion to have in a pub, maybe even on the internet, but I’m not sure it makes for great reading as such. The information on each beer although interesting is a little light on, with one paragraph from the brewer (sometimes just what’s on the label) and then a paragraph from one of the judges on why it’s a good beer.

The book is really more of a reference guide (kind of like a Good Food Guide, but not as exhaustive) rather than a read in one sitting type of book. I was interested in seeing what was included (and what wasn’t) and barracking for my favourite brewers, it has also given me some ideas of new brews to seek out, so I guess it’s done its job.

It also analyses the list to within an inch of its life, like a football fan pouring over the stats on a Sunday morning to relive the win from the day before – I have a feeling that this stats section would appeal to many a beer geek out there, and certainly to Victorian Beer geeks as we make up 40% of the top 100, and 35% of the nominated brews and 30% of the breweries proving that Victoria really is the home of craft beer in Australia.

More interesting than the stats though is a little section tacked on at the back about beer service – this stresses how important the way you serve the beer is, from temperatures (Aussie serve everything way too cold) glass choice (it’s a shame old man handles don’t get a run) and how to pour a beer (head is a good thing, but hey I think we all knew that).

Is it worth picking up? Yeah, Is it a great read – Not really, but there are a few nuggets of information here and there which will keep you coming back to check it time and time again – Now what temperature should my London Porter be at?