Awards & Reviews
A Beer Drinker’s Guide To
Knowing And Enjoying Fine Wine
Book Excellence Awards Winner | Readers’ Favorite 5 Stars | Finalist, Indie Book Awards | Kirkus’ Best Indie Books of 2013
Kirkus – Starred Review
For all the beer-drinking die-hards, Laughren serves an enticing, thorough, though not suffocating introduction to hops’ fermented friend, the grape. Though the shelves creak under the weight of wine books for dummies and gun-shy tipplers terrified by wine-speak, here’s a welcome addition that’s relaxed, inviting and intelligent.
Laughren is a bon vivant without being a boob, a sensualist even if he wouldn’t put it that way. He likes his beer—the book is liberally sprinkled with beer wisdom, as if to soothe the wary brewer—but he’s also a big fan of wine, and he wants readers in on the action. He aims to provide an unintimidating yet rich tour through the world of wine, highlighting its conviviality but undergirding it with a candid sense of what’s in the glass.
With a healthy dose of detail, Laughren touches on the history of wine, factors in its production and an appreciation of terroir. He sketches various social scenarios and the wines he might choose to complement them: a zinfandel with a basketball game on TV; a big, young Brunello di Montalcino when the brothers of your new squeeze stop by to check you out; a cabernet sauvignon for dinner with the boss; a dry sherry when self-same squeeze comes by to break up with you. A sweet, bright humor pervades the book, as Laughren makes wine tasting sound like fun rather than an opportunity to embarrass yourself.
His descriptions—“like sucking stones and chips of slate dipped in lime and lychee juice”—require attention. He’s chummy, like a knowledgeable friend who doesn’t need to wear it on his sleeve, though the insight seeps through. Most importantly, he’s on your side: “there’s no need to excuse your preferences,” he says, but be open to new experiences. Also included are excellent maps of wine-producing regions and a brief survey of various oenological tools.
Cheers to this spirited, perceptive guide.
Sacramento Book Review – 5 Stars
Though the title suggests otherwise, this book is not just for beer drinkers. Full of tons of useful information, it is perfect for anyone looking to improve his or her wine knowledge. Plus, there is a lot of discussion of beer, so, if you don’t have a background in the finer points of the brew, you can learn a lot about that, too.
Laughren covers all of the basics (and not so basics) of enjoying wine like a pro. He discusses the processes of growing wine grapes and turning them into wine. He provides the basic characteristics of each of the main varietals. He talks about the main wine regions in the Old World (Europe) and the New World (not Europe). For each region, he gives details of the temperature, climate, terrain, grapes grown, and wine made. There is a ton of specificity in this section, and it alone could double as a traveler’s guide to wine tasting.
There are also chapters about selecting wines, recommendations for various occasions, party ideas, and more. Though the focus is on the vino, he also discusses all of this (in miniature) for beer as well. My favorite section, however, is the one about actually tasting the grape. Laughren explains, in detail, how to really look at, smell, and taste a wine.
He gives a step-by-step for the entire process, and it is insanely useful. He also tells you what the different sights, smells, and flavors say about a wine. For example, after swirling wine around in a glass, pause and see how the wine on the sides returns to the bowl. If it forms thick drops, it has a higher alcohol level than if it forms a thin, even sheet. There is even a section on interpreting the things you smell and taste into winespeak (and translating winespeak into things that mean something to you).
A Beer Drinker’s Guide is absolutely full of interesting, useful information for selecting, smelling, tasting, and, yes, enjoying wine. Laughren’s tone is casual and approachable, and he never comes off as snobby. This book is fun to read and fun to use. I do recommend reading it with a bottle or two nearby. After reading all about how to enjoy and interpret wine, I was dying for a glass to practice on. I will certainly be keeping this and referring to it often.
Reader’s Favorite – 5 Stars
“Stay loose”; This directive early in the book grabbed my thought process and pervaded every word written thereafter. It is definitely an important directive in this guide to how a beer lover can learn to appreciate the mysterious vino and its people, and perhaps help winos better understand their hophead brethren as well.
The guide takes you through quick tutorials and more in-depth details of both the similarities between beer and wine, and their differences. It is comprehensive enough to be informative and sketch-like enough to stay interesting. Probably the most satisfying passage is where Mr. Laughren says, in effect: 'Don't try to read all this in one sitting.
Pick a region, pick a topic, come back at your leisure. There's no rush.' This was an impressive move, precisely at the point where a beer drinker might have gone to get a beer and left the book behind. It gives the reader great hope, provides some breathing room, and allows the reader the freedom to sample the dialogue at his or her own pace, just as the author suggests a beer drinker do with the fruit of the vine.
The editing is superior – what a pleasure! At the same time, the witticisms scattered throughout are unfettered by editorial rules. It is just beautiful stuff. This is a book that I would gladly share with my beer-drinker cronies, while keeping a copy stashed away for myself.