Featured Contributor: Andrew Newton @DrinkMeLocal
I first met Mirella while judging the Atlantic Canada Beer Awards last fall. At the end of the evening I had the opportunity to speak with her about her career and the Cicerone program. She was very approachable and happy to answer questions she’s probably been asked a hundred times over. It wasn’t until later that I understood what a Master Cicerone was, that she is Canada’s only one, and one of only seven in the world.
I was intrigued to read Mirella’s book and see beer through her eyes. I’ll admit that I was a little skeptical as I began reading through the first pages. My initial concerns were that the ‘Beer Basics’ section would be, well, a bit basic, and that she had chosen to organize the ‘Beer Styles’ section differently for differents sake.
All of her explanations are thorough yet concise, and her writing feels like a refreshing view on the subject. The inclusion of beer storing and presentation shows her Cicerone background and is a nice addition not generally found in similar books.
My main area of concern, her style categories, made me rethink the way I group beers together. I had become so wrapped up in the BJCP style guidelines that I had forgotten something important: beers are meant to be enjoyed, and different situations call for different beers. Mirella’s groupings are based on mood or occasion rather than by regional tradition.
As a Canadian the most pleasant surprise is the commercial examples of beer styles. They are evenly split between Canadian and American brands, with a few key international names where appropriate. The Canadian examples alone make this an invaluable resource for Canadian readers who tire of reading about brands unavailable outside of America. It also serves as a Canadian beer primer for those looking to explore the Great White North.
The food pairing section is where this book truly excels. I knew going in that Beerology has drawn comparisons to Randy Mosher’s Tasting Beer so I read one after the other. Let me tell you this: both authors approach pairing differently and with guidelines to follow, but it is Beerology that truly made me feel confident in my ability to pair.
Previous critics have commented that it lacks the ‘this with that’ pairing suggestions but this is actually one of its strengths. Pairing is not a series hard and fast rules, even with beers of the same style. As she says, “…because beer is such a multilayered beverage, there are many beer and food combinations that are fantastic despite the fact that they do not conform to pairing recommendations at all.” Mirella breaks it down and gives you the tools to decide for yourself what works and what doesn’t. From there it is all experimentation and imagination. Hypothesis, experiment, conclusion. Thank you high school science.
As if to give the reader one final thought about beer the book finishes off with beer cocktails. There are plenty of craft beer aficionados that shudder at the idea, but not only is it a long standing tradition in parts of the world, it reminds us not to take beer too seriously. Relax. Let it mingle and show off some versatility.
I highly recommend this book for beer lovers of all levels. It has proven it’s worth as more than just a rehashing of beer basics. The depth of knowledge that Mirella provides in an easy to assimilate fashion speaks to her ability as a teacher. And when the master speaks the student should listen.
Andrew Newton is a beer and wine writer that likes to keep it local. He lives in the land of Tidal Bay and blogs irregularly at DrinkMeLocal.ca