New beer buyers guide for trade and consumer

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 4th November 2013

The Australian and New Zealand Beer Buyers Guide is a book that will easily be appreciated by beer lovers at all levels. It also has the ability to act as a tool for liquor retailers looking to better develop their beer offering to the consumer.

Early on, the book includes some weighty recommendations to it; from the likes of John Palmer (author How To Brew), Roger Protz (Editor CAMRA Good Beer Guide), and Chuck Hahn (Hahn and Malt Shovel Brewmaster), before it introduces a list of contributors including Paul Mercurio (actor, author and beer enthusiast), and Chris Badenoch (Masterchef finalist, author and co-owner Josie Bones Restaurant).

The book is broken down into nine chapters, and at first I was tempted to skip the first ‘What Is Beer And How Is It Made’, however this does act as a lead in to those starting their beer journey; and for those that already know it all,this chapter is nicely laid out, and at the very least would make a good refresher before giving your next beer talk to the local Rotary Club.

In addition to the obligatory history of beer dating back to 10,000 BC, and the statement of facts backing beer’s popularity, the chapter does include a visual brewing chart outlining the brewing process, and both a hop and malt characteristic chart.

In the chapters that follow, ‘Tasting Beer’ covers the process of appreciating beer through sensory analysis, some biological background on how we can taste, as well as judging beer. ‘Glassware’ offers a concise summary of beer glasses and their characteristics, and matching glass style to beer style.

‘Buying Beer’ provides the reader with eight different occasions for drinking beer (perhaps to help those that have already purchased a few beers, and not sure what to do next!). Serving temperatures for different styles are listed that will probably raise an eyebrow from drinkers custom to having their beer poured from a tap with a fluorescent “-2°C Supercold” display on the handle. The freshness of beer and best before dates gets mention, which will immediately makes any beer hunter recount the number of times they have had encounters with out of date beers; it is comforting to be assured however ‘that out of date beer will not cause physical harm to humans’.

The book covers a lot of beer trodden ground while remaining upbeat and having a little fun at the same time. A creative chart on matching beer styles to specific occasions – such as visiting the in-laws: a strong ale, Queens Birthday: Cask Conditioned Real Ale, Saints Days: trappist/abbey ales (it should be noted that every day of the year has at least one saint who is commemorated on that day!). I think the publisher should release this in poster form to be hung above the bar.

The chapter on ‘Beer and Food Matching’ has been written by Bill Taylor (author of Beer and Food, A Celebration Of Flavours), and covers a lot of ground in a few pages. It incorporates flavour charts with flavour zones, complimentary and contrasting beers. It presents some classiness to our favourite drink, rather than leaving this solely to the domain of wine. An interview style beer and food matching section is then left to Chuck Hahn, Paul Mercurio, and Chris Badenoch.

The ‘Trade Section for Beer Sommeliers’ is like a ‘for dummies’ summary for those wanting to become (better) trained and knowledgeable beer professionals. The pointers while specific to beer remain grounded and touch upon better business principles such as Maintaining Beer Quality, Knowing Your Customers, Training Your Staff and Yourself, Store Layout, and Stock Rotation. Of course this is a broad area beyond a chapter in a book, but perhaps acts to encourage those to step up. While aimed towards those serving beer, much could be applied by those selling off the shelf as well.

The chapters of ‘Style Notes’ and ‘Tasting Notes’ form the most substantial part of the book in terms of page count.

A generous chart of styles grouped by parent style opens the first 2 pages, backed by more detailed summaries of each. Ranges covering ABV, IBU, and colour are included for each style, along with country of origin, and some backstory as to the origins.

A map showing the location of almost every Australian brewery proceeded by a selection of more than 170 Australian beers with notes is followed by a similar format for New Zealand. Included in the Australian line up are mainstreamers such as Victoria Bitter, Tooheys New, and Crown Lager…. which probably will not appeal to those entrenched in craft beer, but which are necessary for this book to be a true representation of the local beer scene.

The balance here however, definitely does favour beers that would not be described as mainstream, a number of which I have yet to encounter on the shelf.

A small section on local breweries, beer brands, bottle shops and bars has been included. This is obviously far from being a complete list, and does appear to be a part of the book where those featured would have paid for the placement. None the less, this would probably act as a useful list of highlights for the traveller to visit. (The Ultimate Beer Guide Australia and New Zealand from the same publisher contains a much more comprehensive list of beer destinations).

The ‘Tasting Notes’ concludes with a summary of some international beers available locally. Perhaps around half of these will be familiar to those that visit national chain liquor stores, with beers from thirty different countries being featured.

The book closes with a ‘Beer and Cider Directory’ which shows Breweries organised by state, followed by a listing of beers produced by each. I think when it comes to creative beer naming, the New Zealanders may be a nose in front, with the likes of ‘F*cking Jafa Lager’, ‘Red Nose Reinbeer’, and the ‘Pan Galactic Gargle Imperial Brown Ale’.

The directory also shows the alcohol content (abv) for each beer, the style it belongs to, and how it can be purchased (ie bottle and/or keg size). Distributors for domestic and overseas beers are also included.

If you have ever walked into a bottleshop to order a special ale and been given the ‘blank stare’, then armed with this book you will be able to offer guidance on which distributor they need to contact to order it in for you. Basically if a beer is sold in Australia, it can be referenced using this directory. Traditionally much of the information contained would be limited to trade specific publications not accessed by the general beer buying public.

The Australian and New Zealand Beer Buyers Guide is edited by Ian Kingham, and has a sell price of around $25. This paperback weighs in at 268 pages and includes plenty of colour photos, illustrations and charts. It is a well laid out and visually pleasing book that makes an easy read in whatever order you choose to do it. All pictures seem to be up to date, including those of the hundreds (or is that thousands) of beer bottle photos included.

There probably is no other current publication that covers this much ground, with as much relevance to the domestic beer scene.

The book has been produced by the publishers of Beer And Brewer Magazine, and is widely available through bookshops, selected newsagents, brewery’s, homebrew shops, Dan Murphy stores nationally, and directly from the publisher at

Matt Chapman has a professional background in IT, but has an interest in food and beverages, especially beer.

Australian and New Zealand Beer Buyers Guide