With so many good beers in Texas and the U.S., it can be easy to forget that we aren’t the only ones creating solid tributes to classic styles or coming up with entirely new experimental brews.
But writers Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb are well aware of all the best brews the world has to offer, and they want everyone else to be familiar with those beers, too.
Beaumont and Webb are not just big fans of beer — they also travel all around the world and have combined their two interests to document some of the best beers being made internationally, from the U.S. and Canada down to South America and then from Europe, Asia and beyond. Their research has produced “Pocket Beer Guide 2015: The World’s Best Craft and Traditional Beers,” which recently published with some 3,500 beers rated and profiled.
Austin beers, such as ones from (512) Brewing, Jester King and Live Oak, are among them. In fact, Beaumont has been so impressed not just by some of the local breweries, but the local community supporting them, that he’ll be in town tonight for a “local brewers summit” at Flying Saucer that will feature five Austin breweries and their beers. The brewers will walk beer fans through a tasting; then, Beaumont will offer up his thoughts on each of the beers.
“I think of these tastings as putting myself in the lion’s den,” Beaumont said with a chuckle. “I have beers that I’ve never had before and try right in front of the brewers. The idea is for me to lead people in a discovery of flavors, not necessarily the beers themselves, but styles in general. And then getting brewers to put in their two cents, and if they think I’m way off base, they may say so.”
Beaumont is certainly no stranger to tasting beers and being able to talk about their style, origin and even the history behind that style on a global level. He and Webb have half a century of writing about beer between them — they’ve additionally co-authored the book “The World Atlas of Beer” — and have cultivated extensive knowledge of what’s out there. With the help of other beer experts around the world, they regularly discover the brews other countries have to offer, but often only within their borders.
Many of the beers’ limited availability can certainly lead to a bit of a problem. Because they aren’t exactly available at the local corner store, readers can’t try them for themselves and form their own opinions.
“We make no apologies for the fact that some of these beers are going to be very hard to find,” Beaumont said, noting that he and Webb made sure readers know that in the introduction. “It’s very difficult to flip through the pages and not want to hop on a plane and go somewhere. I know not everyone is going to share my enthusiasm for flying 20 hours to try some beers, but there’s a lot of fun in imagining where you can go. Seeing what a pub crawl in Rome might be like. Realizing that people are brewing beer in Lebanon.”
Essentially part travel guide, part beer review, “Pocket Beer Guide 2015” is divided by geographical region, and the beers within each section are all rated up to four stars. Beaumont said they were very careful in giving beers that topmost rating: “It’s one of the world’s greatest beers, a champion.” Only about 50 or 60 beers in the book earned four stars.
He was in charge of compiling beers for the book from Canada (where he currently lives) all the way to the tip of Argentina.
“The world of beer today is certainly a lot different from even 5 or 10 years ago, and there’s great beer everywhere,” he said. “I spent some considerable time in Brazil — they’re improving very quickly. But it’s one of those things you have to go there to experience what’s going on because only one brewery is really exporting. It’s the same with places like Argentina and Mexico.”
And often he and Webb purposely left out the brands that people are most familiar with. “We chose to effectively ignore the biggest breweries in the world because no one needs us to tell them what a Corona tastes like,” he said.
Look for even more extensive beer discoveries in future editions. In the meantime, the Local Brewers Summit at Flying Saucer starts at 7 p.m. and features beer from Real Ale, (512), Austin Beerworks and more. Tickets are $45 and include 6 oz. tastings of each beer and food pairings. You’ll also be able to purchase “Pocket Beer Guide 2015” and have Beaumont sign it. For reservations, call 512-454-8200.