-"Grilling With Beer: Bastes, BBQ Sauces, Mops, Marinades & More, Made With Craft Beer" by Lucy Saunders, (F&B Publications, $21.95). This is an amazing book with sauces and marinades that made me fire up my Weber on a chilly evening.
Saunders is a European-trained beer chef. She's American, majored in Old and Middle English literature and fell in love with beer and good food. She runs an award-winning Web site, http://www.beercook.com.
Saunders says that during a decade of pairing beer and food, she discovered grilling, an ancient cooking technique made for beer.
Then, one day, she saw an ad for a barbecue grill with a bottle of wine on it and she got mad. Wine may have a place at a barbecue, but the proper beverage most of the time is beer and why not use good beer while you're at it, she says.
To write this book, she traveled the country, from Hawaii to New England, visiting barbecue joints, going to barbecue festivals, collecting recipes and preparing them for a tasting panel.
This is a serious book. Even if you've never even put a match to charcoal or turned the knob on a gas grill, you, too, can produce prize-winning grilled food.
She dissects the science of barbecuing, explains differences between sauces, mops,
She came up with some mind-blowing recipes. How about Porter Plum Barbecue Sauce or Smoked Ale Mustard Sauce? Tamarind Amber Glaze, Apple Ale Ribs, Imperial Stout Marinade or one of my favorites, Brown Shugga Glaze, made with Lagunitas Brown Shugga.
To order the book, call (800) 760-5998, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or send a check for $25.95 (includes shipping) to Grilling With Beer, Attn: Orders, 4230 N. Oakland Ave., Shorewood, WI 53211. By the way, I've posted a couple of my favorite recipes on my blogs at http://www.beernewsletter.com and http://www.ibabuzz.com/beer.
-"Extreme Brewing: An Enthusiast's Guide to Brewing Craft Beer at Home" by Sam Calagione, (Quarry Books, $24.99).
Sam is the co-founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Rehoboth Beach, Del. It's easily one of the most distinctive breweries on the East Coast and its beers, such as 120 Minute IPA and Chateau Jiahu can hold their own on the world stage.
He carries his brewery's motto: "Off-centered beers for off-centered people" into this book. The first section of the book is a basic primer on how to brew beer at home, how to chose equipment and ingredients. He then jumps into extreme brewing beer on the outer edge.
"There are many ingredients, such as fruits, sugars, spices, herbs and wild yeast, which have been used in beer making for centuries," he says. "Thanks to the recent craft brewing beer renaissance, they are once again finding favor with brewers as they add complexity and balance and offer endless creative possibilities."
From there, the book rockets into the extreme and, in my opinion, the potentially sublime: beer with cherries, raisins, dried cranberries, brown sugar, allspice, St. John's Wort and Grains of Paradise.
He also discusses barrel-aging beer, a trend that many craft brewers have embraced. Then, it's on to the recipes: Imperial Pale Ale, Dark Star Licorice Stout, Tripel'Round the World.
Bottom line: If you're already homebrewing, but haven't ventured out to the cutting edge, this is the book to read. But even if you've never brewed beer, it's a fine coffee table book. Lavishly illustrated and clearly written, it's a classic. You can find this book at most good bookstores and on the Web at Amazon.com.
-One more worth a look is "The Beer Guide" edited by Josh Oakes (Savory House Press, $9.95). It's a listing of 2,700 American and imported beers with ratings from RateBeer.com. Each rating is based on reviews posted on the RateBeer Web site.
The holidays are also a great time for beer; many brewers produce gift packs. Here's a selection:
-Williams Home Brewery and Beer Kit, about $100.
Williams Brewing, 2594 Nicholson St., San Leandro, was started by owner Bill Moore in his Oakland apartment in 1979. He sells a wide assortment of home brew kits and equipment. Moore sent me a sample of his Belgian Style Saison made with his beer kit. A wonderful saison, it's rich, malty and is 6.5 percent alcohol by volume. The home brewery kit, which contains everything one needs to begin brewing, except a five-gallon pot, also includes hops and malts needed for the style of beer one chooses English ale to Belgian Saison. Each kit contains complete instructions on a DVD and the company, like most homebrew shops, is always available by phone or e-mail to help. http://www.williamsbrewing.com. (510) 895-2739.
-Sam Adams Winter Classics, two each, Boston Lager, Sam Adams Winter Lager+, Old Fezziwig Ale, Cranberry Lambic, Sam Adams Holiday Porter and Black Lager, $9.99.
The Holiday Porter alone is worth the price. Also, during a walk through a Beverages & More store, I noticed Sam Adams Triple Bock, the first truly strong beer, 17.5 percent ABV. Price: $4.49. Bought one, haven't tried it. Fresh, back in the'90s, it tasted strongly of maple syrup. That no doubt has mellowed by now.
-Stone Brewing Double Bastard+, large, 3-quart bottle, $60. If you like the bastard, this is nearly a lifetime supply or better, one to crack at a large party.
- Yard Glass in a wooden stand, $19.99, Half-Yard Glass, $14.99. According to RealBeer.com, the three-foot high glass was created in England so ale could be handed up to a stagecoach driver, who had to remain seated, holding the horses.
-Duvel Gift Pack, four 12-ounce bottles of Duvel, the Belgian classic ale and a branded Duvel glass, about $20. Another great gift for a beer lover. It's fun to drink your Duvel in its distinctive, tulip-shaped glass.
Can't find these books or beer gifts? E-mail me at email@example.com or call (510) 915-1180. Ask for our 2006 Retail Beer Store List.
Beer ratings are based on a star system. world classic; outstanding; excellent; good; average.
Staff writer William Brand publishes What's On Tap, a consumer craft beer and hard cider newsletter. His column runs every other week. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 3676, Walnut Creek, CA 94598, or call (510) 915-1180.