The Beer Book to Get Buzzed About

on 06/10/11 at 4:39 pm


“With the publication of The Oxford Companion to Beer, I thought it would be relevant to interview the editor, Garrett Oliver. Garrett is the brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery and has been brewing beer professionally for over 20 years. The Oxford Companion to Beer has over 1,000 subjects and is the largest amount of knowledge about beer ever assembled in one book.”

JZ: How did you approach The Oxford Companion to Beer?
GO: When they first asked me to do this I said, “No way, I already have a busy job.” I didn’t want my whole life to disappear in to this project but my friends convinced me that I would be sorry later if I didn’t do it. I also thought that at the end of this process I would be a lot smarter from when I started, which is a good motivation.

JZ: How did you start the book?
GO: The start of it was developing the subject list. I started off with about 300 subjects and then I sent that list out to a bunch of brewers from around the world and they suggested ways to develop the list further. I asked that they send me their top 20 subjects that were not on the list. I worked with the beer community to build a list that covered almost everything. Then we brought on an advisory board of some of the top minds in beer from around the world.

JZ: You are one of the top minds in beer.
GO: The great thing about being an American is that we have a broad view. The Germans know a lot about German beer, but they don’t know a lot about other beers. In the United States we have one of the greatest brewing cultures in the world in part because we have our own culture and everyone else’s. That puts me in a great perch to look around the world. Brooklyn Beer is sold in 15 countries so we travel a lot and know everybody. We had 160 writers from over at dozen countries. The third part of the project was once we had our list of subjects we had to assign them to writers. After it was written it would come back to me and I would do editing which would range from something light to a complete rewrite. Over a long period of time the book starts to come together. At a certain point you look at it the way you look at a film. For example, Peter Jackson who directed Lord of The Rings. When you see the movie you think, “How can one guy possibly hold all this stuff in their head to the extent that they could make a movie?” What you find is that the director has an overarching vision but they can’t be there for every single thing. The imprint of the director is on everything I wrote or edited every single word in this book, but it’s really the collected knowledge of a large community of people from around the world.

FULL INTERVIEW via Jordana Zizmor


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