My Beer Year

Lucy Burningham (Hop in the Saddle), effervescent expert on the bicycle and beer scenes in Portland, Ore., brings her energetic, fun approach to My Beer Year: Adventures with Hop Farmers, Craft Brewers, Chefs, Beer Sommeliers, and Fanatical Drinkers as a Beer Master in Training. A longtime brew lover, Burningham decides to show her knowledge by becoming the beer equivalent of a sommelier, a Certified Cicerone. It is an enticing but daunting challenge; the exam's pass rate is lower than most states' bar exams, and many people study for a year and a half to prepare. Burningham decides she will try to do it in a year.

Her thirst for beer knowledge takes her throughout her home region and across the Atlantic to Belgium and Germany. She sips IPAs from Oregon, savors lambics in Brussels and downs Kölsch in Germany. The histories of different beer styles are fascinating, but Burningham is especially compelling in her meditations on being female in this largely male-dominated scene. Her sense of humor is delightful, and she writes adeptly for an audience who may lack a background in beer terminology. Comparing aluminum and steel kegs, she relays that "aluminum kegs scratch easily, weigh less, and make a 'dong' sound when you bang on them (as opposed to steel's 'ding.')"

Sipping a pint while reading is not a requirement, but perhaps it ought to be. Foreseeing that readers might do so, Burningham also includes beer tasting sheets and scoring keys in her afterword. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

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