300 Beers to Try Before You Die! by Roger Protz
CAMRA Books (2nd edition, 2010)
RRP £14.99 (now £6.00 on the CAMRA shop)
Reviewed by Ken Paul

This review has been taken from the archive of Sunderland & South Tyneside CAMRA branch magazine

From Belgian fruit beers to hoppy cask ales, small-production microbrews to Czech Republic lagers, 300 Beers to Try Before You Die! is a personal and comprehensive portfolio of international beers compiled by one of the world’s leading beer writers.

This excellent book was written by renowned beer writer Roger Protz in 2005. The following is a review of the second edition, published in 2010.

There are 23 countries represented here, from as far afield as Canada, New Zealand, Brazil and Japan. England has the most entries with 117, followed by Belgium with 49. The other home countries are Scotland with 13 and Wales with two (you don’t need brains to work out which breweries they are!).

Until I read this book I hadn’t realised there were so many different styles. There are 29 styles documented here, ranging from IPAs to bitters, stouts to fruit beers and barley wines to Trappist.  

Of the 300 beers, I am pleased that my favourite UK beer, Theakston’s Old Peculier is here, as is my favourite world beer, Samuel Adams’ Boston Lager. Beers from our region are represented by Double Maxim, Mordue Workie Ticket and Darwin’s Flag Porter.

There is a fascinating introduction on the brewing process and useful notes on how to pour and taste beer. Different drinks require different storage temperatures and this is all covered in the book.

Each style section is introduced by a detailed history of the beer style with some really comprehensive information. Each beer within each section has a useful background to the brewery as well as a history of the drink itself.  There are boxes for each beer where you can document your own tasting notes. In addition, the ‘Scottish Ale’ section was interesting to read, as it explains why Scottish beers are brewed differently to rest of the UK: the climate plays a part but you need to read the book for the full story.

One of the Austrian beers in the ‘Bock’ section is Samichlaus Bier (Santa Claus Beer). This is brewed once a year on St Nicholas Day and lagered for 10 months, ready for the next year’s festivities. I was given one for Christmas a few years ago and it is a whopping 14%; the label says “The Strongest Lager Beer in The World”. I had assumed that this would be the strongest entry but no – step forward North Cotswold Arctic Global Warmer Stout which is a staggering 15% – drinking this I think I would be literally staggering!

I only have one gripe with this book. In most descriptions of the beer mention is made of units of colour and bitterness. There is no clear reference to what this means in the glossary. I had to email CAMRA Books for the answer, and was informed that apparently both are internationally-recognised scales used to measure the bitterness and colour of beer respectively. 

That said, this is highly informative and entertaining read. The detail given with each entry makes me really want to seek out and try the beers. Of the 300 I have had 52 (not since I bought this book, I should hasten to add!), and I have set myself a target of reaching 100 by the end of this year. This works out a one per week which may seem ambitious – we shall see!

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