B is for beer: Editor of “The Oxford Companion to Beer” comes to Boulder Book Store

As the Boulder Book Store’s audience relaxed and waited for the night’s speaker to walk in, they sampled free Joe’s Premium American Pilsner (a bitter, hoppy beer) and Ellie’s Brown Ale (in a word: ‘chocolate’), provided by Avery Brewing Co.

When Garrett Oliver arrived, he grabbed a cup of Ellie’s Brown Ale. Oliver’s smooth voice seemed to immediately put the audience at ease —well, maybe the beer helped out a little. Regardless of the cause, the crowd appeared smitten with the brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery.

(Courtesy Adam Fagen via Flickr.com)

Oliver came to Boulder last Wednesday to talk about his role as editor-in-chief of “The Oxford Companion to Beer”.  This book is a veritable encyclopedia of beer. When asked to edit the first major beer-reference book, Oliver originally refused. But after over four years and more than 1,100 entries later, he had successfully edited the book.

He began the reading with a brief description of his beer upbringing, describing stolen sips at age 12 and Tuesday Kamikaze night at a place called Molly’s. In short, he described his beer tutelage as traditionally American.

After judging the Great American Beer Festival 20 times, Oliver said he has witnessed the change that has occurred in the American beer industry, from big breweries to craft breweries, and believes the change for the better. He emphasized the versatility of beer’s flavors and talked about how beers should be paired with food— just like wine.

During the reading, Oliver flipped to random pages and read excerpts from the A-Z-style chapters. “Ale” and “crown corks” are just a few of the topics that emerged from his page flipping. Just from this random sampling, it was clear that the book covers a wide range of interesting topics.

Some of the best parts of the reading were Oliver’s amusing stories. One memorable anecdote was about discovering a love for beer in London. The audience laughed as he described an odd practice in England called ‘ticking’. According to Oliver, ticking is the laborious task of composing a list of every beer in the country and then traveling to drink each one to tick them off the list. What makes ticking so funny is the participants’ dread of having to do something that should be enjoyable.

At the end of the reading I felt buzzed. Not from beer, but from the amount of knowledge I had acquired. I have never considered myself to be a beer enthusiast, but after Garrett Oliver conveyed his passion for beer, that just might change.

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Alaina Ambrosio at Alaina.ambrosio@colorado.edu.




Alaina Ambrosio

Alaina is pursuing a B.A. in Italian, although she has no idea what she is doing to do with it. She adores photography, Italian movies and baking. As an avid reader, she is always recommending books. Her latest obsession is "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese.

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