BIG BOOK O' BEER: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Greatest Beverage on Earth

Duane Swierczynski, Author . Quirk $19.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-931686-49-5

Beer may have gone a bit upscale in recent years, what with all those microbrews and Belgian ales, but Swierczynski (The Perfect Drink for Every Occasion ) is more interested in the history of Pabst Blue Ribbon and the trivia of hangovers, not to mention the physics of a flying bottle cap, the world's weirdest beer flavors (he's found banana and white chocolate mousse, among others) and beer label art. He divides this visually captivating compendium into a six-pack of chapters, covering history, geography, crafts, the sciences, the arts and even connoisseurship as they relate to readers' favorite hop-flavored brew. The "Bonus Can" chapter appears to include stuff that wouldn't fit anywhere else (e.g., Web sites and drinking songs). Swierczynski has amassed quite a collection of images: vintage Milwaukee's Best cans, jars of pickled eggs, Heineken mugs, drinking funnels and even beer can votive holders are all on display, and the random sidebars and diagrams will help hold readers' attention. Despite all this, the book is largely a jumble of only loosely related facts and lists, and virtually no subject gets more than a paragraph of text. It's too disorganized to serve as a reference book, and too choppy to be read all the way through, yet too attractive and entertaining to put down for long. (June)