Porter, whose middle name must be Pilsner, is a former assistant brewmaster with a lifelong passion for beer. This cheerfully raffish tribute to his favorite beverage is full of uncompromising assertions: the water the brewer starts with isn't too important, cans have it all over glass, it's not all that caloric and anyhow the alternative -- low-cal beer -- ""has all the gutsy deep-down goodness of a warm martini with a hair in it."" You will learn that wild yeast strains must scrupulously be kept out of the brewery where Saccharomyces cerevisae is at work, that during fermentation ale yeast rises to the top of the vat and lager yeast sinks, that most bottled and canned beer is pasteurized and filled with preservatives (the noble exception is Coors), that since the mashes for most light beers produce a brew with little head, American brewers use ""foam stabilizers"" (a foam stabilizer that was hastily abandoned in the '60's was cobalt sulfate, which turned out to be toxic in the presence of alcohol). There are instructions for brewing your own -- not so easy, since the process is well-nigh impossible on a small scale without hydrometers, commercially prepared malt and hop extracts, and various additives to regulate the conditions of fermentation. There is also an intriguing selection of recipes, from the obvious (Welsh rabbit, carbonnades Flamandes) to the adventurous (beer and onion pancakes). Smart-alecky but delightful. It's enough to make Nero Wolfe walk to the refrigerator.