The author is an ethnobiologist, antiquarian, and beer-lover in that order. He writes with none of the free-flowing bonhomie the subject merits. For that, see Bob Abel's The Book of Beer (1976). A purity fanatic, Weiner provides much arcane information on brewing practices, the medicinal properties of hops, nutritional values of suds, and brewers from Austria to the USSR. We learn with dismay that although scores of subtleties affect taste (malts, hops, storage, yeast, packaging, age, temperature, and pasteurization are only a few factors), they may all go for naught if advertising or the ""overall drinking experience"" distort judgment. Czechoslovakia's Pilsner Urquell gets the accolade for ""probably the closest thing to an organic beer available"" and if that's your criterion, Weiner will be your kind of drinking companion.