Book Review: The Economics of Beer

Posted on December 16, 2011


I recently finished reading The Economics of Beer, edited by Johan F.M. Swinnen. With two of my favorite topics in the title I was excited for this book, and when it arrived in early November I was not disappointed. I had not been sure what to expect, since there were no reviews when I ordered it, and all I knew was that it was a result of the Beeronomics conference in 2009. The book is a total of 18 chapters, the first and last of which are summaries of the industry and content within the other chapters. The middle 16 chapters are each papers from a different author(s).

Each chapter has enough for a whole book, but in a highly distilled and well presented manner. As each chapter is written by a different author(s) the topic, methodology, and voice varies. I enjoyed the variety and seeing how individuals from different specialties took on a single topic. It highlighted the many facets of beer; ranging from the beer industry during the Renaissance to contemporary China, and from beer drinking patterns during recession to the effects of television advertising on the industry. There is also variety in how the topics are presented, some authors write in a voice that would be easily transferred to a mainstream magazine or newspaper, while other chapters focus on the detailed data and methodology of the economic analysis.

While I read the book from front to back, and there are four main sections, it could be easily read in any order, in part or complete. Additionally, despite the separate chapters there is a useful Index that covers all eighteen chapters.

This book definitely leaves the reader with a great deal to think about and curious for more, luckily the bibliographies from each chapter are a great resource. I have a long list of topics that I am eager to research; from beer in Latin America to Africa, and further research on migration and immigration to possible affects of procurement due to climate change.

I look forward to seeing what comes from the 2011 conference.


Despite The New York Times Magazine’s categorization of this as a book for “Hot Guys”, in their Holiday Gift Guide 2011, this is a great gift any beer lover, regardless of gender or hotness.

There were a few graphs that appeared incomplete in printing (unlabeled axis titles), but they are decipherable through the content within the chapter – perhaps this was intentional.

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