The old Classic Beer Styles Series books are a mixed bag: some, like Smoked Beers (by Ray Daniels and Geoff Larson), and I have to say, while Pierre Rajotte’s Belgian Ale entry into the series was probably useful at the time it was published, it’s dated and one is better off checking out the Belgian Brewing series for a more practical and up-to-date look at brewing these beers.
That’s not to fault Rajotte — but his book is the product of a different time. (Notably, at one point he explains who it was once common to be able to buy beer yeast in America, but no longer…) I appreciate the experience of flipping through the book and thinking about how damned gonzo it must have been to try make Belgian ales back in the days when one had to culture all of one’s yeast from bottle dregs… but I don’t think I’ll get much use out of this book.
And, to be honest, leafing through some of the other Classic Beer Styles books I’ve picked up, I kind of get that feeling out of a number of them. I’m sure they filled a void at the time when they were published, but a much more useful and specific series of brewing books have come out in recent years. What I do wish for is something along the lines of the Belgian Brewing Series, but for English beers (though, probably, a single thick book would work for each), and maybe one for German beers (especially with a book on now-defunct German beer styles, like the Kotbusser, the Lichtenhainer, etc.). I think that would be an excellent project for someone to take up.
In any case, I’d say this book does warrant a peek, if just for curiosity’s sake, but you definitely don’t need a copy of your own.