By Michael Agnew
Voyageur Press (2014)
This book will inspire you. Craft Beer for the Homebrewer contains not only interesting profiles of some of the country’s best beers, breweries and brewers, but it also has select recipes from some of these powerhouse libations. Love Tallgrass’ Buffalo Sweat? Dig Funkwerks’ Saison? Dream of Odell’s 90 Shilling? This book has all these recipes and more.
Want to capture these beers on your home system? This book gives you the starting point. Oh, sure, you’ll probably have to tweak them out a bit due to the idiosyncrasies of your personal set up, but this book offers a major head start. And what a motivator that can be!
While it was fun to scan recipes and notice the many different ways to skin a really delicious cat, I also felt supported when I looked over recipes of styles I brew frequently. I’ve developed most of my own recipes into a sweet spot over many years of massaging, and it was encouraging to see pro formulas that are eerily similar to my own basement concoctions.
It’s not often that I set out to clone a beer, but after working my way through this book, I absolutely intend to step out of my own habits and brew someone else’s beer. I’ve never tasted it, but The Bruery’s Rugbrød sounds incredible, and I can’t wait to replicate it.
If you’re looking for a little homebrewing inspiration with full-color photos and backdrop on some of the country’s best beers and breweries, give Craft Beer for the Homebrewer a glimpse.
By Mike Karnowski
I read a lot to expand my knowledge of beer and brewing—I read about hops, I read about yeast, I read about specific styles—but I’ll admit, I haven’t read a “homebrewing” book in quite some time. Enter Mike Karnowski’s Homebrew Beyond the Basics.
Not to take anything away from the homebrewing books I referred to when I first shifted from extract to all-grain brewing some 15 years ago, but I wish this book had been around. It walks you through the basics: equipment, cleaning, brewing, fermentation and packaging. It goes over water, malt, hops, yeast and the important elements and treatments of each. The book also delves into wild beers and barrel aging. And, of course, there are recipes to help accomplish a number of beers leaning in several different directions. Not tons of recipes, mind you, but enough to get you going in the right direction.
This book is written in easy-to-understand language and is illustrated with full-color, glossy photos that really make you thirsty. I think the thing I valued most in this book was its heavy use of sidebars to break down some of the finer points of beer and brewing. It didn’t feel at all like a textbook, and that feeling alone made it easier for me to retain the information being offered, whether it was an extra tidbit on the importance of mash pH or a tutorial on alpha acids and cohumulones. This was a book packed with the knowledge of a professional brewer written in a way that makes even a novice brewer cranked to learn, apply and explore newfound knowhow.
By Michael Larson
Sterling Epicure (2014)
It’s a constant dilemma: what beer should I drink next?
I’ve been around for a long time, and—by and large—know exactly what I want next. But it hasn’t always been that way. In my early days of imbibing better beers, my knowledge of both beers and styles was quite limited. On the non-light lager front, I initially knew little beyond Newcastle and Guinness. Eventually, that knowledge came, and what a help Beer: What to Drink Next would have been to me. Every day, new beer lovers are getting turned on to craft beer, and this book is a solid tool to help them on their road to discovery.
The specific beers in today’s world are moving targets—new brews are released almost daily—and so one must only follow social media channels to get ideas. But when your local brewpub releases its latest Dark Mild, American Wild or Pre-Prohibition Lager, what exactly does that mean? This book is a great orientation that helps to break it all down. Starting with a Table of Contents that looks a lot like a periodic table (Larson’s Beer Select-O-Pedia) the book goes through each style one by one, describing their characteristics and specifications, and offering food pairing guidelines. It offers historical information, taste sensations and examples of the style that the reader should seek out. While I thought this book, in all its full-color and graphic flash, would be a good compass for a new beer drinker, I also thought that it would be an easy-to-navigate reference for someone who might be studying for the Beer Judge Certification Program test.
In addition to the style rundown that is the bulk of this book, Beer: What to Drink Next a brief tutorial on brewing, serving, storing and tasting beer. All good info, and part of an attractive package that I’d recommend for anyone new to the world of craft beer.
Full disclosure: These books were review copies provided by the publishers.