Book Review

Book Review: Brew like a Pro by Dave Miller

This is one of the more recent additions to my brewing library.

I picked it up because I heard about the book on Beer sessions radio and I’m a sucker for brewing books, as my library can attest. This is an advanced how to brew book that’s focused on all grain. This is intended as a brewing book based on the author’s experience as a professional brewer. I appreciate the single focused approach, this is the way Dave brews, and how he brews consistent beer. I feel the author eschews some common homebrewing methods like batch sparging, extract or dme, and the use of star san, choosing more complex methods, such as using a pump, a grant, a cold liquor back, and more complex sanitizer. While I feel Dave really has a grasp of how to make quality beer, I don’t understand some of the trade offs, the complexity, and then some of the short cuts. For example, He recommends building a bulkhead, but it requires costuming fitting. Why not just go to bargain fittings and buy a pre made bulkhead and call it a day. Then when it comes to yeast, the recommendation to direct pitch dry yeast, just seems lazy. While liquid yeast, yeast starters, and propagation are covered, fermentation temperature control for ales is completely overlooked. The biggest sin, however is the Kolsh style beer recipe, rather than explaining the fermentation nuances of the beer, the recipe defaults to using a non kolsh yeast strain. The project guide at the rear of the book help is helpful in completing those projects. However I think that many of those projects have been covered ad nauseum all over the internet.
I hate to sound negative about the book, I enjoyed reading it cover to cover. I just don’t personally agree with all of the methods detailed. I’m certain the work for the author, but I feel this is a book intended for a person who wants explicit methods on how they can brew all grain beer. Specific and detailed methods with instructions, and it does a good job of providing that information. It’s also provided me plenty of food for thought on many aspects of my processes, and methods. There are two tips I’m going to take away are that most kegs that are converted to keggles are of suspect origin, and should be treated as such. These things cost professional brewer far more than the deposit left for one. I’m not saying all kegs are stolen, but you should ask it’s origin before purchasing one. The next is that a fancy sculpture isn’t necessary, Dave has an advanced setup w/out the large infrastructure of a multi tiered brewing rig.
My summary is this, if you want to simply brew, and don’t care too much, get Joy of home brewing, if you want a detailed technical resource covering all aspects of brewing, get How to brew, if you want a concise set of brewing instructions, this might be the book for you.

Book Review: IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale By Mitch Steele

This is a book I was looking forward to from the moment I heard about well over a year ago. Mitch Steele the head brewer at Stone brewing has been a guest on the brewing network quite a few times, and he also happens to be a member of Brew free or Die. IMG_1584
I’ve read the other two books published by Authors from Stone Brewing Company, so why would this be any different. The book has two main sections, the history of IPA to a vast collection of IPA recipes. Along the way manages to correct the myth of the origin of the name, and perhaps introducing a new one, alluding to brett in the original IPAs. There are lots of historic brewing statistics, to be honest, I mostly ignored them.
The book is organized in three sections, the history, Techniques and Ingredients, and last by not least recipes.Having read numerous brewing books, of both instructional, historic, and recipe this is a great combination of all three. While the historic information may be not be terribly exciting, it's good to see the myth of IPA name corrected. It's also great to see so many recipes for amazing IPA's in one book. There is a large section dedicate to brewing techniques, and ingredients for IPA's. The key to understanding how to make your own recipe, is understanding the goals and methods to achieve them. The sections on designing hop bitterness, and brewhouse techniques will be valuable in my future recipe design. I also can’t wait to try some of the amazing recipes from the likes of Russian River, DogfishHead, The Alchemist, Hill Farmstead, Avery, etc. My only disappointment is that we only got black ipa recipes from the new England greats The Alchemist and Hill Farmstead, what I wouldn’t do for a recipe for Edward or Heady Topper.

Book Review: Beer is Proof God Loves US. Charles W. Bamforth

Brewing isn’t all boiling and fermenting, and cleaning. You can buy a kit at the store, but to get a real understanding of brewing, styles, and history, you have to read and research.The title is pretty much over the top; and so are many Dr. Bamforth’s stories. This isn’t a book about brewing, despite Dr Bamforth’s decades of experience and knowledge, it’s more the tale of a life long participant in the brewing industry, from both the in and outside perspective.
Don’t read this if you are looking for historic tales about the greatness of beer. Do get this if you a much greater understanding of the industry giants. I’m far from a AB-Imbev fan boy, but I have come to  understanding how those large scale operations work, and understanding that making a consistent mildly flavored lager is much more difficult that it appears. I’m not sure I’d buy the book, but I’d certainly borrow it from your library.