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Book review: Mastering Homebrew

How many homebrewing books do you really need to own?

In the foreword to “Mastering Homebrew: The Complete Guide to Brewing Delicious Beer” Boston Beer Co. founder Jim Koch writes, “This book might just be the only brewing book most homebrewers will ever need.”

For personal reasons, I hope that most homebrewers don’t take that thought seriously.

There are a bunch of “if you were to buy only one homebrewing book this one will take care of all yours needs” books available, but it seems to me that “Mastering Homebrew” jumps immediately into what now constitutes a Big Three (I might as well mention now there is a disclaimer at the end). “How to Brew” and the recently revised “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing” are not only at the top of Books > Cookbooks > Food & Wine > Beverages & Wine > Beer at Amazon, but also the books you find in any decent homebrew shop.

I can see where somebody who has already worn out a copy of “How to Brew” and has a growing interest in sour beers would choose to buy “American Sour Beers” next, but I think a book that serves a beginner may offer value for even the most experienced homebrewer (in fact, commercial brewers as well). John Palmer (“How to Brew”), Charlies Papazian (“Complete Joy”) and Randy Mosher (“Mastering Homebrew”) think about beer differently, different than each other but, as important, different than you or I.

Within the early pages of his book, Mosher writes about “Brewing with Both Halves of Your Brain” and that “The first question is an existential one: Why is there beer? That answers will depend very much on your point of beer.”

He’s not always deadly serious. So “Doing It the Hard Way” (yes, that’s really the header on page 134, and it is a dive into mashing) is balanced with “Brewing the Perfect Party Beer” (Page 352).

Gravity to IBU chartAnd if you bought a copy of Mosher’s “Brewer’s Companion” when it came out in 1993 some of the graphs and charts will look familiar, if a little fancier. Like “Radical Brewing” and “Tasting Beer” the book is beautifully illustrated, reminding us that Mosher is a graphic designer in real life. We’re not simply talking eye candy, but illustrations that, well, illustrate. The chart at the right makes it easy to visualize the balance between gravity and bitterness in various beer styles.

You can use the “Look inside” feature at Amazon to see the table of contents, but that only hints as how astonishingly complete this book it. (So you can see why Koch wrote what he did.)

*****

The disclaimer: My friendship with Randy Mosher is old enough to buy beer legally. In addition, he was the technical editor for “Brew Like a Monk,” for which I will always be in his debt, and he has said and written nice things about me on occasion.

3 Responses to Book review: Mastering Homebrew

  1. Alan February 25, 2015 at 11:14 am #

    As a lapsed homebrewer, I would ditch the Papazian suggestion as more than a bit outdated, nutty and, like with anything in beer pretending to be complete or authoritative, self-unfulfilling (a phrase I just made up but now love.)

    I would add instead Al Korzonas’s “Homebrewing Vol. 1” even though it is all about extract in its recipes. The combination of an introductory to medium level focus with a serious technical approach served me very well as a base upon which to learn and move along from.

  2. Jon Abernathy February 25, 2015 at 6:31 pm #

    +1 to Alan’s suggestion to Korzonas’ “Homebrewing Vol. 1”. Has a terrific set of appendices covering more advanced topics and it’s still one of my go-tos.

    I’m fond of Papazian in a nostalgic way, but my other go-to (general) brewing books include:

    “How to Brew” by Palmer
    “Radical Brewing” by Mosher
    “Designing Great Beers” by Daniels

    I do continue to wish there would be a “Homebrewing Vol. 2” someday…

    • Stan Hieronymus February 25, 2015 at 6:53 pm #

      I should have thrown in that “How to Brew” became a better book after Randy did the technical edit. When that happened I realized how much he might have improved Al’s book as well. I agree that it has a real practical usefulness.

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