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Two essential beer books remain essential

How to Brew - old and new

“Brewing technology does not stand still.” – John Palmer, 2017.


Author John Palmer prefaces the fourth edition of How To Brew with an explanation of not only how it is different than the version published 11 years ago, but why. He wrote the first edition, which appeared online in 2000, for people brewing beer in order to enjoy styles that otherwise were not available. In contrast, “Today’s homebrewer is brewing for the pure pleasure of creating a beer, rather than to fill a void in availability. Therefore, my focus in this latest edition is to help you understand how to brew the best beer.”

How to Brew is one of two thoroughly revised essential beer books published this spring. The mission of the other, Tasting Beer remains the same. “In a concise and visual way, this book aims to introduce you to the wide world of beer and to give you the tools to understand and, more importantly, enjoy it,” author Randy Mosher writes on the second page of each edition. He also provides more tools, and more visuals. The beer aroma spiral on the right is an example. If you’ve ever spent time with the Beer Flavor Wheel you know it is complicated and focuses as much on faults as words that help you identify the aromas and flavors you like. I prefer concise and visual.

(Time for two disclosures. First, it took all my will not to also include “the hop aroma vocabulary spider chart.” And, probably more important, the authors of both books are friends of mine. That’s far more dangerous than the fact that publishers sent me review copies of the books.)

As the photo at the top would indicate, these books have grown; How to Brew from 387 pages to 582, Tasting Beer from 247 to 367. That does not simply make them more effective doorstops. How to Brew has added five chapters (including one on sour beers, which were barely on the radar in 2006) and plenty of new charts, graphs, and other visuals.

That John organizes the book around a list of “Top Five Brewing Priorities for Brewing Great Beer” reflects the fact he, like Randy, has had thousands of conversations with people who have read his book. Sometimes he talks about things new — the relentless march forward of beer knowledge — and other times he elaborates. Just how comfortable he is with the topic is apparent in both new and revised text, so even though the array of charts and graphs can look imposing at times the reading is, well comfortable. (In case the suspense is killing you, the five priorities are sanitation, fermentation temperature control, yeast management, the boil, and recipe development.)

It is fitting that Ray Daniels wrote the foreword for the second edition of Tasting Beer. The first came out a year after Daniels began the Cicerone Certification Program and became essential reading for people who wanted ot advance in the program. Randy and Ray or longtime friends — they once almost opened a brewery together — but as Ray writes in the foreword the timing (new program and book) was a happy coincidence. Basically, Tasting Beer “addresses the questions posed by every student of beer and in the process provides an excellent test to aid in the journey.”

So that some additions in the new edition, such as expanded details about draft system essentials and beer and food pairing, are particularly useful to Cicerone participants is appropriate. But they are only part of what keeps Tasting Beer, like How to Brew, ahead of the pack. When I looked this morning, they were three (because both editions of HtB are listed) of the top four best sellers among beer books at Amazon. Makes sense to me.

One Response to Two essential beer books remain essential

  1. Alan May 19, 2017 at 8:34 am #

    Interesting. I received a gratuitous copy of HTB in the mail last week, without even being asked.

    I was thinking of giving it away as I am far too fat to consider home brewing again. And as I gave you a sip of one of mine, likely the worst home brewed beer ever made, you might consider that fatness factor God’s gift to humanity.

    Yet, I might just open to the first page now to see what I can find.

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