5 Best Homebrewing Books

April 19,2010 by 12 Comments

Although I first learned how to brew from a friend, after a few batches I finally picked up a homebrewing book. From then on I devoured them. It’s true, I’m a book worm. So here’s my pick for the 5 best homebrewing books.

The Joy of Homebrewing Book

The Complete Joy of Homebrewing – Charlie Papazian

The first homebrew book I ever read,The Joy of Homebrewing, is a brewing classic. Charlie coined the phrase, “Relax, Don’t Worry, Have a Homebrew”, and repeats it numerous times in this book when the reader approaches a tricky subject matter. His laid back, “it’s only beer” attitude is very reassuring.

You can certainly learn how to brew with this book, but Palmer’s book is better for a beginner looking for a step by step approach. The techniques in the Joy of Homebrewing are a little out of date and the organization of the book is confusing. That said, people swear by the recipes and having made a couple myself, I can back that statement up.

Reading this book is a right of passage into the homebrewing world, and Charlie deserves a place on every brewer’s bookshelf.

Type: How to brew A – Z

Level: Beginner to Advanced

Recipes: Yes, extract and all-grain.

How to Brew – John Palmer

How to Brew Homebrew Book

Palmer’s How to Brew is the best how to brew book out there. It clearly teaches the beginner how to get started with extract, moves them though to extract and specialty grains, then shows them how to upgrade to all-grain brewing. The book is written in a straightforward, no-nonsense style. Just the facts, and lots of ’em.

Like Charlie’s book, this one should be on every brewer’s shelf. It is one of those reference books that you’ll go back to time and time again no matter how experienced you are. And oh yea, there is a free version on the web, but you’ll want the physical version to keep next to you during a frenzied brew day.

Type: How to brew A – Z

Level: Beginner to Advanced

Recipes: Yes, all-grain and extract. (I goofed in the video where I said there aren’t recipes; there is a recipe chapter.)

Brewing Classic Styles – Jamil Zainasheff & John Palmer

Brewing Classic Styles Book

Palmer is the how-to guy and Jamil is the recipe guy. Together they created a great brewing book in Brewing Classic Styles. This is not a book for the new homebrewer. It’s for a  brewer with a little experience who wants to advance his skills and learn how to brew different styles.

The idea is that it teaches you how to  brew every one of the 80 BJCP beer styles. This book is very direct and you’ll speed through each type of beer. It lays out the guidelines for a style, gives you the key factors for brewing it, then provides a recipe.

Type: Recipe Formulation/Skill Improvement

Level: Moderate

Recipes: Yes, extract and all-grain.

Designing Great Beers – Ray Daniels

Designing Great Beers Homebrew Book

Designing Great Beers is similar to Brewing Classic Styles in that it focuses on brewing according to style guidelines. Think of this book as a sequel to that one.  It goes much more into depth about the key components of beer styles: types of malt, hops, yeast, water chemistry, fermentation temperatures, IBU’s, SRM’s, etc, etc.

This is a more advanced book and like How to Brew, it is one of those reference books that you’ll always go back to and learn something. It is big and packed with information.

What I really like about this book is that it uses actual data from National Homebrew Competition (NHC) to show you how the winning beers are made.  Daniels provides tons of charts and graphs showing trends for real beers submitted to the NHC. For example, there is a table showing the most common hops used in the fruit beer category.  Very cool.

Type: Recipe Formulation/Skill Improvement

Level: Advanced

Recipes: No

Radical Brewing – Randy Mosher

Radical Brewing Homebrew Book

Last but not least is Randy Mosher’s Radical Brewing Radical Brewing. Where Brewing Classic Styles and Designing Great beers were more dry and scientific, Mosher’s book nails the art of brewing. The first third of the book is an intro on brewing and in my opinion isn’t necessary since it is a more advanced book, and the reader is likely to already know that information. After that though, there are some real gems.

The book goes outside the box and teaches you things like:

  • 12 ways to improve a stout
  • How to barrel age beers
  • Weird malt and adjuncts
  • Brewing Belgian beers

This is also the most reader friendly of all the books. It includes color, images, and charts. There is a lot of information in here but it’s an easy read.  Top marks.

Type: Unconventional Brewing/Skill Improvement

Level: Advanced

Recipes: Yes, extract and all-grain.

Honorable Mention

Extreme Brewing – Sam CalagioneExtreme Brewing Homebrew Book
I won’t do a full review but Extreme Brewing comes in at a very close 6th. Sam is founder of Dogfish Head brewery and teaches the tricks of the trade for making their off-centered ales. Want the recipe for their 60 Minute IPA? India Brown Ale?  Midas Touch? They’re all in here.

What’s your favorite homebrewing book?

About Billy Broas

He is the founder of The Homebrew Academy, a BJCP beer judge, and the homebrewing expert on the Rocky Mountain PBS television show Colorado Brews. He lives in the fine beer town of Denver, Colorado.

12 responses to “5 Best Homebrewing Books”

  1. Kate says:

    I’ve only home brewed once with my boyfriend and his best friend who are old pros… and I spent most of it just watching :( This reminds me that I wanted to do some more brewing soon (and hopefully get to do more than watch them work). Maybe I should pick one of these up…
    .-= Kate´s last blog ..Bellini – South Windsor, CT =-.

  2. thebrewdude says:

    the Joy of Homebrewing is a classic. Another great one is Dave Miller’s Homebrewing Guide. I love this book. http://www.amazon.com/Dave-Millers-Homebrewing-Guide-Great-Tasting/dp/0882669052

  3. Billy Broas says:

    @Kate Homebrewing is a ton of fun, and is even better when you do it as a group. Let us know if you jump off the sideline next time and get your hands dirty!

    @Dude Yea I’ve thumbed through Miller’s guide at the bookstore. Very good. It really was hard picking just 5 and trying to cover a few different types of books. Thanks for the input.

  4. chris starr says:

    don’t forget Charlie’s Second book “the Home Brewer’s Companion the Essential Handbook” It’s a great next step to “The Joy of Home Brewing” a bit more Technical than the first volume. It’s a “go to” for me on more advanced brewing

  5. Jim says:

    I think you’ve nailed it, Billy. Papazian’s book The Complete Joy of Homebrewing is a classic, but a little hard to follow. It’s infused with the brewing sptitr, though, and he makes you feel like you can do anything.

    Palmer’s How to Brew is my bible, and the book that I keep handy as I fumble my way into the world of home brewing. He separates the “what” you need to do from the “why” you need to do it, making it easy to grasp the process, if not the science of brewing.

  6. Ted says:

    Great list, I have all those books and would probably choose the same list. A great website to get books for a great price is http://www.bookdepository.com shipping is free worldwide.. just thought i`d throw that in there because all my books were bought there. How To Brew is also my favorite. Another great pocket guide you should check out is “The Home Brewer`s Answer book – Ashton lewis – a.k.a Mr.Wizard from Brew Your Own magazine“ the layout of the book could be better, but its packed full of questions and answers. The book oddly resembles the shape of a bible lol. Another great book I half expected to be in your top 5 was “ New Brewing Lager Beer – Gregory J. Noonan“ , if you have not read it you should add it to you to do list.

  7. Dave Bradley says:

    Great suggestions. I went to this site looking for good recommendations for Christmas gifts (for me). I’ve got the first 4 books you listed and agree completely with your evaluation. “Radical Brewing” is now on my Christmas list. Thanks for the great info.

    • Billy Broas says:

      Happy to help Dave. Radical Brewing is a great book and someday I will make all of the recipes in it. Another book that came out since this video was released is Yeast by Jamil Zainascheff and Chris White. It’s more on the technical side but has everything you want to know about improving your beer by knowing more about yeast.

  8. Aaron s. Zaslow says:

    I would add the books “yeast”, “brewing better beer” from experience and think that “brewing with wheat” and “brew like a monk” should be looked at.

    first for the first two (because I’ve atcually read them)
    both give out a lot of great pointers and are very interesting. Yeast really helps a lot to someone who’s just getting into brewing about yeast health and culturing. Its also a must have if you plan on starting a home yeast lab (which I someday hope to have enough room to do)

    Brewing better beer is a great book for modifying your style and getting a lot of the finer parts of all grain brewing down. It is a book that is only for all grain brewers and isn’t afraid to tell it to your face. Its fairly easy to read, and emphasizes the practical aspect of home brewing over the scientific aspect of it (that is, without making it seem insignificant).

    both great books, and happy parts of my brewing book collection.

    I also strongly recommend the brew masters table. Not too much on brewing (a few gemes here and their) but absolutely great for identifying styles, flavors, and matching them up with foods. A must have if you intend to prove that beer can truly be better than wine with food pairings.

    Besides that, good list. I loved my copy of “How to brew”, and have always regretted leaving it in miami at my dads house….hopefully Ill be getting it back soon. I have also had my eye on radical brewing for some time, as well as designing great beers and hope to add them to my collection as soon as I finish my current books. additional books that I’m interested in is “brew like a monk” and “brewing with wheat”, due to their high reviews and great focus on two of my favorite style (in addition to their overall lower price)

    With all of the books I listed, I’m sure that any brewing library could be mostly complete ^–^

    • Billy Broas says:

      Hey Aaron, thanks for the comment. I love Yeast and Brewing Better Beer. They both came out after I wrote this post, and I’m glad because had I read them beforehand it would have been really tough to narrow the list down to 5. The Brewmasters Table is also fantastic and possibly one of the best overall beer books out there.

  9. Stephen McCordick says:

    I am from the UK and at the time Charlie Papazian’s book was written I was reading books by Dave Line. I have not read Charlie’s book. During the 1980’s Dave Line’s books (Brewing beers like those you buy and The Big Book of Brewing) were wonderful and I am really sorry that he did not live to see the wonderful development in home brewing. I think much of the information is still relevant and worth buying. However, if only one book can be afforded I would recommend John Palmer’s How to Brew”. If money is really tight look on line – I did at first but it is much better to have the hard copy – I bought it and it is fantastic.
    I totally agree with your other books and note your comments about “Yeast” which came out after your “5 choices”. I love the Yeast book. I use White Labs yeasts and I am really impressed that Chris White is so keen to answer any question I have.
    I am currently reading “For the love of Hops” by Stan Hieronymus, and I am loving it. Only part way through but looking at the topics it covers I think it should be on every serious home brewers book shelf.
    Now – THE book that I think we are all waiting for:- WATER by John Palmer. Again it is from Brewers Publications and due for publication this year (2013). Based on the other publications in this series ie Yeast and Hops, I think it will be Wonderful. I, for one will be putting in a pre order.
    You must be really excited by the current brewers in the US. I used to visit in the 1980’s and could not find good beer. In the 1990’s things started to look good. Now I am really excited by what I read is happening. I really hope it continues.

    Very best wishes


    • Billy Broas says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment Stephen. I too am reading Stan’s “Hops” book. It’s amazingly thorough. I have a feeling I’m going to go on an IPA-brewing spree once I finish it.

      Also looking forward to the Water book. I don’t envy Palmer’s task in writing that one, but it will be a BIG help to homebrewers because water is very difficult to wrap your head around.


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