Book Review of The Brewer’s Apprentice

by Karl Updated on October 14, 2011

I just finished reading The Brewer’s Apprentice: An Insider’s Guide to the Art and Craft of Beer Brewing, Taught by the Masters by Greg Koch and Matt Allyn.

Greg is the CEO of Stone Brewing and Matt is a writer, beer judge, and award winning homebrewer.

It’s hard for me not to pick up every new homebrewing book that comes out – I just can’t help it. So what did I think of this one? First here is some info on it.

The book is formatted where each chapter has two sections:

  1. A technical discussion of a topic
  2. An interview with an expert on that topic

The chapters stand on their own so you can pick up the book and skip to any chapter without losing context.

Many of the technical discussions were things I already knew and I found myself wanting to hurry up and get to the interviews, which are really the gems of the book. I could see why the technical discussions were included though, because when I got to the topics where I’m not very experienced (e.g. mead & cider) I read every word intently. Surely the readers will vary in experience level so you must account for everyone.

There are 18 chapters in the book, one chapter for each topic and interview with an expert. You can read the full table of contents On Amazon, but here’s a sample

  1. Aroma Hops with Nick Floyd of Three Floyds Brewing
  2. English Ales with John Keeling of Fuller’s Brewer
  3. Brewing Big Beer with James Watt of BrewDog
  4. Barrel Aging with Scott Vaccaro of Captain Lawrence Brewing
  5. Lager Brewing with Bill Covaleski of Victory Brewing

My favorite interviews were with Jean Van Roy of Cantillon for his discusion of lambics and Vinnie Cilurzo for his discussion of hops. These men are brilliant, as are the rest of the interviewees.

John Keeling was a particularly great read and the guy had some insightful quotes, including my favorite when asked about using yeast:

“The difference between making corflakes and beer explains it. That’s like the difference between riding a bike and a horse. If you’re riding a bike, you turn the handlebars and you’ll go right…Whereas [if you’re riding a horse] if you want to turn right, you turn the reigns and only if the horse agrees will it turn right. That’s the same relationship you have with your yeast.”

Hope you don’t mind if I borrow that one from you, John.

I recommend this book for homebrewers of all levels. It’s good because it’s unique. There are plenty of “how to brew” books out there but I often want to know what’s actually being done in the brewhouse of my favorite breweries.

If I have criticism of T.B.A. it’s that I wanted more – more topics and more depth. Not that I’d ever be satisfied.

Pick up The Brewer’s Apprentice. Once you start reading you won’t put it down.

Karl S: Lead marketer, brewer, dad, and husband. Pretty much an all-round awesome guy.