I’ve picked up a bunch of homebrewing books over the past few years. Many are filled with nothing but regurgitated information that you can find anywhere or too style/ingredient specific to be used as a general homebrewing reference.
Also, it's hard to beat some of the tried and true classics like The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian or How to Brew by John Palmer.
The truth is, there is so much online information about brewing that I can get some really solid information about specific techniques or ingredients with just a few Google searches.
So why do I need another book?
Mastering Homebrew by Randy Mosher might just be the exception I’ve been looking for.
As one might expect from Mr. Mosher, Mastering Homebrew is full of beautiful illustrations and charts for reference. The book is written to take you step by step through the entire brewing process, including:
- The hows and whys when building a recipe.
- How to improve your brewing process
- How to maximize fermentation for the best results
The book has a great flow. It starts with understanding beer and the brewing process. Then it moves on to yeast, fermentation, styles, recipes, and even troubleshooting.
If you’re not into reading the book cover to cover, it still works great as an “as-needed” reference. For example, if you are not getting the mash efficiency you want, there is 20 page section that should help you dial in your process. This includes 4 different (OK, one is a no sparge) techniques for sparging along with a very detailed HERMS process; Heat Exchange Recirculating Mash System.
Who is this book for?
If you’re a more experienced homebrewer you'll find that some of the information is not new. But I wasn't expecting a complete game changer. At the same time, this is not quite the right book for someone who has never brewed before. While Mosher does a good job explaining the process, I think it misses a few of the details the novice brewer needs.
Regardless of your skill level, Mosher does a really good job of not dumbing down information or making it dull. This book is great for the brewer who knows the brewing basics and is looking to improve their craft and brew better beer.
A few of my favorite sections
- There is a solid listing of hops and Mosher breaks them down into “Personality Groups”. One chart covers the Noble hops, or “Noblesse” as the book refers to them. You browse varieties from classic Noble with herbal aspects to the more fruity & spicy options.It also provides charts for Saazy, Britannic, Styriac, Cascadian, Pacifical and basic bittering hops. This provides new insights for building your hop profile.
- I haven't found a more comprehensive course when it comes to malt descriptions and uses. The descriptions of the different Caramel & Crystal malts are especially eye-opening. I never realized that once you get above Crystal 30 you start to impart toasted raisiny qualities.
- The recipe section includes styles and recipes from around the world. I haven’t brewed any of them yet but I might just need to brew the Vida Dulce Porter page 330 & 331, from Argentina.I have never dreamed about adding sweetened condensed milk to any beer. Sounds so interesting.
I do love the book, but…
- Font size. For me and my old eyes, I wish the font was a tad bigger. Or maybe I should keep my reading glasses a little closer.
- This is not a beginner homebrew book, even though there is a section about brewing your first beer. It includes all the information to get you from point A to point B, but the layout is a busy and hard to quickly reference.Step by step instructions in a bullet point style would work better for the novice. Get a few batches in and then this will be a perfect addition to your library.
To sum things up, I’ve homebrewed for 20 years and have read many books, articles and even attended UC Davis for a weeklong brewing course. However, I can always use a little help.
The chapter on brewing ingredients and specifically the pages on malts is very useful. Maximizing your grain bill without over complicating it — this is one area I'm always looking to improve on.
Mastering Homebrew will be my new reference book. It provides a great resource for homebrewers who want to brew better, more interesting beer.