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Brewing Better Beer: Master Lessons for Advanced Homebrewers

Brewing Better Beer: Master Lessons for Advanced Homebrewers

Brewing Better Beer: Master Lessons for Advanced Homebrewers

Brewing Better Beer is a comprehensive look at technical, practical and creative homebrewing advice from Gordon Strong, three-time winner of the coveted National Homebrew Competition Ninkasi Award.

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2 comments

  1. David Huber "Practicing zymologist"
    56 of 59 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    A very worthwhile read, August 9, 2011
    By 

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: Brewing Better Beer: Master Lessons for Advanced Homebrewers (Paperback)

    Like many active homebrewers, I own a decent number of books on homebrewing and I have read them all cover-to-cover. These include all the well-known ones from Papazian (several), Palmer, Noonan, Daniels, etc. I am a scientist by trade, so I particularly enjoy digging into the technical chapters so that I can do all the brewing calculations myself using a pencil, paper, and my trusty HP calculator. I’m also a long-time listener to a number of homebrewing podcasts, and I eagerly anticipate the arrival of my Zymurgy and BYO magazines. There is very little you can teach me with regards to brewing processes or techniques that I have not heard about before. Although I would love to experiment more and learn for myself the pros and cons of various techniques, I brew infrequent enough that I have settled into a system that works for me. All that being said, this is a book I enjoyed reading and one I highly recommend for the wealth of information inside.

    I purchased this book for exactly the reasons Gordon Strong lays out in the introduction: it tells you how and why Gordon Strong brews the way that he does. His credentials show that he has mastered homebrewing, so I was very interested to see if there were tips or procedures I could pick up that would improve my brew day and/or to improve my beer. He covers just about every angle from recipe formulation all the way through to packaging and shipping the beer off for competition. Every chapter either taught me something, reinforced an idea, or gave me something to think about.

    The book is divided into three main sections: Philosophy, Mastering Your Craft, and Applying Your Knowledge. The Philosophy section, which is just one chapter long, talks about how to approach making beer and formulating your approach; how to find inspiration, draw on unrelated experiences, etc. The Mastering Your Craft section covers chapters on process, equipment, and ingredients. There is nothing inherently profound about any of the stuff here, but that isn’t the point. You’re not being taught what a base malt is, but how to evaluate it, how to taste it, how to think about using it. You’re not being taught how to make a dark beer, but how to think about the different ways of using dark malts or steeping practices. The last section deals with tasting and evaluating your beer, looking for faults and fixing them, including a lengthy section on blending beers. There is also a very good chapter on brewing for competition, and preparing your beers for shipping to competitions.

    Because of the personal focus of the book, it is written in the first person voice. The tone is conversational and never condescending. Often, such as when talking about various brewing techniques, he will describe all the different ways to do something (for example, if talking about mashing, he’ll describe batch sparging, decoction, etc.), then he’ll tell you which technique he would use in which particular situation. He is not locked into a particular way of doing things and will choose what he thinks works best for what he wants to accomplish.

    The thing to keep in mind is that this is not an introductory book to teach you how to brew. As the title suggests, this is a book to tell you how to brew better beer. The book is written for all-grain brewers and it assumes the reader knows how to make beer. Some of the reviews here take issue with the fact that they didn’t learn any new techniques, or that they weren’t told what the best techniques to use are, like there is some special secret ingredient or piece of equipment that has been the reason for Strong’s successes. I think this is missing the forest for the trees. This isn’t a hand-holding book that promises you’ll make better beer by using such-and-such kind of mash tun, with such-and-such kind of fermenter, etc. And yes, ultimately you need to figure out for yourself what techniques or ingredients works best for you on your equipment. This book delivers exactly what it promises: it shows you how Gordon Strong approaches making beer and tries to point out the tools and approaches you can use. It is best summed up in his own words (p. 26): “…I will try to lead you through the decision process and discuss some of the choices I have made in developing a personal brewing style. The goal isn’t to have you emulate how I brew, but to use how I brew to help you develop your own way of brewing.”

    My only gripe is stylistic and not one for which I’d ding the book. At various places in-line are side bar type of material that contains a recipe or some kind of brief discussion on a topic. The beginning and end of these pieces are delineated well with horizontal lines. However, the text in these regions switches from a serif to a sans-serif font (the book doesn’t have a colophon, so I can’t tell you what the specific fonts are) that I find uncomfortable to read. I think that it would have…

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  2. 18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    Enjoyed the Read, January 23, 2012
    By 
    Patrick (Pittsburgh) –

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: Brewing Better Beer: Master Lessons for Advanced Homebrewers (Paperback)

    This book is not for everyone. Read the first 10 or so pages and you should have a good idea if it’s for you or not. This book feels more like Gordon is sitting down with you and having a conversation than helping you with your brewing. Are there books that do a better job explaining the basics of brewing? Yes. Are there books out there that do a better job at explaining the science of brewing? Yes. There are definitely better books for homebrewing out there. I own some. But Gordon’s book really helped me to look at my brewing and make some changes, to figure out where I want to take my brewing, and to set goals for myself. This is not a beginner’s book. This is not a book for a beer geek. This is a book for someone that has been brewing for a while and is looking at competition brewing or to better their brewing by seeing what someone does and thinks. I really enjoyed this book.

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