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VINE VOICEon July 29, 2006
I borrowed, bought and read a few brewing books, but found "How to Brew" to be the best. The very first chapter gets you off to a running start should you find yourself with an unpacked brew kit, needing only the most vital information to start brewing immediately. The rest of the book is well written and provides a clear outlay of brewing from the basics to the esoteric. There are clear explinations, many recipies and a wealth of information regarding the process and ingredients.

There are a few other books that are good, but if you own just one brewing book, this is it.

Update:3/2008
Almost two years later, I have to say this book remains at the forefront of my now expanded beer library. If you are just starting to brew, if you are curious, if you're looking for a book for someone who is starting out or if you are a brewer looking for an A-Z guide, this remains the one to get. It will provide a foundation of knowledge that will serve you well in your brewing pursuits.

Update 2: 2/2010
All this time and this book still is indispensable. As I have learned more and become more experienced, How To Brew has been there. I thought that I would pick this book up less and less, but the more skilled I became and the more I learned, the more I reached for this book. My move from extract brewing to all grain was much less difficult and for now, it seems from my experience that John Palmer has written the final word on home brewing to date. (All due respect to Charlie Papazian)
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on November 14, 2004
Like most homebrewers, I started out with Charlie Papazian's book "The New Joy of Homebrewing". I had the second edition. It was a good book, but comparing it to this text, it seems hopelessly dated.

With the explosion of microbreweries across the country, lots of people got turned on to GOOD beer - and many of those looked into homebrewing. With so many people trying different methods and equipment, over time, brewing became simpler and much of what was deemed necessary in the earlier days was discarded. Many of the techniques and equipment listed here are the results of years of trial-and-error streamlining by other homebrewers. In addition, there's never been so many resources available via mail order and on the net. Homebrewing really is easy at this point.

This is the best basic brewing text I've found. You can start with it by making extract only beers, graduating to specialty grains in addition to extract, then to all grain brewing and making your own recipes and beer styles. The book is linear, presents the information as you need it and the information ranges from the most basic (like sanitation) to as technical as you could possibly want (water chemistry).

For years I've been an extract and specialty grain brewer. I never completely understood the process of all-grain brewing until I bought this text. It gave me the courage to build my own lautering tun and brew my first batch of beer made completely from scratch. It was a pale ale, nothing exotic, but man was it good beer. Check out the author's website and read the first edition online. The second edition is improved, so if you like the online text buy the hard copy book.

There are other good texts out there (the author lists many of them in the back of the book) but if you only want one homebrewing text, buy this one. It's a shame that Amazon doesn't carry it anymore. Track it down.
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Of all the authors who talk about homebrewing, John J. Palmer is by far the best writer. His prose is witty, entertaining and relentlessly focussed on clarifying the complexities and celebrating the simplicities of the small-scale brewing of beer.

There are probably three books that are genuinely helpful for the beginning homebrewer. Which one is right for you depends on how you approach techniques of dealing with things in the physical world.
If the idea of doing anything physical scares the bejabbers out of you, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing Third Edition (Harperresource Book). This is a very simple, slow and reassuring book. The author sounds like the friendliest, least intimidating guy in the world. The style is very chummy in a post-frathouse kind of way that some people find very difficult to read and that others find relaxing. In this book you may see the ancestor of the Complete Dummies series. I believe that Papazian, who has made a carreer of coaching homebrewers, has been published on the topic for thirty years or so.
If you're the sort of person who likes the idea of baking his own bread or wiring her own lamp, then probably The Complete Handbook of Home Brewing is right for you. The information is straightforward and well-organized and he allows for the fact that sometimes you want to make it fast and simple and other times you may want to linger over the details. There's a separate book of recipes ordered by beer style and also by degree of difficulty.
If you love fundamentals, then Palmer is the book for you. There are dozens of complications lurking in Palmer's world of brewing and a host of precautions and gadgets for avoiding them. The author is not a negative soul, on the contrary, he seems like a guy who just wants to get to the bottom of things. How to BrewHow to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time is also the book for those who are themselves curious about fundamentals: the hard science of brewing is to be found here.

--Lynn Hoffman, author of The New Short Course in Wine and bang BANG
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on May 11, 2011
It was hard to rate this book because there really are two reviews here.

The book itself is good. I would definitely recommend it especially for a beginning brewer.

The Kindle addition is TERRIBLE! It seemed as if it was scanned and not edited as there are many misspelled and wrong words. That is mildly annoying. The biggest problem is that this book uses many tables that are unreadable on the Kindle. These tables are important lists and references.

The bottom line is buy this in book form but stay clear of the Kindle format. Can I get my money back so I can buy the actual book?
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on April 24, 2007
It's up to date, well organized, has good photographs, and is filled with useful information for beginners and more detailed data for those wanting more. I also read Charlie Papazian's book first, but now, on my fourth batch, and still trying to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible, I find myself referring to Palmer constantly and Papazian almost never.
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on March 19, 2007
This book serves several purposes well. For the absolute beginner who is anxious to brew his first batch and to brew it right, this book helps give him a good shot at succeeding. And for the beginner with a little more patience, who wants to really understand all of the basics, including the how-and-why of all aspects of brewing, the ins and outs of the ingredients, etc, before making his first attempt, this book serves that purpose well, too. The book is so full of great information that you'll probably find yourself referring back to it over and over again as a reference.

The first half or so of the book covers all of the basics of beginning to intermediate homebrewing in a nicely layed-out, readable format. The last half of the book, which gets into the more advanced method of all grain brewing is more complex, but well-written and full of great information also. When tackling complex topics, Palmer usually breaks the discussion into two separate chapters: a practical chapter that tells you what you really need to know, and a more theoretical one that really gets into the technical details. This lets you skip all the technical details if you are not interested, without missing all of the good practical advice that can make a big difference in your results.

The appendices are very useful, too. One appendix, for example, covers many of the typical problems that may be encountered when homebrewing, what their causes are and how to fix the problem the next time around. It is a very practical guide full of useful information.

If you want a book that gives good detailed practical instructions as well as very readable explanations of the how-and-why of homebrewing, I'd say this book is an excellent choice.
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on November 9, 2006
Overall, this is a really good book; it is very complete. The author even gives results from fluid dynamics experiments he ran with a mash tun. The only reason I gave it 4 stars is because I felt that the all-grain brewing section ("Your First All-Grain Beer") could have been a little more detailed. I got lost at times when brewing it. Aside from that, though, the book helped me build a mash/lauter tun and get a good idea of how to successfuly all-grain brew. It also gives recipes and methods for inventing your own beers.
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on August 15, 2006
I picked this book up just before ordering my brewing equipment three years ago. 3 years, 52 brewing books read, 110 batches, 6 Best of Show awards, and a lot of long nights of drinking later, it is still the best book I own on practical brewing procedures.

The first chapter is THE perfect guide to making your first beer and not screwing it up. From then on, Palmer delves into more and more intricate procedures from brewing lagers, to decoction mashing, to yeast propogation and management. Lot's of useful charts and graphs throughout and a well put together appendix.

The one book I can say that EVERY homebrewer, no matter how serious they are, needs to own.
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on September 3, 2006
After reading both "The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing" and "How to Brew" How to Brew wins hands down. This book just feels much more up to date than Papazian's book. As a pretty new homebrewer (only 1 year experience) I found this book answered alot of the lingering questions and concerns I had. It also has a good habit of presenting more than one approach to doing things and gives the pros and cons for each. This book also has a good amount of more technical information too, so really think this is a good buy for novice and experienced homebrewers alike!
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on August 17, 2004
I came across this book from visiting John Palmer's web site. He is nice enough to let you see the entire first edition online. I admire his willingness to share, and I purchased a copy of the second edition. Although it is very similar to the online text, it has been updated, and having a hard copy of this excellent reference is a must.

For those wanting to brew and brew right out of the gate, Mr. Palmer starts off explaining every step of the process clearly and in a very straight forward manner. I found this book to be one of the best organized and clearly laid out brewing guides I've come across.

If you want more information other than just the mechanics of how to brew, it is in here too. Yeast, malts, hops, water, the boil, fermentation, equipment, all grain, and building your own equipment (and more) are thoroughly covered.

If you can't find this book on Amazon, go to your local homebrew store and pick up a copy.
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