- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Brewers Publications (May 16, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780937381984
- ISBN-13: 978-0937381984
- ASIN: 0937381985
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 123 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #320,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Brewing Better Beer: Master Lessons for Advanced Homebrewers Paperback – May 16, 2011
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From the Publisher
Channeling Influences, by Gordon Strong
As I thought more about my approach to brewing, I pondered how I learned or thought about new material—not just with brewing but with any hobby or skill.
I realized I was taking experiences from other parts of my life and using them to help me either to understand brewing or to experiment with new methods.
Applying knowledge and techniques from one domain to another is one way to be an innovative thinker. Taking different approaches can yield novel results and is a hallmark of open-ended creative thought. Innovations come from breakthrough thoughts, not incremental refinements of existing work. These new approaches might not always produce good results, but you can’t innovate without making some mistakes.
Think like an engineer.
Think like a carpenter.
Think like a judge.
Think like a chef.
Think like a Jedi Master. (or Zen Master for those less geeky).
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This is a practical no nonsense book on brewing loaded with tips and real world experience. The only shortcoming is when the author goes off the rails trying to convince the reader that the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) is anything more than a subjective beauty contest. While reading that section I kept getting mental images of figure skaters and water dancers in the Olympics. Pure nonsense.
The rest of the book is excellent.
If you've been brewing for a while, and good with basic concepts of cleaning, brewing steps, equipment, etc... then this book will enhance your knowledge. But don't expect it to explain the basics.
Even though sold for brewers with a few batches under their belt, and perhaps an all-grain batch or two at least, I would still recommend this book even if you've only done extract and considering all grain. Reason why is it will give you key insights into the methods and steps of all-grain brewing **from the perspective of an experienced brewer with many medals under his belt**. Thats' what sets this book apart....its not a sterile manual on all the ins and outs of brewing, but from the perspective of "here's what worked for me, here's where I do or don't spend my time, here's what I think matters".
I've read a few books on brewing, been on the forums for years, and brewed my first batch 12+ years ago. With that said, the best complement I can pay this book is to say I'll have to go back and re-read it to absorb everything Gordon Strong has to say.
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 worked much better if these regions were delineated with a change in the background color, or with a switch to a different font than the one chosen.
Ultimately, the best way to become a master brewer is to brew a lot and learn from your own experiences. I'm not going to make any grandiose statements that this book is like sitting with Siddartha on a spiritual journey into making beer, but I got a lot out of this book and some good ideas for things I want to try on my system.