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Brewing Better Beer, by Gordon Strong

I read a lot of brewing books.  Some are much better than others.  Brewing Better Beer by Gordon Strong is easily one of my favorites.  Most brewing books are aimed at beginning brewers, and spend a lot of time on the basics, without taking that next step.  Brewing Better Beer is a great book, aimed at intermediate or advanced brewers.

In Brewing Better Beer, Gordon Strong takes more of a first person approach to the brewing process.  He shares stories of (mostly award winning) batches that he has brewed, and shares nuggets of wisdom from the process of creating those batches of beer.  This book is like having a conversation with an expert brewer.  As the title suggests, it isn’t about “how to brew”, it’s about how to brew BETTER.  As an intermediate brewer who still runs in to complications (more often than I’d like…), this book is exactly the type that I’d like to read. Gorden shares tips and concepts that can help you improve the beer you’re already making.

Brewing Better Beer covers most every step from the mash, the boil, fermentation, and bottling.  Through each step, he suggests things that could be done in that step, why you might do them, and how they’ll change your beer.  Gordon doesn’t take a scientific, dry approach, but rather a very conversational, anecdotal approach.  It’s like having a pro along for your brew day — which I think is great.

If you can’t tell, I’m a huge fan of this book.  After reading so many dry books that seem to say mostly the same thing, it’s nice to read a book that is truly unique.  Living in a smaller city without a homebrew club, it’s nice to feel like you’re getting advice from an expert brewer, and not just making it up as you go.

As much as I liked it, it did take me a long time to get through.  I felt like it could wander occasionally, and would lose my attention.  I had to be in the right mood to read this one, but it’s still one I’ll be reading again and again in the future.  There is quite a bit of reference to competition brewing, as well, which I don’t currently care much about.

Brewing Better Beer is currently going for less than $12 on Amazon, which is almost too cheap not to check out.  If you’ve been brewing for a while, and would like to pick up some extra info that might help your batches improve, or even your processes – this one is worth picking up.

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Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation

I’ve read a bunch of brewing books over the last year, so I’ve decided to start writing a bit about them after I’m done.

Most everything I do when I brew comes from some little nugget of wisdom I’ve grabbed from either a book or website, so it only makes sense to give some of the highlights so that other people can possibly decide to read the same materials.  I’m starting things off with the weirdest, but probably my favorite book I’ve read so far.  Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation.

The Yeast Book

You know you’ve gone past casual brewer when you have the attention span to go through an entire book dedicated to yeast, but apparently I’m there.  I didn’t just forge through this book for the knowledge, I actually enjoyed the hell out of it.

Amazon describes the book as a resource for brewers of all experience levels. The authors adeptly cover yeast selection, storage and handling of yeast cultures, how to culture yeast and the art of rinsing/washing yeast cultures. Sections on how to set up a yeast lab, the basics of fermentation science and how it affects your beer, plus step by step procedures, equipment lists and a guide to troubleshooting are included.

Before reading this book I really didn’t know how important yeast was in the brewing process.  I’ve always known you needed to take certain steps to keep yeast happy, but I never had any idea how much the different variables can improve or change the brews you make.  You can make a good beer without paying much attention to your yeast, but I don’t know that you can make a GREAT beer… and that’s the goal isn’t it?

The Yeast Book” (as I call it) does a great job of riding the line between over-technical and interesting.  The chemistry of fermentation is often explained, but it’s usually just there for those who might care.  Your eyes can gloss over those parts, and you’re still going to get a lot out of this book.  I don’t need to know chemical composition, and why things react the way they do on a molecular level.  Leave that for scientists…

I would say this book is aimed at a mid-level brewer who is looking to take their beer and processes up a notch.  There’s a lot of great information on how brewing yeast has evolved over the years, the different ways yeasts affect your beer, and there’s even a bunch of info on creating your own yeast cultures.

I don’t know that I’m going to be creating yeast cultures any time soon, but I did like learning about the different bi-products of yeast in fermentation and how to control many of them.  For example, I have always fermented at about 68°, but I’ve recently lowered that to closer to 60° to reduce esters and go for a dryer finish.

I know it sounds nerdy as heck to read a book about yeast, but even if you’ve been brewing a while, there’s probably info in this book that can help you out.  Like I said, I really liked this book.  I can say pretty confidently that knowing more about yeast is going to give me better beers going forward.  I wasn’t even aerating my wort before this book, but have since purchased the equipment to make it happen!

Amazon.com: Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation (Brewing Elements Series)

Disclaimer:  The Amazon links are affiliate links, which means I stand to make a small cut of purchases made with Amazon if you click the book links in this post.  None of the opinions I’ve stated are biased in an effort to sell books.

 

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