Sunday, 15 February 2015

Need More Input Part 3...

Brewing Up a Business - Sam Calagione
Knowing the direction that I want to take this beer brewing hobby of mine the wife bought me this book to spur me on. If you don’t already know, Sam Calagione is the founder of famed US brewery Dogfish Head, and despite being obviously US-centric, a lot of what Sam talks about is universal. He doesn’t go in-depth into the ins-and-outs of running a brewing business, which wouldn’t be applicable to anyone outside of the state of Delaware, but instead talks about the culture and ethos behind the business, along with it’s history, which I found to be very inspirational. There were many standout moments, such as the origin of the famed 60 Minute IPA and invention of “Randall The Enamel Animal” (something I hadn’t realised was credited to Dogfish Head!). There were certain chapters I did skim read, on subjects that weren’t really applicable to myself, such as managing staff, but all-in-all it was an excellent read.

Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation - Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff
Written by the head honcho of Whitelabs (along with famed homebrewer Jamil Zainasheff) there was no shadow of doubt that this was going to be the defacto bible on the subject of yeast. If you want to be serious about brewing beer this book is a must read and gives invaluable advice on the matter of yeast wrangling. There are some science heavy sections that are more geared towards breweries that can afford a dedicated lab area, but I’d like to think that one day I can make use of that knowledge. I did notice that some of the information contradicted what is written on a vial of Whitelabs yeast, such as pitchable amounts and ideal temperatures, but these things aren’t set in stone so I guess it’s up to the brewer how they want to handle things. I had always tried to avoid messing too much with yeast as it seemed like something more akin to witchcraft, but after reading this there was no fear and I’m now the proud owner of a conical flask and knock out my own yeast starters with confidence. Out of all the books out there on the subject of brewing this is without a doubt in the top 3 you should read,

American Sour Beers - Michael Tonsmeire
I’ve always had a thing for sour beers but I had never considered brewing one as it all seemed a bit too complicated, but this book has done a great job of dispelling the myths surround this dark art. Written by Michael Tonsmeire, author of The Mad Fermentationist blog, you know the subject is in good hands and he certainly does a great job of talking you through the various methods of souring a beer. In fact, before he gets into the nitty gritty of things he advises to start a sour brew as you read through the book so that you can follow the beers journey first hand. Along with the methods employed, he also talks about the origin of sour beers in Europe before turning his attention to the title subject matter - American sour beers and the breweries that produce them, such as Lost Abbey and Russian River. Each brewery has their own methods and this book does a sterling job at conveying them through a series of flow charts, making it a piece of cake to follow. The latter part of the book has some of Michael’s own tried and tested recipes which make for a good starting point for anyone wanting to try their hand. If you have a taste for the sours then you really can’t afford to miss out on this super read, even if you don’t plan on brewing one! For me personally, this is right up there with ‘Yeast’ for importance of information.

Brew Like a Monk - Stan Hieronymus
This book is getting a little long in the tooth now, but the information contained within is all still very relevant. Despite what the title suggests it’s more of a history lesson on the beers and breweries of Belgium, than it is a guide to brewing beers. The recipes for all of these famed beers are closely guarded secrets so what you’ll find instead are some best guess approximations, but even then you’ll probably struggle to replicate some of the complicated brewing methods. Thankfully the last part of the book has recipes of Belgian style ales from brewers at various well known US breweries that are a little easier to follow. You probably won’t end up brewing like a monk, but it is still an excellent read and gives a great insight into some of the inner workings of famous Belgian breweries.