Wisdom for Home Brewers: 500 tips & recipes for making great beer
by Ted Bruning & Nigel Sadler
“This book is a collection of 500 brewing tips plus basic recipes for different kinds of beer, with practical instruction for beginners with more detailed, obscure, and even a little surprising information for those who’ve been at it for years.”
I was recently sent this book to review so here is an overview of my background to better understand from where I approached this book from an experience point of view.
I first homebrewed beer a little over 25 years ago with a kit in the UK which consisted of a plastic bag with a tap in a cardboard barrel that involved adding water to a powdered mixture then waiting around 10 days before drinking something that vaguely resembled beer!
Since moving to the USA in 2009 I resumed homebrewing in the Fall of 2010, first of all with Extract and Mini-mash kits before quickly moving onto All-Grain on the stove top and eventually a 3-tier Sanke keg-based system in the garage. I now brew around 15-20 times per year and each batch is usually 10 gallons covering a variety of styles.
The book is divided into 10 chapters as follows:
- Getting Started
- Malt and Other Fermentables
- Hops and Other Flavorings
- Mashing and Boiling
- Fermentation and Maturation
- Bottling and Kegging
- Control and Troubleshooting
- The Transition Brewery
- Beer Styles and Recipes
The flow of these chapters goes through the brewing process and within each one are the basics for beginners and then detailed information for more advanced homebrewers.
The information is organized into individual tips which usually consist of a single paragraph and deal with one topic or point at a time. This makes the book easy to pick up and put down without losing your train of thought. Some consecutive tips do build upon a particular topic and explore it in more depth or different aspects of it.
Unusually this book does not include a background of its authors who are:
Ted Bruning – is an award-winning beer and brewery writer who has been writing on the topic for over 20 years. He worked on the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) membership newspaper for 13 years and was the editor of CAMRA’s What’s Brewing for 8 years. Bruning is the author of Historic Pubs of London; Historic Inns of England; Home Brewing: A guide to making your own beer, wine, and cider; and The Microbrewers’ Handbook (now in its 4th edition).
Nigel Sadler – is the Commercial Manager at Wibbler’s Brewery in Essex (England) and has 20+ years experience as a home brewer. An Institute of Brewing & Distilling Accredited Trainer for the General Certificate in Brewing (GCB), he continues to write and lecture on home brewing and is a director of Learn2Brew, an on-line training resource for home brewers. He was also UK Beer Sommelier of the Year 2012.
Perhaps this is something that will be added to the next Edition.
The text has a good print size which is easy to read though the ‘squiggly’ font used for the tip titles can make some of the letters and words tricky to figure out.
Each chapter is broken down into sections of related tips such as:
- Malt and Other Fermentables – Ale Malts, Lager Malts, Special Malts, Other Grains, Sugars, Fruit and Vegetable Specials.
- Hops and Other Flavorings – English Varieties, Lager Hops, New World, Getting the Best Out of Your Hops, Grow Your Own Hops, Other Flavorings.
- Mashing and Boiling – Water Treatment, Mashing, Running Off, Mashing Lager, The Boil.
- Fermentation and Maturation – Yeast, Fermentation, Secondary Fermentation of Ale, Fermenting and Conditioning Lager, Fining, Sour Beers, Beer from the Wood.
- Bottling and Kegging – Bottling, Priming, Kegging.
- Control and Troubleshooting – Record Keeping, Hygiene, Process Control, Troubleshooting, Detecting and Avoiding Off-flavors, Estimating Alcohol Content.
At the back of the book is an index which is useful for jumping straight to topics based on certain keywords though please note the index references page numbers not tip numbers.
The book uses both Litres (Liters) and Gallons to help appeal to readers in different continents though there do appear to be some inconsistencies as to whether an Imperial Gallon (4.5L) or US Gallon (3.8L) are used and in some parts there are typos – best to double-check the conversions before following them in your brewing.
A couple of subjects which I noted are covered in more detail that in some other general books on homebrewing are Hops where their uses, flavors, aromas, some history, and growing hops are covered within chapter 4. Also the topic of Casks, which are becoming more popular, are covered in chapter 7.
There are a variety of pragmatic tips on how to approach the various aspects of homebrewing together with some unusual ones such as Tip #36 which suggests the use of a Whoopee Cushion as a musical airlock so you can hear when fermentation has finished!
Chapter 8 pulls together a number of points from the previous chapters to act as a Troubleshooting Guide and explains how they can address commonly encountered issues.
There is also a short chapter (#9) on how to scale up your brewery without ditching all of your existing equipment.
Finally there is a substantial chapter containing numerous Ale and Lager recipes covering the whole spectrum of beer styles that you can brew.
Overall I find this book to be easy to read and should appeal to both beginners and advanced homebrewers alike. It can either be read from cover to cover and/or be used as a reference book to lookup specific topics.
Being a reasonably experienced homebrewer, who has read a lot of books on the subject, I found it both useful and interesting as a reminder on some of the basics but also giving me new ideas and a different perspective on some subject matters.
Please also check out the original Press Release:
‘Wisdom for Home Brewers’ is currently available in hardcover from The Taunton Press and can be purchased on Amazon by clicking here (MRP $21.95).