Home brewing books are a secret vice of mine, I seem to accumulate them and it doesn’t really matter what area they cover I will read them cover to cover. If you want to be a better brewer, understand what is going on in the fermenter and really push up your home brew beer to the next level will want to pick up a few home brewing books. You don’t have to be like me and spend a fortune on a home brewing library because I am going to recommend the best home brewing books I have read.
My Picks For Best Home Brewing Books
If you have followed the blog at all you will know that I am a big fan of reading, refining and then practicing what you have learned. Where to start, though? There are so many home brew books available and depending on your level of skill you might want to choose a more advanced one or a complete beginners book. I will start this list though with the first home brewing book I ever bought.
Brew Your Own British Real Ale
Out of all the home brewing books I have on the bookshelf, this one, in particular, has by far the most recipes. This is I guess part of the reason for it’s popularity, all of the recipes in Brew Your Own are clones of commercial British Ales. For many brewers being able to duplicate something you can buy in the shops or be able to replicate your favourite beer is a great goal. If you are brewing to save money then being able to obtain the same tasting end result for a fraction of the cost is a huge benefit.
As well as the extensive list of recipes you have an introduction to brewing which details equipment, procedures and ingredients. They are concise and pretty good introductions and ultimately will cover everything you will need to know but in the end, if you really want to get into the nitty gritty and finer points, then you might need to do some further reading. I am sure many other brewers will use this as the foundation of all their brewing knowledge before becoming more interested and developing their skills.
One thing I particularly like is that the recipes are formulated for all grain but also for partial and all malt extract versions where possible. Each of the brewing methods is detailed in the first section of the book then the recipes are marked in the index for which brewing methods you can use. This really opens out the book to all levels of home brewers so a beginner, as well as a more advanced brewer, will benefit from the book.
Ultimately I would say if I didn’t have this book I would not be brewing today because I was brewing something that I could go out and buy and I knew what the finished beer was going to taste like. If you are starting to brew I recommend this book whole-heartedly
How To Brew
I guess this is probably the most recommended of any home brew book and there is a reason why. Maybe you have got a couple of brews under your belt and you think, hey these are pretty good, but they aren’t great on top of this you are maybe you aren’t entirely sure why you need to hold a set temperature for x amount of time and add hops for the last 5 minutes. If this is you (I can definitely say it was me) then How to Brew by John Palmer is the best book you can buy.
Content wise this is one of the most comprehensive books you can find on the actual practicalities of home brewing. So comprehensive that for the first time brewer a lot of the content may seem overwhelming. Don’t let this put you off however the book is broken down into clear sections from “Brewing With Malt Extract” to “Brewing With Extract and Speciality Grain” to “All Grain Brewing” and “Recipes, Experimenting and Troubleshooting”. Within each of these section Palmer covers everything in great depth from water profiles, the technical aspects of mashing, malt and hop profiles and calculations like efficiency and bitterness.
If you’re a beginner or advanced brewer, I would recommend this book to either of you because it really does set the foundations you need to properly understand the brewing process. If you are already brewing good beer then it may open your eyes to things you hadn’t thought about before such as mash pH or even metallurgy.
The great thing about this book is the linear fashion it presents the information to the reader. As I said before the depth of knowledge on offer is unrivalled in most home brewing books I have encountered however, you start from the basics of malt extract brewing and are given all the information to understand how it works and the processes involved then as you progress you are presented with grain brewing and the information is being built upon that foundation that has been set earlier. This is really why this book is so good. It can turn you into an expert on home brewing in no time giving you the broadest scope of knowledge all whilst brewing beer for the first time.
Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher comes a close second for the sheer amount of beer recipes outlined in the book. However, it is a whole lot more than just a recipe book, this is the book that got me thinking differently about home brewing and beer in general and it contains a lot of the philosophy that goes into making different beers.
There is a fairly comprehensive overview of how to make beer but I wouldn’t suggest Radical Brewing as a beginners book, you would be much better off reading How To Brew if you are just starting out. I would recommend Radical Brewing if you want to discover a whole world and history of beer styles and how you go about brewing them. This is one of those books that will really broaden your horizons and give you a taste of what is really possible as a home brewer, including making some of the most obscure beers in the world, beer recipes that you will find no commercial brewery making.
A large section of the book is dedicated to ingredients, not the base ingredients in beer, although, these sections are covered thoroughly. It’s the sections on adding fruit, spices and other flavourings to your beer that is covered in much more depth than any other book I have read. If you are interested in adding something different to your beer recipes then Radical Brewing is the place to look. Randy Mosher covers how fruits, spices and other ingredients interact with the beer with full tasting notes.
History and culture are covered as well, not in a dull or boring way, these sections I found particularly interesting. Randy Mosher has a knack for storytelling and you will soon find yourself wanting to brew a Kvass beer with old rye bread or a beer made with pine needles. That is where this book really shines.
Brewing Elements Series
This next selection is actually four books in a series. Each of the four books covers a different brewing element; Malt, Hops Yeast and Water. A whole book is dedicated to each of these ingredients so you can imagine the depth of material each cover.
I wouldn’t recommend these to a new brewer, they are a perfect choice for the more advanced home brewer wanting to push their knowledge up to the next level. Some of the details the book covers are going to be overboard for the home brewer and more relevant to a professional brewer in a microbrewery setting. However, that doesn’t mean the information is irrelevant for a home brewer.
The writing is accessible but does get a little technical in places, anyone with a basic understanding of chemistry and biology should have no problems understanding the content. Each of the books is really a mini-textbook on each of the subjects. I did find some more enjoyable than others, in particular, the Hops book which is a more entertaining read than the water book for example.
The Brewing Elements series is good for any home brewer that wants to get their head around the complexities of beer, granted some of the information laid out is overkill for the home brewer who will have no practical use for it, however, there is a lot more content that will have you making better beer and understanding the brewing process in a lot more depth.
Classic Beer Style Book Series
I guess this is cheating because it’s a whole series of books with each book focusing on a different style of beer. There are hundreds of home brewing books that focus on the general aspects of brewing but not many that drill down into the details.
The Classic Beer Style series of books covers around 17 beer styles;
- Altbier: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes
- Barley Wine: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes
- Bavarian Helles: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes
- Belgian Ale
- Brown Ale: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes
- Continental Pilsener
- German Wheat Beer
- Kolsch: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes
- Mild Ale: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes
- Pale Ale: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes
- Scotch Ale
- Smoked Beers: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes
- Vienna, Marzen, Oktoberfest
These aren’t just brewing book, they cover the history, origins and commercial examples as well as the brewing process, recipes and ingredients of the beers.
Each book of the series is written by different authors and are thoroughly researched because they were published a little while ago now hard copies are difficult to come by but the whole series has been released as ebooks now so there is no reason not to pick one or two up.
Delving into the details is what really sets apart those good at making beer to those great at making beer if you have an interest in a beer style I thoroughly recommend you pick up one of the titles in the Classic Beer Style series.