Loftus – Sustainable Homebrewing

Sustainable Homebrewing: An All-Organic Approach to Crafting Great Beer by Amelia Slayton Loftus
Date read: 09 – 17 January 2017
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2017nfc

Cover image of Sustainable Homebrewing by Amelia Slayton Loftus

Paperback, ix, 357 pages
Published 2014 by Storey Publishing
Source: Deschutes Public Library [641.873 LOFTUS AMELIA]

I enjoyed this quite a bit and would find owning a copy useful. My reservation hinges on what might be a marketing issue. There are several extant, amazing books on beginning homebrewing—from extract to full grain—such that I don’t understand why so much space is spent on it in a specialty book like this. But, then, most do. Which is my point regarding marketing. Perhaps the topic would be too niche to sell on its own but I, for one, would appreciate more on the specialty topic/angle and less of the here-it-is-again basics.

The basics are covered well here and, to be honest, it is, for me, a slog to read basic homebrewing instructions over and over. My eyes start glazing over I have read so very many. [Unless one is looking at the evolution of homebrewing instructions in print and then ….] I would prefer more of the space in a specialty homebrewing book be spent on the specialty topic rather than on basic brewing instructions and equipment coverage, unless it is appropriate to the topic. Perhaps that is just me. Perhaps there is less of a market for such specialty books. I don’t know. Anyway, I heartily recommend this book.

Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Part 1: The allure and the art of homebrewing
  • 1 Looking at essential equipment and supplies
  • 2 Finding organic brewing ingredients
  • 3 The basics of brewing good beer
  • 4 Kicking it up: Brewing from scratch
  • Part 2: Sustainable brewing in the kitchen and garden
  • 5 The homebrewer’s kitchen
  • 6 The homebrewer’s garden
  • Part 3: Brewing organic beer
  • 7 Easier recipes for beginning brewers
  • 8 Advanced all-grain recipes
  • 9 Creating your own organic beer recipes
  • List of beer recipes
  • Metric conversion chart
  • Resources
  • Index

Basically, these are my extremely succinct notes. They ought, at least, give you an idea as to what is behind the chapter titles.

Introduction – two pages. “Being a good brewer,” for her involves good stewardship; sustainability. Lists two handfuls of early organic breweries and beers. Covers her 3 main reasons for brewing organic.

  • Supports organic agriculture and small-scale farming
  • Beer is food. [If you eat organic when possible …]
  • Is cheaper in the long run

Part 1: The allure and the art of homebrewing – covers equipment, ingredients, basic extract brewing plus steeping to all-grain brewing.

1 Looking at essential equipment and supplies – developing a personal ecosystem, considering the cost of manufacturing, fair wage produced and fairly traded. Covers equipment in some detail. Geared towards 5-gallons of lighter beers or smaller batches. Efficient use of raw materials, choosing eco-friendly materials, and finding equipment and supplies. How to be green and ecologically sound with cleaners and sanitizers; reusing them.

2 Finding organic brewing ingredients – covers ingredients and finding sources for organic ones, along with storage; also water and yeast.

3 The basics of brewing good beer – [skip if not beginner/basic, she writes] : Getting started; lots on yeast and making a starter, steeping grains, adding extract, …, hops additions, chilling, fermentation, bottling.

4 Kicking it up: Brewing from scratch – all-grain process, extra equipment needed, pH testing, mashing, …, water chemistry, mash pH, aeration, control of fermentation temperature.

Does not mention no-sparge or BiaB under sparging. A bit of a let down there, honestly.

Part 2: Sustainable brewing in the kitchen and garden

5 The homebrewer’s kitchen – using leftover yeast: harvesting, feeding to animals, yeast broth and yeast extract, vegetarian gravy. Using spent grain: nutritional content, animal feed (recipes for poultry feed and dog biscuits), cooking with spent grain (recipes for brownies, cookies, energy bars, granola, falafel, veggie burgers, pizza dough, assorted breads, pretzels), turning a bad batch of beer into vinegar.

6 The homebrewer’s garden – composting spent grain, hops, and yeast; vermiculture; making mushroom substrate from spent grain; recycling cleaning/sanitizing and cooling water; growing hops; growing barley; malting; kilning specialty malts; malting other grains; adding fruit to beer; adding vegetables to beer; and adding herbs to beer.

Part 3: Brewing organic beer

7 Easier recipes for beginning brewers –recipes, in both extract and all-grain versions, for a wide variety of styles.

8 Advanced all-grain recipes – another wide variety of styles and more complex recipes possibly involving fruit, step mashing, etc. that is a bit above beginner.

9 Creating your own organic beer recipes – converting existing recipes to organic, followed by lots of information on organic ingredients, recipe development, malt yields and similar concepts.

The list of beer recipes lists them alphabetically by name and also broken down, alphabetically also, under the headings: ales, lagers, porters and stouts, wheat beers, and miscellaneous.

Resources covers recipes, recipe calculators, brewing apps; testing laboratories; homebrewing resources; organic brewing ingredient sources; recommended reading.

One note on design: There are lots of “breakouts” but they got distracting due to placement; they were often several pages away from what referenced them. E.g., see Adjusting Hop Additions which is in middle of cooling options [67].

Highly recommended and would love to own a copy. I would like to revisit it for some ideas at some point.

This is the 7th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge 2017 [2017nfc] http://marklindner.info/blog/2017/01/01/2017-reading-challenges-goals/ and the 6th review. [These numbers are (for now) accurate; I had left out a nonfiction book read but not reviewed.]

New post:   #2017nfc #bookreview #organic #homebrewing

Beer & Brewing Resolutions for 2017

These are my beer and brewing resolutions for this year, which I got from Beer Simple.

Pint of Oblivion beer on a wooden table top

1. Brew at home!

This has been my goal for two years now and I really hope this is the year I can pull it off. I need to get my kettle modified and acquire a few more pieces of equipment and also nail down my processes that I want to use. But I either need to do this or give it up.

2. Revisit (one of my) least favorite breweries and drink at least 4 of their beers

There are several local breweries who I almost never think about–we are that blessed here in Bend, Oregon thankfully–but perhaps they have improved. It is only fair to give them another chance. Perhaps I’ll find a new favorite beer or at least be able to give more up-to-date info to others regarding them.

I also hope to be making a trip to Salem, Oregon this spring and let me just say I trashed every post I started to write after my trip to Salem two years ago. I am not a “If you can’t say anything nice” kind of guy but had to keep deciding that was best in this case. I am looking forward to giving pretty much all Salem breweries another chance.

I want to do this locally too, though, as there are several new(er) breweries in town I have never even visited, although I have had some of their beer. Ergo, no visit previously.

3. Read at least 3 new-to-me beer or brewing books

This one should be extremely easy but it is still important. I am already well into Beer, In So Many Words.

4. Attend a new-to-me festival

I would really like it to be something like the Oregon Garden Brewfest (June 16-18, 2017) or the Hood River Fresh Hops Fest (September 23, 2017) but I will take any new one that interests me.

5. Find a new appreciation for a passé or overlooked beer style

Bock or malt liquor perhaps, although it will be tough to find many of either.

6. Write a letter to a brewery making one of my favorite beers and thank them

Do it!

7. Learn one scientific lesson that will improve my brewing

Water profiles, perhaps?

8. Attend a homebrew club meeting other than my own (COHO)

Cascade Fermentation Association in Redmond I expect.

9. Participate in at least 2 group brews

I definitely need more experience and watching and/or helping others and seeing other systems and processes in action is a great way to get it.

10. Re-take BJCP tasting exam

This is scheduled for July and I am hoping to get a 70 or above. I got a 68 last year on my first go, which was better than I expected, but I want to be eligible to take the written exam even if I never do.

There are other things I hope to do but I need a better formed idea in the first place for one, or more ideas to expand on another, or simply to remember/realize some things for others.

What are you hoping to accomplish in 2017 in your beer drinking, writing, appreciation, etc. and/or in your brewing? Cheers and Happy New Year!

Hales, ed. – Beer & Philosophy

Beer & Philosophy: The Unexamined Beer Isn’t Worth Drinking edited by Steven D. Hales; foreword by Michael Jackson

Date read: 5 April / 15-24 September 2016
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Beer & Philosophy: The Unexamined Beer Isn’t Worth Drinking edited by Steven D. Hales

Paperback, x, 233 pages
Published 2007 by Blackwell
Source: Summit / Own

Table of Contents

  • Foreword: Michael Jackson.
  • Editor’s Introduction: Steven D. Hales (Bloomsburg University).

Part I: The Art of the Beer:.

  • 1. Thirst for Authenticity: An Aesthetics of the Brewer’s Art: Dale Jacquette (Pennsylvania State University).
  • 2. The Beer Matrix: Reality vs Facsimile in Brewing: Garrett Oliver (Brooklyn Brewery).
  • 3. The Truth About Beer: Michael P. Lynch (University of Connecticut).
  • 4. Good Beer, or How to Properly Dispute Taste: Peter Machamer (University of Pittsburgh).
  • 5. Quality, Schmality: Talking Naturally about the Aesthetics of Beer; or, Why is American Beer So Lousy?: Martin Stack (Rockhurst University) and George Gale (University of Missouri).
  • 6. Extreme Brewing in America: Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head Craft Brewing).

Part II: The Ethics of Beer: Pleasures, Freedom, and Character:.

  • 7. Mill v. Miller, or Higher and Lower Pleasures: Steven D. Hales (Bloomsburg University).
  • 8. Beer and Autonomy: Alan McLeod (Senior Legal Counsel for the City of Kingston, Ontario).
  • 9. Another Pitcher? On Beer, Friendship, and Character: Jason Kawall (Colgate University).

Part III: The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Beer:.

  • 10. Beer and Gnosis: The Mead of Inspiration: Theodore Schick (Muhlenberg College).
  • 11. The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Beer: Neil A. Manson (University of Mississippi).
  • 12. What’s a Beer Style?: Matt Dunn (University of Indiana at Bloomington).

Part IV: Beer in the History of Philosophy:.

  • 13. Drink on, the Jolly Prelate Cries: David Hilbert (University of Illinois at Chicago).
  • 14. Beer Goggles and Transcendental Idealism: Steven M. Bayne (Fairfield University).
  • 15. Beyond Grolsch and Orval: Beer, Intoxication, and Power in Nietzsche’s Thought: Rex Welshon (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs).
  • Index

That subtitle is ridiculous [The Unexamined Beer Isn’t Worth Drinking]. Too easy of a shot and entirely incorrect. Although a propensity to examine one’s beer can be a fine thing, sometimes, in some contexts, beer just does need to be simply drank; not thought about and deity forbid “examined.”

The foreword by Michael Jackson is, of course, sensible. The only issue is that it is somewhat dated now, as many of these pieces are, due to a rapidly changing industry.

“When Fred [Eckhardt] and I first met, his home town, Portland, Oregon, had one brewery” (x).

It is far closer to 90 now.

“Today, there are between 50 and 100 styles of beer being produced in the US, by about 1,500 breweries” (x).

No idea on current number of styles–and by whose counting?–but we’re much closer to 5000 operating breweries in the US, with ~6500 permitted ones.

Certainly not Michael’s fault that the market has changed and, as I said, this is a fault with several of these pieces. Many times market examples are simply that, but sometimes someone uses them to do philosophical analysis and that is pretty much a non-starter. Sure. There is sometimes little choice but I would have hoped the editor focused on more time-insensitive discussions. [MJ is not doing analysis, just commentary, so he gets a bye on this.]

Anyway, the work as a whole is not completely time-bound.

Editor’s Introduction: provides an overview of the chapters themselves and of the groupings (Parts) into which they were put.

Part I The Art of Beer

1 Jacquette: primarily on “authenticity” but is confused, confusing, and extremely prejudiced. Poor philosophy and with the amount of prejudice shown should never have been included in this collection. Period. Certainly should not have been the first piece; although, it did set a very low bar for the rest.

While discussing glassware we get things like the following:

On the Bavarian Maß he says:

“Still, if such tankards are used extensively in certain places where good beer is made, doesn’t this mean that they are an authentic part of beer-drinking culture?

The answer, as we can say in few areas of philosophy, is an unqualified no. Big heavy glass mugs are out” (20) [emphasis in text].

Just. What. The. Actual. Fuck?! The editor should be smacked for allowing this asinine shit. Even if the Bavarians have only been using the Maß for several decades–not his point, or my claim–that does not make it inauthentic. In fact, sitting in a beer garden drinking a Bavarian Lager out of most anything but a Maß would be inauthentic.

“I have seen brandy-snifter beer glasses for specialty beers, and these are often acceptable, if perhaps a little pretentious” (21).

Um. Fuck you, Jacquette.

He finally goes on to decide, quite reluctantly, that a Maß is authentic for current Bavarian culture, but only after deriding the glass for another few pages. Yes, it has issues as a “proper” glass for some purposes but that does not give him license to dismiss it out of hand. Nor are his personal preferences in “an optimal vessel” either (21). Simply not relevant to a philosophical discussion of authenticity.

He is also highly confused on, perhaps ignorant of, how styles evolve. He claims “the good European beers have had in some cases as much as a thousand years, and most at least several hundred, in developing their craft” (27). So I guess Oktoberfest Bier is no longer authentic then.

On whether we must enjoy the truly authentic:

“I may not like Belgian kriek (cherry-flavored) beers — indeed, I personally loathe them — but I think I can recognize an authentic kriek, which in the first place I do not consider to be an authentic beer, without appreciating the flavor, enjoying the taste, or approving the concept” (28).

This is a critically important point but it is again shot through with utter prejudice. He does not show or analyze why kriek maybe ought not be considered authentic but only claims it is not. He also blurs (conceals?) the real point about being able to recognize authenticity despite not enjoying the authentic item or even the concept of it as authentic.

His method for pouring beer (p. 23)–which he calls “[t]he proper method”–is ridiculous and wastes beer.

His ideals of authentic beers are Grolsch, Pacifico, Dos Equis, Red Stripe, Little Kings Cream Ale and so on. In other words, Euro-Lagers are the sine qua non of authentic beer for him. Jacquette is not an idiot but he certainly acted like one in this piece, as did the editor in including this piece.

2 Oliver: “artificial”

Mass market beer is NOT “real beer,” he claims (32).

Based on his butter –> margarine –> butter example, “artificial” is (sometimes) determined by fashion (33).

When he gets to where “the concept of beer style becomes useful” (36) he uses “Pilsner.”  But to the Czechs it is unique—the Pilsner just is Urquell. What he goes on to describe he labels “Pilsner-style beer” (36). Not a huge deal but I think he understood this was a fraught example but kept at it anyway; especially as it helps later with his argument that American mass market lagers are artificial.

All in all this is a definite improvement over the 1st essay.

At the end, he admits that we all have those things we accept as artificial. So the point was …?

3 Lynch: A fairly clear epistemological romp to sort out what sort of truth can be known; mostly in a “good”/ranking way. Quite short and an easy read.

Probably should have been in Part III though.

4 Madamer: doesn’t really get anywhere but is a nice ride. Discusses aesthetic description, evaluation and enjoyment.

The three aesthetic activities he is concerned with are describing, evaluating, and enjoying (53).

Under description:

“This is the main point: Descriptions, of anything, are produced by people for certain purposes. Descriptions are speech acts. As actions they accomplish their purpose or not, but the purposes themselves have to be judged as good or bad on independent grounds” (56).

This is a basic and important point. If you cannot grasp it then you ought never use Untappd or Ratebeer or generally even attempt to provide descriptions to anyone other than yourself.

“Sometimes metaphors are all we have” (60).

Amen! Another basic point about language.

Glad to see we are on an improving quality track so far.

5 Stack & Gale: aesthetic evaluation of beer.

“It can safely be said that the universal, worldwide estimation of these beers [American mass-market] is that they are of poor quality” (66)

“Universal”?! Um, no. They do later back off this claim a bit but it is too late. Two academics–one a philosopher–and they make this basic mistake. I know they are writing “pop” philosophy but who gives a fuck? You still can’t go making universal statements.

 “Acidity, perceived tartness, is measured by the pH scale: …” (67).

No, pH does not equal perceived tartness!

“CoSeteng and others (1989) showed that solutions of citric, malic, tartaric, lactic, and acetic acids with equivalent pH and titratable acidity gave significantly different sour taste responses. Likewise, Pangborn (1963) found no relation between pH, titratable acidity, and relative sour taste intensity of several organic acids at both threshold and suprathreshold concentrations” (R34).

The evidence that it is not that simple by a long shot is immensely varied. And large. Humans and other animals seem to have multiple channels for the sour taste and these channels differ widely across species.

“Although significant efforts have been made to understand the chemistry of sour taste, it is not currently possible to accurately predict and modify sour taste intensity in foods by simply knowing the concentrations of acids and pH” (R35).

Both above quotes from:

Neta, E. R. D. C., Johanningsmeier, S. D., & McFeeters, R. F. (2007). The Chemistry and Physiology of Sour Taste—A Review [Concise Reviews and Hypotheses in Food Science]. Journal of Food Science, 72(2), R33–R37. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1750-3841.2007.00282.x

“Barley is the sine qua non of beer production, and thereby, the foundation of beer quality. That’s where the process begins” (68).

Another universal and, again, incorrect. “Sine qua non” means “an essential condition” and barley is not that. For most beers known to much of the world, yes, but it sure as heck is not essential (in either the common or philosophical sense).

Their understanding of the brewing process is also close to bonkers. Few mashes are done over “several hours” (69). Adjuncts do in fact add (or at a minimum, change the) flavor despite their claim otherwise (69). It just goes on.

“The question of the relation between barleys and adjunct-brewing in American beers deserves a few remarks. Though turn-of-the-century American farmers …” (71).

This book was published in 2007. Which damn century do you fools mean? I grok it from context and perhaps most will but that was two turns-of-the-century ago.

No good passages to point to but import beers (into America) get a consistent pass throughout. I want to know why. Some of those are no better than American mass market ones either (see 74 and others prior).

They created a strategic map, or model, of the industry to compare price against advertising (80-81) but, of course, the market has now changed. Tis not good philosophy to include historically contingent market analysis as a more permanent feature of a phenomenon under analysis.

6 Calagione: I like Sam’s writing well enough but this is mostly “Kumbayah” and “Hail, Columbia!” He says normal Sam things here but they are unwelcome in philosophy.

“Big breweries make a product, small breweries make consumable art” (86).

Give me a fucking break! There may be more art [how is this measured?] in a small brewery’s beers but they are all products.

“As craft brewers we are not in the business of growth — we are in the business of making world-class beer. Growth is just a by-product of our business. Money is a means to our end and not an end in itself” (90-91).

Well ain’t that just convenient? And utter bullshit.

Anyway, if you know how Calagione talks and writes then you got this. Not bad overall but what was the point actually other than to sit around the fire basking in the glow of the craft beer brotherhood? Please tell me we are past this now.

Part II The Ethics of Beer: Pleasure, Freedom, and Character

7 Hales: Mill on pleasures. The pragmatics of polling competent judges is completely avoided as it was in hedonic calculus. They do, though, address what constitutes a competent judge in a domain.

“In short, it is a mistake to hold that pleasures are desirable because the competent judges desire them. Far more reasonable is the view that competent judges desire certain pleasures because those pleasures are antecedently desirable, and the judges, informed and educated about that kind of pleasure, are able to reliably detect the qualities that make those pleasures desirable” (103-4).

“The recognition of quality comes at a cost” (107).

Indeed.

The upshot is that we should, within our means, pursue high quality pleasures (109). Thus, become a knowledgeable beer geek.

8 McLeod: Nice. Shows how Canadian liberty is constrained by ridiculous beer laws; although it applies to all governments. Nicely argued and well-written.

He provides an intro and then covers the law in relation to homebrewing, making beer commercially, traveling with your beer, packaging and advertising and the public experience, and wholesale and retail: taxes, fees and price and how one’s autonomy is curtailed across all of those areas.

Highly recommended!

9 Kawall: friendship. Nice. Basically asks if our “beer buddies” can be true friends.

“So it is here that we begin to see the especial value of beer-inclusive friendships. They include a regular practice which encourages openness and extended conversation, a practice that will improve and deepen a friendship” (128).

Part III The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Beer

10 Schick: William James (& others) on altered states of consciousness/truth/reality

“The dominant theory of knowledge in the West is known as “empiricism.” It holds that sense experience is the only source of knowledge. But it doesn’t indicate what state of consciousness we must be in to acquire knowledge. Ordinary waking consciousness may not be the only state of consciousness that puts us in touch with reality” (140-1).

I do disagree with a few small points but overall is quite good.

The knowledge gained under the influence of beer (or other alcohol or drugs) is neither propositional knowledge/knowing that nor performative knowledge/knowing how, but

          = knowledge by acquaintance/knowing what

11 Manson: a riff on Hume’s dialogue. Meh.

12 Dunn: Read this a couple times as why I looked at the book in the first place after seeing mentioned in some blog post comment thread.

Yes. Yes. Natural kinds are highly problematic. Is OK but could have been much clearer. His conclusion, though, is correct: beer/styles are the wrong kinds of things to have “right” criteria.

13 Hilbert: Berkeley, Bishop G. and his ridiculous “God saves it all, except matter, argument.” It isn’t a bad overview of Berkeley’s argument. It’s just that it is a bad argument; then and still.

14 Bayne: primary / secondary qualities. Kant on space & time. Not especially interesting; what was the larger point but to ramble on about Kant?

15 Welshon: Nietzsche’s antagonism of beer yet praise for intoxication. Again, not bad, but not sure what the point was.

Most of these final chapters seem to be excuses for the authors to write “pop” intros/overviews to their pet philosophers, which is almost always a bad idea.

If we look at the fifteen chapters, they were authored by 16 individuals [one chapter had two authors]. Ten chapters were authored individually by academic philosophers, one by an academic management person and an academic philosopher, and one by a PhD student in History & Philosophy of Science. Only three of the fifteen were authored by non-academics: two by brewmasters and one by a lawyer (and beer blogger).

I gave each chapter a score from 0 [did not like; no point] to two [liked] with one [meh to OK]. If you add up the scores and divide by number of chapters it seems the non-academics did a bit better for me than the academics, but that is also driven mostly by Alan McLeod’s excellent chapter. If I was a bit tougher on Oliver and Calagione, as I probably should be, then that groups score would tank.

  • Academics: 12 / 12 = 1.0
  • Non-acads: 4 / 3 = 1.33

Maybe I ought make three categories and then we would get:

  • Academics: 12 / 12 = 1.0
  • Brewers: 2 / 2 = 1.0 [or less]
  • McLeod: 2 / 1 = 2.0

Overall score per chapter is 16 / 15 = 1.066 so mostly “Meh” or OK.

Not sure what any of that adds up to in the larger scheme. There were three chapters by philosophers that I gave 2s to but also four by academics that I gave 0s.

All in all, is quite variable and I say that some of those folks ought have been able to do better. Much better. Get it from the library unless you’re a philosophy geek like me.

This is the 24th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Cantwell & Bouckaert – Wood & Beer

Wood & Beer: A Brewer’s Guide by Dick Cantrell and Peter Bouckaert

Date read: 17 July – 19 September 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Cantwell & Bouckaert's Wood & Beer book

Paperback, xxiv, 228 pages
Published 2016 by Brewers Publications
Source: Own

This was an excellent book, particularly for the pro brewer, but also for the homebrewer with the cash and fortitude to undertake fermenting and/or conditioning/aging in barrels. Of course, other ways to get wood into beer—spirals, chips, powder, etc.—are also covered.

Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword by Frank Book
  • Foreword by Wayne Wambles
  • Introduction
  • 1. The History of the Barrel, or There and Back Again
  • 2. Cooperage
  • 3. Wood & Wooden Vessels
  • 4. Wood Maintenance
  • 5. Flavors from Wood
  • 6. Flavors in Wood
  • 7. Blending and Culture
  • Appendix A: Techniques for Wood- and Barrel-Aging for Homebrewers
  • Appendix B: Wood Primer for Homebrewers
  • Bibliography
  • Index

I utterly recommend this book if you are considering barrel/wood-aging at any level. It can get quite deep at times —but always fascinating—but you only need to absorb small bits as a homebrewer. All in all, a lot of great stuff to be aware of even if you never stick any beer in wood or vice versa. This book will help you gain an even better appreciation of the art of cooperage and that of the barrel-aging of beer.

The bottom line: Every individual barrel [or piece of wood] is its own special snowflake. That is the starting point. Good luck!

This is the 22nd book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

The role of beer books (The Session #115)

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

This month’s Session is hosted by Blog Birraire (Joan Birraire in Barcelona) and is on “the role of beer books.

“The discussion at hand is “The Role of Beer Books”. Participants can talk about that first book that caught their attention, which brought them to get interested in beer; or maybe about books that helped developing their local beer scene. There’s also the -bad- role of books that regrettably misinform readers because their authors did not do their work properly. There are many different ways to tackle this topic.

The Session has been about books before just once, and it was about those that hadn’t already been written. I believe that their importance for the beer culture makes books worthy for another Session. To participate in the current Session just write a comment down here with a link to the article on -or before- September 2nd, so that I can include it on my Round Up.”

05 September 2016: Update posted below

Being me and being about books this is long and perhaps even rambling. Sue me. I’m a reader, a librarian and a cataloger.

The short version: the role of beer books is education to entertainment, and hopefully a bit of both at the same time, along with any other roles between or on other, orthogonal axes that people may have for any particular book in a time and a place.

First beer books

I doubt that it was my first “beer book,” as I had been collecting beer cans since the age of 12, but I received a copy of Michael Jackson’s The World Guide to Beer, 1st US ed. for Christmas 1978. As I was a 19-year-old US soldier stationed in then West Germany, this is the book that first opened my eyes more fully to the world of beer, as it did for many, many others.

Prior to that I was given a copy of Will Anderson’s, The Beer Book; an Illustrated Guide to American Breweriana, 1st US ed. by my parents for my 16th birthday (1975). Somewhere in and around here I also got copies of The Beer Cans of Anheuser-Busch: an Illustrated History (©1978 so one of my earliest “beer books”) and The Class Book of U.S. Beer Cans (©1982), both new. Somewhere in there I also acquired a copy of The International Book of Beer Can Collecting (©1977).

Of course I read all of these books, some, in particular Jackson’s World Guide, several times.

More Recently

For a long time my interest in reading about beer waned as did my can collecting. I am simply ecstatic that I never got rid of any of my early beer books, unlike many other books over the years or like the vast majority of my can collection that was actively worked on for almost two decades. Too many moves. Too many dollars spent on storage. Most of the cans had gone long before we moved to Oregon, although most were shed over a ~20 year period.

Books Owned

More recently since moving to Bend, Oregon my interest in all aspects of beer has been rekindled. According to LibraryThing—which until now has served as my personal catalog—I own 87 books having something to do with beer or brewing, plus there are a couple that aren’t in as they need manual cataloging and I haven’t yet.

Books Read

My Goodreads account has 118 books on my beer shelf. Bouncing that off of the read shelf I show 74 as read, 1 skimmed, 1 gave up on (had a better version), 1 on pause, and 3 currently being read. Many of those would have come from assorted libraries, both public and academic.

My beer blog

My blog is named “By the barrel; or, the Bend Beer Librarian.” Sadly, I have done a poor job at reviewing all of these books. There are many reasons for that, only a few of which are actually good/legit ones. I always strive to do better although I see seven beer books waiting for reviews on my review-these-damned-books-already (physical) shelf next to my desk. There are of course many more that aren’t sitting here needing reviews. Some of those currently waiting are:

  • Alworth – The Beer Bible
  • Acitelli – The Audacity of Hops
  • Zainasheff & Palmer – Brewing Classic Styles
  • Papazian – The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, 4th ed.
  • Amato – Beerology
  • Dave Miller’s Homebrewing Guide
  • Herz and Conley – Beer Pairing

Others waiting to be reviewed, not directly related to beer but of immense overlap and interest possibly, include:

  • Halloran – The New Bread Basket
  • McQuaid – Tasty

Of course, these are just those books still to hand. ::sigh::

The Role of Beer Books

So what do I consider the “role of beer books”? I may not be much of a reference librarian—my specialty is elsewhere—but as a reader (and a cataloger) that “role” is completely dependent upon the context(s) brought to bear by the reader and cannot really be given much in the way of an answer unless that context is included.

Education

Education is the simple and most relevant generic (and specific) answer. As you can see from just the above list, my personal beer book-enabled education covers a lot of ground from brewing to the history of craft beer to style knowledge to beer and food pairing to almost encyclopedic works and on from there to the revival of craft grain/malt production to the science of taste.

Early spring this year I went on a book buying binge to ensure I had most of the books in the BJCP Judge Certification Program “BJCP Beer Exam Study Guide” [see pg. 3-4] as I was involved in a 12-week tasting exam prep class and hoping to take the tasting exam [I did manage to take it on 23 July and now get to spend a few agonizing months waiting on my score]. I already had quite a few of the books listed but I got almost all of the others, except for the individual style books in the Classic Beer Styles Series from Brewers Publications I didn’t already own.

To backup, my very first beer books were books about beer can collecting and were for both education (history, production) and to see far more of the variety of what was out there (can porn) than I could encounter in my Midwest home town and surrounding environs. Will Anderson’s book is more generally about breweriana and so helped broaden my education beyond cans.

Michael Jackson’s book was given to me just a few months after I had arrived in Europe for my first tour of duty. I knew styles existed, of course, but this book was a real eye opener.

Nowadays my interests are far broader and I have a massive amount to learn! I want to be a competent and confident beer judge. I want to brew beers well that Sara and I like, along with understanding their historical and current cultural contexts. I want to be solid at beer and food pairing. I want to understand how we got to where we are culturally via archaeology, anthropology, ethnology and so on (across cultures). I want to understand as much of the science of brewing as I can. I want to enjoy what I read, at least some of the time. I could probably elucidate many other reasons for a desire to learn about beer and to be entertained by beer writers.

On Bend, Central Oregon and Oregon beer

If you are interested in the beer, breweries, and history of Bend, Central Oregon and Oregon then I highly recommend the following:

  • Jon Abernathy – Bend Beer: A History of Brewing in Central Oregon
  • Brian Yaeger – Oregon Breweries
  • Logan Thompson – Beer Lover’s Oregon: Best Breweries, Brewpubs & Beer Bars

For the larger region but covering Oregon also are:

  • Lisa M. Morrison – Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest: A Beer Lover’s Guide to Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia
  • Gary and Gloria Meier – Brewed in the Pacific Northwest: A History of Beer Making in Oregon and Washington

All of these books are a bit dated; some more than others. They are either primarily history (Abernathy & the Meiers) or Regional guidebooks (the rest; and the most dated).

“Beer books” is a non-category

I think beer books is too broad a “category” to consider as a whole; as in it isn’t really a category, far too amorphous. In 2013, I gave a talk on beer books during Central Oregon Beer Week and this is how I broke down what I talked about:

Those I addressed:

  • General
  • Beer porn
  • Reference
  • Beer business
  • Historical
  • Breweriana
  • Trivia
  • Regional Guidebooks

Those I did not:

  • Homebrewing
  • Brewing science

No doubt other categories could be named as no doubt some of these could be split further.

The role of a regional guidebook is generally going to be much different than a book of beer porn or one on the business of beer or one on brewing science and so forth. A book of beer can porn serves one role to a collector and another to a student of mid- to late-20th century commercial art.

Conclusion; or, a return

Thus, I am going to say that the role of beer books is education to entertainment, and hopefully a bit of both at the same time, along with any other roles between or on other, orthogonal axes that people may have for any particular book in a time and a place (context).

Update

I have received a few comments regarding the Brewers Publications Classic Styles series. I believe that I could have been a bit clearer in places in my post but let me offer some comments to take or leave as you please.

I believe that the only books I explicitly recommended were under the heading ON BEND, CENTRAL OREGON AND OREGON BEER. All of those are technically historical documents at this point; one always was and a second mostly was. But the first four are still close enough to the present to be useful even if lots of newer breweries are left out. Any other book(s) mentioned I meant to neither recommend nor not; many I would but that was not my point. I was attempting to discuss the role of books from my perspective and not which were good or bad. Perhaps I should have had a small section on the use/role of books that have bad or contested information. That would include pretty much every beer-related book ever written to some extent. The reason I mentioned the Classic Styles series was in the context of acquiring the recommended books to study for the BJCP exams. Clearly I did not believe that those style guides were necessary for my studying.

I am aware that there are some definite issues with the Classic Styles series books. I do not have enough brewing chops to provide much useful critique though, except in the rarest of circumstances and that would still be based on book learning. I do know that some of the “history” is definite bunk. I also realize that they still sell. I have even picked up a couple—all used—as primarily archival documents, if you will. Not necessarily to learn how brew the styles, nor to believe everything written in them—I do that with no book; do you?—but to take them as an artifact of a time and a place.

I do my best not to slog products here—especially those creative endeavors of one or two authors—but rather avoid them or discuss them in a context that hopefully doesn’t entail recommending them. Others far better qualified have addressed the deficiencies on the individual Classic Styles titles and I leave it to them.

I have read several books—some of them fairly new—by big names in the beer world and I thought them either not at all worth the paper they were printed on; there are more older books that fit in that category, thankfully. I gave them a low rating in Goodreads and moved on without writing a review. I do not believe in the “If you don’t have something nice to say …” school of thought but I also see little reason to be an ass for the fun of it. I get excitable enough, which turns me into something of an ass on occasion, that I do not need to pursue it as hobby.

Besides, I have too many outstanding reviews still to be written for books that I do want to recommend to bother writing reviews for ones I find lacking.

I apologize if I failed to pull apart some of these issues but they did not seem particularly pertinent to me in my thinking on the role of beer books at the time I was writing my post. That does not mean they couldn’t have, and maybe should have been, included; or, I could have been clearer about what I was recommending and what I was not. But that was also not my point.

My point is that use of any particular book is up to the individual reader. And while we may or may not be privy to the specific failings of any given book, that too is a part of the context that we need to attempt to bring to it, even before reading sometimes. That is often difficult after reading it. Makes life a little less uncertain to say the least but you should regard pretty much all of your knowledge as potentially fallible and kept open to actual experience anyway.

To decide if a given book is relevant to your own purpose(s) is a critical, complex, and, yes, often fraught undertaking.

That was an awful lot of words to say that “mentions do not imply endorsement.”

Hennessy, et al. – The Comic Book Story of Beer

The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World’s Favorite Beverage from 7000 BC to Today’s Craft Brewing Revolution by Jonathan Hennessy and Mike Smith (story), and Aaron McConnell (art)

Date read: 13-14 March 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc 2016nfc

Cover image of The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World’s Favorite Beverage from 7000 BC to Today’s Craft Brewing Revolution by Jonathan Hennessy and Mike Smith (story), and Aaron McConnell (art)

Paperback, 173 pages
Published 2015 by Ten Speed Press
Source: Deschutes Public Library

I quite enjoyed this. It strikes a kind of middle ground historically. Seeing as it is a comic book, it can only be kind of simplistic and not very nuanced. It’s history won’t appeal to Ron Pattinson or anyone as historically minded as that but it does better than many other books.

[That is a hat tip to Mr. Pattinson, by the way, but most folks have little time or patience for the actual nuances of history; especially beer history. I am currently reading his Porter! and just ordered his book of vintage homebrew recipes. Porter! is lengthy and not the most coherent narrative since it is a large collection of blog posts but the facts coming out in it are incredibly interesting. Can we talk about the amount of porter shipped to India versus so-called IPA, perhaps? Very intriguing reading, indeed.]

Contents:

  • Introduction: The World’s Favorite Beverage
  • Chapter One: Beer in the Ancient world
  • Chapter Two: The Brewing Process
  • Chapter Three: Dark Ages and Medieval Beer
    • Meet the Beer: Lambic
    • Meet the Beer: Dubbel
  • Chapter Four: The Hops Revolution: Beer Becomes a Commodity
    • Meet the Beer: Bock
  • Chapter Five: Empire and Industry: Beer Goes Big
    • Meet the Beer: Porter
    • Meet the Beer: India Pale Ale
  • Chapter Six: Science and Politics Transforms Beer—Beer Goes Stale
    • Meet the Beer: Pilsner
  • Chapter Seven: Prohibition and Homogenization Blues: Beer Goes Stale
    • Meet the Beer: American Lager
  • Chapter Eight: Drinking on the Shoulders of Giants: Beer Today
    • Meet the Beer: American Pale Ale
    • Meet the Beer: Belgian Wit
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index

Porter named for porters “This new/old product was named for the most common working-class profession in London: that of porters, who carted heavy things around town.” 93

IPA:

“India Pale Ale (IPA) seems to have evolved from aged, or stock, ales brewed on country estates and popular with the 18th-century English gentry.

Brewed to a high strength from lightly kilned malt and aggressively hopped, these beers were well suited for export. They matured in the cask on the way to India. There they were enthusiastically enjoyed—chilled—by upper class merchants and civil servants.” 97

Gets the class issue right [see Pattinson, Porter! for information on porter versus what became IPA in India] but no mention of the larger amount of porter exported for the troops. Also, troops beer most likely not chilled.

On page 28 we get some serious WTF?! action.  Ninkasi, etc. brewsters mother’s milk buxom women in ads in a claimed causal sequence, which is actually fairly correct but such a sad statement on mankind, or at least on advertising (but I’mma step away from advertising real quick-like).

Panel 1 “Shamhat, Ninkasi, Sekhmet…

…not for nothing do these female figures keep turning up in ancient beer stories.”

Panel 2 “For nearly all of beer’s history, brewing and serving has been an almost exclusively female enterprise!

Brewing was something done in the kitchen: traditionally the woman’s domain.”

Panel 3 “Beer is also nourishing—like a mother’s care, like a mother’s milk.”

Panel 4 “And this is precisely why, the world over, buxom women continue to be used to market beer.” 28

Just WTF!? This is how we celebrate women? Goddeses brewsters mother’s milk buxom women in ads.

Just below those four panels we get two more regarding Old Testament beer references:

Panel 5 “The Hebrew word Shekar—related to the Babylonian term shinkaru, meaning “beer”—makes many appearance in the Bible.”

Panel 6 “In the book of Numbers, Yahweh tells Moses that the Israelites should sacrifice about two quarts of beer a day to their god:

In the holy place you shall pour out a drink offering of [beer] to the Lord.

For other biblical mentions of beer see Proverbs 31:6, Isaiah 5:11, 24:9, and 28:7, Proverbs 20:1 and 31:4, and Ecclesiastes 11:1.” 28

I don’t believe any of those others are positive references, except perhaps the one in Ecclesiastes but it is so vague …. As the text says, “It’s very possible that many academics who have worked to translate the Bible expunged from it all mention of beer.” 29 Religious scholars and theologians, perhaps. While they are scholars (better choice of word to use, imho), “academics” seem a little broad. Nitpicky. Yes. Also, why no full citation to the Numbers verse? Biblical citations are extremely easy and the others are complete.

A point is made on page 123 that I had never considered: Lots of Americans away fighting in WWI during the run-up to Prohibition. 123

US involvement in WWI: 6 April 1917 lasted until 11 November 1918

Prohibition in the US was from 1920-1933, and several years longer in places like Oregon and Washington.

“A resolution calling for a Constitutional amendment to accomplish nationwide Prohibition was introduced in Congress and passed by both houses in December 1917. By January 16, 1919, the Amendment had been ratified by 36 of the 48 states needed to assure it passage into law.” [Wikipedia article on Prohibition in the United States]

Thus, only a part of the story, to say the least.

All in all, it was a pretty good book. Most of the things that bugged me were quite small. Recommended.

This is the 22nd book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

This is the 17th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

McQuaid – Tasty

At my main (or at least, older) blog, habitually probing generalist, I posted a review of John McQuaid’s Tasty: The Art and Science of What We Eat.

I highly recommend it, especially for anyone seriously tasting (and/or judging) foods and beverages, and also anyone interested in the (almost) newest science of flavor, taste and aroma.

Contents:

  • 1 The Tongue Map
  • 2 The Birth of Flavor in Five Meals
  • 3 The Bitter Gene
  • 4 Flavor Cultures
  • 5 The Seduction
  • 6 Gusto and Disgust
  • 7 Quest for Fire
  • 8 The Great Bombardment
  • 9 The DNA of Deliciousness
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Strong – Brewing Better Beer

Brewing Better Beer: Master lessons for advanced homebrewers by Gordon Strong

Date read: 09-19 February 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Strong's Brewing Better Beer book

Paperback, xvii, 316 pages
Published 2011 by Brewers Publications
Source: Own

This was an amazing book and it has vaulted to the very top of the list of homebrewing books (as far as I’m concerned) for anyone beyond ultimate beginners. I intend to get very good use from this. Strong writes that it’s meant for advanced homebrewers but as Michael “Musafa” Ferguson writes in the Foreword:

“Gordon would say that this is for the experienced home brewer already brewing all-grain recipes. I say that this book is a book for anyone who has ever contemplated or attempted homebrewing, from the newbie looking in through the window to the professional brewer who has returned to his or her roots, not unlike what I have done” (xiv).

I think the author of the foreword makes the more accurate assertion, although I disagree with the whole “anyone who has ever contemplated …” claim. I believe it would be a bit overwhelming for them. But it is for anyone else with almost any amount of experience, and especially if any of that is with all-grain.

Highly recommended for everyone except those who have only contemplated trying brewing, and somewhat reluctantly for those who have only done extract brewing.

[I finished this book a month ago. I would prefer to write the review that this book actually deserves but I am seriously backlogged on book review writing and want to get something out. I guess I am telling myself that I will revisit the review and improve on it, just as I intend (and already am) revisiting the book. Perhaps I can give you enough of an overview to make a decision whether it is for you or not; that is kind of the idea anyway.]

With that in mind, I have provided the outline of each chapter at one step below the chapter heading so that you may gauge the book’s coverage. Keep in mind, there are a couple levels below many of those headings also.

Contents:

  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Part I: Philosophy
  • Chapter 1. The Philosophy of Brewing
  • Part II: Mastering Your Craft
  • Chapter 2. Mastering Techniques
  • Chapter 3. Mastering Equipment
  • Chapter 4. Mastering Ingredients
  • Part III: Applying Your Knowledge
  • Chapter 5. Evaluating Your Own Beer
  • Chapter 6. Envisioning Your Beer
  • Chapter 7. Troubleshooting
  • Chapter 8. Finishing Beer
  • Chapter 9. Competition Brewing
  • Chapter 10. Conclusion
  • List of Recipes
  • Index

Foreword [by Michael “Musafa” Ferguson]

I liked several things Ferguson said. The first is in relation to book forewords and does go on just a bit more for a little more clarity but this excerpt is what you get. The others are more directly about the book in hand.

“There are basically two reasons to read a foreword. You have either already bought the book and are looking to get everything out of it you can, or you are contemplating buying the book and are looking for insight into whether or not you should spend the money.” xiii

“This book, however, is not a how-to book; it’s a “do you want to” book.” xiii

“This book is just like having a mentor.” xv

“This book flows along the lines of analogy, technique, and practice.” xv

Introduction

  • Blown Up, Sir
  • The Journey Is the Reward
  • Structure of This Book
  • Using This Book
  • But Why Nothing on Extract Beers?

The recipe for Old Draft Dodger, an English Barley Wine [p. 3], gave me a solid slap upside the head in full acknowledgment of how large a mash tun I need. And since my mash tun will also be my boil kettle—am going to use Brew in a Bag—that was a good and solid bit of info. I had been working with estimates of 25 lbs but this uses 30.25 lbs of malt + 1 lb muscovado sugar [yields 8 gal to boil down to 6 gal]. Thus, this was a critical equipment and process control point, for me, which I will discuss in a bit.

There is a fair bit in the intro but mostly Strong lets us know what he isn’t about and a touch of what he is attempting to be about. In the process, he gives the authors and texts he turns to in a pinch or otherwise necessary, as he does throughout the book. Pay attention as he tells you exactly who he turns to for a topic.

What the book is not

  • “isn’t a textbook or a purely technical brewing book.”
    •     SEE brewing reference textbooks – “De Clerck, Kunze, Narziss, Briggs, Bamforth, and Lewis.” 5
    •     more towards homebrewers SEE Fix and Noonan 5
    •     “online technical studies by A.J. deLange and Kai Troester that describe practical experiments, ….” 5
  • “isn’t a scholarly study; …” 5
  • “is not a recipe book, but I provide many of my award winning recipes.” 6
    •     illustrate points & add color
    •     “If I’m looking for a new recipe, I often look at books by Zainasheff/Palmer, Noonan, or the Classic Styles Series published by Brewers Publications.” … “If I’m looking for ideas on formulation, I’ll look to Daniels and Mosher.” 6
  • “is not a basic brewing book and it doesn’t discuss extract brewing at all; … … won’t teach you how to get started brewing or give you step-by-step procedures for bsic brewing processes.” SEE Palmer, Korzonas 6

What the book is

“What this book does is fill an unaddressed niche in homebrewing literature. It describes how to think about brewing, how to select and apply proper techniques, and how to continue to learn and develop your own brewing style.” 6

Stories, recipes, and anecdotes are used to illustrate points, analogies (and other influences) will be used liberally, and he states strong opinions based on his experience. [quasi-paraphrase] 6

Part I: Philosophy

Chapter 1. The Philosophy of Brewing

  • Everyone Has a Story
  • Channeling Influences [Write out your own]
  • Mastering Skills [On what it means to be a master]
  • Developing Your Own Style

“Think about your own style being your framework for brewing. You’ll find out the details as you learn and grow in your abilities. Select the tools and methods you want to use and learn. Work towards mastering a core set of skills that let you make the beer styles you enjoy most. …” 23

“Reconsider what you are able to do whenever you make modifications to your system.” 23

Part II: Mastering Your Craft

“In the next three chapters, I will review the stages of brewing, the choices to make, identifying the critical control points, and what your choices will imply later.” 25

Books for all-grain knowledge:

“My favorites are John Palmer’s How to Brew and Greg Noonan’s New Brewing Lager Beer. Noonan’s book is more advanced and is really a great reference text. I also like Al Korzonas’ Homebrewing: Volume I as a source  of useful information, although it doesn’t cover all-grain brewing. For a person first learning to homebrew, I still like Dave Miller’s Homebrewing Guide. All of these books have given me information that I still use today.” 25-6

Some of the things that will come up in the next several sections are control points [e.g., single-infusion mash], decision points [e.g., lautering options], techniques of interest [to me], and critical process/system decisions [e.g., moving liquids]. These are strewn throughout the book and add immense value to Strong’s clear system thinking.

Chapter 2. Mastering Techniques

  • Transforming Grain
  • Mash Temperatures, Final Gravity, and Maltsters
  • Step Mashing for Attenuation Technique
    • Tripwire–Belgian Tripel (recipe)
  • Decoction and Tannins
  • Hochkurz Double Decoction Mash Technique
    • Procrastinator Doppelbock (recipe)
  • Step and Decoction Mashing Techniques Combined
    • El Hefe German—Hefeweizen (recipe)
  • Cold-Steeped Roasted Grains Technique
    • Headlights On Sweet—Stout (recipe)
  • Unusual Technique: The Overnight Oven Mash by Joe Formanek
  • Lautering
  • Part-Gyle Technique Producing Two Beers
    • Seven-Year Itch—English Barley Wine (recipe)
    • Session Slammer—Northern English Brown Ale (recipe)
  • No-Sparge Technique
    • Pride of Warwick—Strong Bitter (recipe)
  • Managing the Boil
  • Intentional Caramelization Technique
    • Gunn Clan Scotch Ale (recipe)
  • Using Hops
  • First Wort Hopping and Late Hopping Techniques Combined
    • Avant Garde–American Pale Ale (recipe)

An example of control points [for single-infusion mash] under Transforming Grain:

  •     mash temperature
  •     rest time
  •     mash thickness
  •     mash pH [measured at mash temp; NB: pH is temp dependent; generally regulates itself] 33-34

Lautering Options are a [decision point]

“The method used to get the wort into the kettle is a decision point for the brewer: Will sparging be used, and if so, what technique? We examine the techniques of continuous sparging, parti-gyle sparging, batch sparging, and the no-sparge method.” 50

Some decision points under Using Hops are:

  •           Varieties to use
  •           Form of hops
  •           How much of each
  •           Techniques used during/after boil 65

All-Late Hopping [technique of interest]

“In a nutshell, the techniques involves adding all your hops within the last 20 minutes of the boil, adjusting your amounts to compensate for the reduced utilization.”  … You will want to watch out for excessive vegetal and grassy flavors coming from the increased hop material (as weel as the volume loss due to absorption). The advice to keep your total hop bill to less than 8 ounces (227 grams) per 5-gallon (…) batch still applies.” 66

Chapter 3. Mastering Equipment

  • Matching Equipment to the Task
  • Learning Your System
  • Optimizing Your Brewing

“In order to be a great brewer, you have to learn your brewing system in detail and make it your own. You have to know its strengths and weaknesses and how it responds to different brewing conditions.” 75

“The major topics in this chapter are selecting your equipment, learning your system, and optimizing your brewing.” 75

Matching Equipment to the Task tells us to:

“Start with what you need to accomplish, then find devices to best meet those needs.” 76

“Consider your equipment selections along with your process choices.” 76

“In this section, I’ll walk through the common brewing tasks that require equipment and discuss alternatives and tradeoffs. 76

This section is most valuable for brewery planning. I am really happy that I have read this before I finalized my ideas on what I think I am doing. Nothing changed except I feel better prepared and better educated/validated in my decisions. I appreciate that. [I have read quite a few how-to-brew books. This one works for me.]

To give you some idea of the further breakdown and amount of information covered by Strong, Matching Equipment to the Task covers all of the following: Measuring Ingredients, Crushing Grain, Moving Liquid, Managing Heat, Mashing, Lautering, Boiling Wort, Chilling and Separating Wort, Fermenting and Conditioning, and Packaging.

Moving Liquids under Matching Equipment to the Task brings in the most important decision, per Strong, as to system design:

“Water and wort have to be moved between vessels during brewing. This is generally accomplished manually, with gravity, or with pumps. To me, this decision, along with the number of brewing vessels, is what drives the overall design of your system.” 79 [critical process/system decisions, emphasis mine]

“The phases of this that are important in this step are how water gets into the hot liquor tank, how brewing liquor is added to the mash tun, how sparge water is added to the mash tun, how the outflow of the lauter tun is directed to the kettle, and how the boiled wort is moved to the fermenter.”  79

Learning Your System contains a massive amount of useful advice, again, especially still validating your system design.

“Think of systems in abstract terms, like black boxes with inputs and outputs. … This is the systems approach for managing complexity; it allows you to learn the system a piece at a time.” 89

Some of the key things to understand about your system: The range of anything that can be adjusted, How those changes affect the outcome of each step?, …. 90

Some examples of process control points: How accurate are your thermometers and other instruments?, …, When step mashing, how do I increase temps? Direct fire, how long continue to rise after cut-off? Responsiveness of thermometer?, …, What is my evaporation rate?, How much loss do I have from final boil volume to initial fermenter volume, and from initial fermenter volume to final finished beer volume? Also from mash volume to IFV, …, In general, how many pounds of grain needed to hit different gravity targets?, …, What kinds of techniques are possible on my system? How difficult are they to perform? 90-93

Not all control points are of equal importance; focus on those that make a big difference first. 94

Optimizing your Brewing

“…, since the difference between a competent brewer and an expert brewer is often measured in how efficiently and effectively they perform the same tasks.” 94

“… internalizing the techniques and processes so that thoughts and desires are more directly translated into actions and outcomes.” 94

“Some of this mastery comes through simple repetition and understanding of processes and techniques we’ve previously discussed, while executed on your particular system. However, other parts involve changing the way you think and plan your brewing, and how you approach tasks.” 94

Planning Your Brew Calendar under Optimizing your Brewing

Provides several reasons why to plan out your brew calendar, including the most obvious … have a beer available for a certain date but there are others. 95

Planning Your Brew Day, also under Optimizing your Brewing, provides reassuring ways to think about planning out your brew day, even if you’ve never done it on your own before.

  • Think like a chef; do the prep work before cooking. Mise en place, having all that you need to cook ready and waiting. 96
  • Start with breaking down all of the steps. Think about order, equipment needed, ingredients needed, time required.
  • What consumes the most time? If can start longest task first you may shorten the brew day.
  • “Critical path,” from project management : the sequence of dependent tasks that must be completed to get the job done on time. ID the minimum time needed to complete a complex project involving multiple tasks.”
  • Checklists help to not forget certain tasks 97
  • Have extra consumables on hand in case run out : extra propane, DME or LME, …
  • Pay attention during brewing sessions and take notes of things to improve in future; sticking points, etc.
  • Prioritize tasks also; where do I need to focus my energy and attention? 98
  • Avoid wasted effort by understanding the end-to-end process of brewing, and what decisions drive the quality of my final beer.
  • Now, how can I extend this critical path planning if add a 2nd or 3rd batch?
  • “Finally, remember that brewing is often a series of small course corrections.” 98

Chapter 4. Mastering Ingredients

“I’m going to focus on how you categorize, characterize, differentiate, and select each of these types of ingredients.” 103

“The goal is for you to be able to choose ingredients that allow you to brew what you want, to be able to understand cause and effect and how ingredient choices affect the finished beer, and to be able to evaluate new products …” 103

“For each of the types of ingredients I’m discussing, I provide some background on the key points you need to know to properly work with them. I’ll also share the selections I’ve made, and how I approach using these ingredients.”103 His selections are in the So What Do I Do? sections under all of the individual ingredients.

  • Assessing Ingredients
  • Malt
  • Adjuncts
  • Hops
  • Yeast
  • Water

Part III: Applying Your Knowledge

Chapter 5. Evaluating Your Own Beer

  • Understanding Beer Styles
  • Developing Your Palate
  • Critically Assessing Your Own Beer

Chapter 6. Envisioning Your Beer

  • Basic Beer Math
  • Recipe Formulation
  • Adjusting Balance
  • Avoid Clashing Flavors
  • Recipe Formulation Examples
  • Conceptualizing New Styles

Chapter 7. Troubleshooting

  • Detecting Beer Faults
  • Technical Brewing Faults
  • Style-Related Faults

Chapter 8. Finishing Beer

  • Factors Affecting Beer Stability
  • Conditioning
  • Lagering
  • Clarifying
  • Carbonation and Packaging
  • Final Adjustments
  • Blending

Chapter 9. Competition Brewing

  • Brewing for Quality
  • Brewing for Quantity
    • Three Beers From One Base Beer by Steeping Specialty Grains
    • Two Beers From One Mash, Using Different Yeast
    • Making a Fruit Beer Using Mead
  • Winning BJCP Competitions

Chapter 10. Conclusion

  • Expanding Your Knowledge
  • Staying Current
  • Final Advice
  • Staying Alive

My conclusion

Highly recommended for everyone except those who have only contemplated trying brewing, and somewhat reluctantly for those who have only done extract brewing. I have already gained immense benefit from this book and intend to get even more from it. It has been a blessing in planning out my brewing system and processes.

You know? This may be all you’re getting review-wise for this book. I would much rather spend time making this book useful to me than telling you about it. As you can probably tell, my notes aren’t even fully typed up as I decided to invest in the reading first.

You ought have enough to go on to decide if it is of use to you. You can also attempt to look at it at a bookstore–new or used–or see if your library can get it for you, which I deem as highly likely. Then buy a copy! Or buy your library a copy, if you can.

This was actually the 11th finished nonfiction book I finished this year but it is the 14th review written and posted.

This is the 14th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Announcing the next Session #109: Porter

For The Session 109—my first as host—I would like us to discuss porter. It seems that this highly variable style has not been done in The Session before.

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

What is The Session?

“The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry” (The Sessions at Brookston Beer Bulletin).

It takes place on the first Friday of every month, so 4 March 2016 for this one.

Porter

“The history of porter and the men who made it is fascinating, for it deals with the part that beer has played in the development of Western Culture. Conversely, of course, much of porter’s growth was the result of profound changes in the nature of British society. It is also a microcosm of how our industries have developed; events in porter’s history explain the structure of the modern brewing industry, not only in Britain, but in the other major Western countries.

Porter is intimately tied in with the Industrial Revolution, in which Britain led the world. Through the growth it enabled the brewers to achieve, it was instrumental in the development and technological application of a number of important scientific advances” (Foster, Porter, 17).

I am not talking about your long dead relative’s porter—although you might be—but about all of the variations currently and previously available. Hey, feel free to write about the porter of the future or some as-yet-unrecognized sub-style of porter.

There are English porters, Brown porters, Robust porters, American porters, Baltic porters, Imperial porters, Smoked porters, barrel-aged variants of most of the preceding, and so on.

With as many variations as there are it is hard to believe that porter is perhaps a neglected style. Then again, it did disappear for a while [see Foster, Porter, and others]. Of 14 beer people asked about overrated and underrated styles three of them said porter was most underrated and no one suggested it as overrated in our current market climate. [Yes, I know that is from Thrillist; feel free to ignore it.]

I would like you to sit down with one or more porters of your choosing. Pay a few minutes attention to your beer and then use that as a springboard to further thoughts on the style.

Possibilities include:

  • Contrast and/or compare two or more of the styles
  • Contrast and/or compare two or more beers within/across porter styles
  • The history and development of the style
  • Your love/hate relationship with any porter style
  • Baltic porter – ale or Lager or a mixed fermentation?
  • Is hopping the only difference between English and American styles?
  • Food pairings with your favorite porter or style of porter
  • Review the porter(s) you are using as a creative springboard
  • Construct a resource along the lines of Jay Brooks’ Typology style pages, see for example American Barley Wine or Bock [I’ve already collected some of the information below for you.]
  • Recipe and procedures for brewing your version of a great porter

How to Participate in this month’s The Session

On Friday 4 March, you may comment on this post and leave the URL to your Session post in your comment, or you may email me with your URL at mark . r . lindner @gmail . com, or you may tweet your link with the hashtag #thesession and it wouldn’t hurt to @ me too @bythebbl.

By the way, my blog’s comments are moderated for first-time commenters but it will be quickly approved as long as it doesn’t look like spam.

Within a day or two of the first Friday (March 4th) I will post a round-up of all of the submissions with links.

Further Resources

To give you some food for thought I am providing some resources below:

I took some inspiration from Jay Brooks’ new Typology Tuesday [see this for example] but being inclusive of all the porter variants precludes doing anything close. There’s no way I am copying and pasting all of the descriptions from all of the style guides I can find for all of the versions.

Style References

BJCP

  • Baltic Porter BJCP 9C [Strong Euro Beer]
  • English Porter 13C [Brown British Beer]
  • American Porter 20A [American Porter and Stout]

The only mention of Imperial Porter in the 2015 BJCP is in a comment under Baltic Porter.

Comments: May also be described today as an Imperial Porter, although heavily roasted or hopped versions are not appropriate for this style. Most versions are in the 7–8.5% ABV range. Danish breweries often refer to them as Stouts, which indicates their historic lineage from the days when Porter was used as a generic name for Porter and Stout” [9C, p. 17).

Brewers Association 2015

  • Brown Porter : British Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
  • Robust Porter :British Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
  • American-Style Imperial Porter : North American Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
  • Smoke Porter :  North American Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
  • Baltic-Style Porter : Other Origin Lager Styles : Lager Styles

World Beer Cup 2016 or PDF  

  • 17B American-Style Imperial Porter : Other Strong Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Beer Styles
  • 31F Smoke Porter : Smoke Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Beer Styles
  • 34 Baltic-Style Porter : Styles of European and German Origin : Lager Beer Styles
  • 74 Brown Porter : Styles of British Origin : Ale Beer Styles
  • 75 Robust Porter : Styles of British Origin : Ale Beer Styles

GABF 2015 or PDF   

  • 17B American-Style Imperial Porter : : Other Strong Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Lagers or Ales
  • 31E Smoke Porter : Smoke Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Lagers or Ales
  • 47 Baltic-Style Porter : Lager Beer Styles
  • 82 Brown Porter : Ale Beer Styles
  • 83 Robust Porter : Ale Beer Styles

BreweryDB

This looks a lot like the Brewers Association style breakdown. I wonder if they’re using an older version of the guidelines. Seeing as the schema is the same as BA above,  I am just going to list and link these.

Periodic Table of Beer Styles

  • Brown Porter 34
  • Robust Porter 48

UnTappd

UnTappd lists the following styles of porter: American, Baltic, English, Imperial/Double, Other

Other References

Foster (2014) – Brewing Porters & Stouts: Origins, History, and 60 Recipes for Brewing Them at Home Today

I consider this to be a significant update to Foster’s Porter below. My reasoning is included in my reviews [the links].

Foster (1992) – Porter (Classic Beer Styles 5) [Publisher’s page]

Pattinson (2012*) – Porter! [see here for a bit of info on author]

Eckhardt (1989) – The Essentials of Beer Styles

Alworth (2015) – The Beer Bible pp. 140-165

Daniels (1996) – Designing Great Beers chap 23, pp. 263-282

Klemp – “BIG BALTIC PORTER” (Stylistically Speaking column), All About Beer, 29:1, March 2008 [There may be others.]

Fodor – “Robust Porter: Style of the Month” Brew Your Own, December 1997.

Dornbusch – “Robust Porter: Style Profile” Brew Your Own, September 2006.

Zainasheff – “Robust Porter: Style ProfileBrew Your Own, September 2012 [May be others.]

Michael Jackson – Beer Styles: Porter

Oliver, ed. (2012) – The Oxford Companion to Beer 

Baltic porter, 82. See also porter

porter, 27, 30, 84, 107, 166, 179-80, 195, 356-7, 422, 439, 479, 483, 485, 494, 587-88, 638, 660-64, 770-1, 792-93, 824, 841; Americanized porters, 663; Baltic porter, 663; comeback of, 663; craft brewers, 663-64, decline of, 663; origins of, 661; robust porter, 663; smoked porter, 688; stout porters, 663. See also stout (index)

[Main entry for porter by Horst Dornbusch and Garrett Oliver]

Oliver (2005) – The Brewmaster’s Table 

porter beer, 30, 43, 137

American, 47, 313-25

British, 135-38, 145-52

food with, 138-39, 314-16

producers of, 145-52, 316-25 (index)

And, to leave you with some potential choices although I suggest going further afield than some of these, according to Men’s Journal on Yahoo the “15 Best Porter Beers From Across the Globe

For more history, see Cornell (2003) – Beer: The Story of the Pint and for recipes see, among many others, Lutzen & Stevens (1994) – Homebrew Favorites chap. 5, pp. 97-116 or Zainasheff and Palmer (2007) – Brewing Classic Styles which contains recipes for Baltic, brown and robust porters, including smoked and vanilla porters.

See you and your thoughts on porter—whatever that is for you—on Friday, March 4th.

Foster – Brewing Porters & Stouts

Brewing Porters & Stouts: Origins, History, and 60 Recipes for Brewing Them at Home Today by Terry Foster

Date read: 31 January – 04 February 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Foster's Brewing Porters & Stouts

Paperback, 211 pages
Published 2014 by Skyhorse
Source: Own

I loved this book! It was everything I was hoping it would be as an update to the author’s 1992 entry in the Brewers Association Classic Beer Styles Series, 5, Porter, which I reviewed here.

There is more history, a great update on the proliferation of ingredients available to the homebrewer, far more recipes, and I love the inclusion of the stouts. There are also more opinions and they are awesome. Dr. Foster is full of opinions and he tells you why and then it is up to you to choose where you stand. Most are well-reasoned and I generally agree with him.

Highly recommended!

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: How It All Began…And Nearly Ended
  • Chapter 2: Porter and Stout Definitions
  • Chapter 3: Porter and Stout Raw Materials
  • Chapter 4: The Other Ingredients
  • Chapter 5: Brewing Porters and Stouts—Recipes
  • Selected Bibliography

Introduction

“I started brewing my own beer in Britain, just as the craft of homebrewing was beginning to be revived, then moved to the United States just as homebrewing was legalized here. I have therefore lived through two homebrewing revolutions, and of course through the great craft brewing revolution here. The quality of beer I can now produce at home, and that of those craft beers I can buy, has improved dramatically. Proudly numbered among all these new beers are many porters, stouts, and their sub-styles, and new variations on these are appearing almost daily. Therefore, it seemed that this was a good time to review those styles, their histories, and their brewing methodologies” (2).

Chapter 1: How It All Began…And Nearly Ended

“Since this book is essentially about brewing porters and stouts, I needed to condense this history, and have chosen to do so in a fairly loose chronological manner. That means there may be some omissions of material that other brewing historians consider to be significant enough to be included. I have limited the number of references in the text for reasons of brevity, and have instead appended a list of some of my sources. Note that some of the points I make are purely of my opinion, although I have endeavored to base them on as much fact and general brewing knowledge as possible. I make no apology for this; rather, I hope I might stimulate some intriguing debates on them!” (7-8).

The history of porter and stout is broken into sections by century, from the eighteenth to the twenty-first.

There are a couple times here and elsewhere, and I have seen it in other books, where he writes something like, “And in 1875, Whitbread, for the first time, brewed more ale than porter or stout” (33). What?! They are ales. Were they not thought of that way earlier? And I do believe this sort of thing crops up historically or when writing about beer history so perhaps so. Or is this simply an ‘ales other than stouts and porters’ thing? I believe I got the point in this case and often do when this kind of reference crops up but it seems disconcerting. If it is the case that they were definitely not considered ales in, say, the eighteenth century I think making that explicit would go a long way towards educating the reader. Very small point, I concede.

Chapter 2: Porter and Stout Definitions

This section discusses the style parameters, from the perspective of the Brewers Association, the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), and his own. He discusses where they overlap and where they disagree. For instance, he does not consider smoked porter to be its own substyle but merely a variant (53). From this he narrows down the styles/substyles he will be discussing in the rest of the book and providing recipes for.

“I am therefore going to stick to considering the nine designations of brown, robust, and Baltic porters, along with dry, sweet, oatmeal, foreign extra, American, and Imperial stouts. Since most of them have demonstrable historical pedigrees (even the American stout), these categories are useful as a way of looking at these beers. However, they do not include every variety of porter available commercially (let alone those brewed at home)” (53).

From this he goes on to provide sections on each of these nine, plus a couple page discussion of flavored porters and stouts.

Chapter 3: Porter and Stout Raw Materials

This chapter covers malt (and other grist products) primarily, with a small diversion into a few flavorings (lactose, licorice, vanilla, coffee, chocolate, and ‘barrels’). Hops, water and yeast are covered in the next chapter.

The ‘malts’ covered go from the general to the very specific, while he covers how much of what to use in all of the assorted styles he is discussing. They include: base malts (including Vienna and Munich), malt extract, specialty malts (caramel/crystal, Special B, two particular biscuit malts, Special roast malt, Melanoidin, amber, brown, chocolate, black, roasted barley, flaked barley, oat malt/flakes, rye malt, and smoked malts. Foster also includes a section on making your own amber and brown malt.

Chapter 4: The Other Ingredients

Hops, yeast, water, and finings get the Foster treatment here.

Chapter 5: Brewing Porters and Stouts—Recipes

For many this will be the gist of the book and I do look forward to making use of it but, so far, I believe I have and will get the most value from his thoughts in chapter 3 on malts and other grist ingredients.

For each style/substyle he discusses he has included several recipes. These include a couple of all-grain ones and a couple extract and extract plus partial mash recipes per style. After that is a section he entitles, “My Ten Most Interesting Recipes.” Five of these are historical recreations (as best as possible) and the other five he says “are based on modern craft-brewed beers” (189).

At the end of this chapter is his addendum to recipes where he discusses carbonation, kegging, bottling, and stout dispense and nitrogen gas.

One thing not included, unlike in his previous work, are recipes for one-barrel batches. Craft brewers (and homebrewers wanting more than 5-gallon batches) would be on their own to scale up the recipes. Personally, I find that a fair tradeoff for all of the new and updated information, the additional recipes, and the inclusions of the stouts. Recipe scaling information can be found elsewhere.    

Selected Bibliography

This bibliography is much more extensive than the one in the Classic Beer Styles Series from 1992 but he also cites a fair few works in the text that are not listed in the back. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, nor does he intend it to be. Nonetheless, it is several times longer than the one in the 1992 work.

Final comments

Again, I loved this book and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the brewing of stouts and porters. I will be visiting and revisiting it, no doubt.

This is my favorite book of 2015 so far. It may seem a tad early to make this claim but I did write “so far.” I have also completed 25 books so far this year so not a completely absurd statement.

This is the 6th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader