Update on the BrewJacket Immersion Pro

In March of 2016 I wrote a post, BrewJacket Immersion Pro Fermentation Temp Control, that was sort of an ad for a Kickstarter campaign. It felt a bit scuzzy of me at the time but I felt it was my best hope at getting started in homebrewing if good fermentation temperature control was considered paramount; I believe it is. It turns out I was correct on the “my best hope” business.

The original BrewJacket had been around for a couple of years but was a cooling only device. The Kickstarter campaign was for a redesign of the circuitry so that it heated and cooled. It succeeded. I went with the No Wait Carboy level which got me a then current (cooling only) model BrewJacket immediately and the updated electronics several months later when they were ready.

This year when I was finally ready to begin brewing I swapped out the electronics and started looking at the instructions closely. BrewJacket wisely suggests running a test with just water in a carboy to get a feel for the system before committing it to your first batch. I did it and it ran great for about an hour and then quit. No lights or anything, although I did smell a faint burnt plastic odor. I reached out to BrewJacket and they (and I) assumed it was the head unit. They sent me a refurbished one within a few days. Swapping out the heads meant no change whatsoever though. Then I took a closer look at the external power supply and noticed a small, warped, bubbled area on its bottom. I contacted them again and they sent me another power supply. Eventually everything was working so I ran the test. Put me a couple weeks behind for my first brew but whatever. I am stoked I have done 3 batches already!

Everything was good until it wasn’t. I was using a Big Mouth Bubbler 5-gal carboy with spigot. I had left water in it for a couple days and absolutely no leaks. A day after I put it into the BrewJacket insulating bag it leaked and trashed the bag. The bag got a strange white mold all over where it had been wet. A fairly quick drying in our low humidity environment and a couple cleanings and it seems to be OK. I now only use those spigoted carboys as bottling buckets!

I brewed my first batch of beer on 2 July of this year, the second on 18 July, and the third on 8 August, which is still in the fermenter. So far the Immersion Pro is working like a champ. But there are some limitations. I will lay out some pros and cons as I see them, so far, though some are specific to similar circumstances as mine. [Addressed somewhat in that first post, with some update coming.]

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can be adjusted from +/- 30°F from ambient temperature
  • Maintains ~+/- 0.2°F from where set
  • Cooling 10°F takes approximately 12 hours [@ ~74-82°F ambient temp]

Cons

  • Can only be adjusted from +/- 30°F from ambient temperature
  • No real cold crashing if ambient temp is much above fermentation temp
  • One batch at a time
  • Somewhat noisy
  • To do anything with the fermenting beer means pulling the ImmersionPro out
  • This needs two people: one for removal, one to do whatever: gravity reading, finings/gelatin, dry hopping, ….
  • Cooling 10°F takes approximately 12 hours [@ ~74-82°F ambient temp]
  • The ferrite rod itself can only be sanitized with iodine-based sanitizers, like Iodophor

The temperature range of this thing is pretty incredible, except when it isn’t. In July and August, it has been approximately 72-82°F+ [thermometer tops out at 80°F so “82” is max] ambient [a daily change] in the spare shower where the fermenter is residing. This means no actual cold crashing. The best you could obtain is 42-52°F and that would be seriously taxing it by running almost constantly without the true benefit you are looking for. The opposite would exist if you were trying to ferment warm in a very cold environment. It only gets down to about 60°F in the winter in that shower but I cannot brew then anyway, even though that would be awesome for doing lagers along with the Immersion Pro.

Entire unit showing drawstring closed around neck of carboy. 1st batch.

The head is somewhat noisy but it isn’t really an issue for us since it is in a spare bathroom off the “entertainment” room. In a small aprtment or sitting in your living room, like one of their images shows, it would probably be disturbing to many people.

Close up of krausen and rod in carboy. Normally the jacket would be closed tight. 1st batch.

Removing the carboy lid or only the Immersion Pro is a bit more complicated than a regular carboy lid and tube/airlock. I guess a sanitary place to lie it could be made if you had to do something inside the carboy by yourself but it seems mighty problematic. Not that I am a fan of the wife holding it up above while I do what I need to quickly but that’s “easy” at least.

Closer look at the head unit. 1st batch.

Part of the sanitation issue is that it requires an iodine-based sanitizer. I use StarSan otherwise. So I needed a special “vessel” to make up Iodophor and put the rod in which is not the smallest nor best shaped/weight for such things. Then there is the “air drying” that iodine-based sanitizers require. How the fuck is that supposed to happen with a rod? Well, with any shape really? There is no way to suspend it and if it touches anything (assuming something sanitary) then it cannot dry fully. This might be my biggest peeve about the whole thing right now.

Maybe I am missing something obvious about drying iodine-based sanitized items but this is inconvenient, to say the least. If you already primarily used iodine-based sani then you are golden. (And perhaps laughing at me. Oh well.)

View from the side showing blowoff tube and temp probe. 3rd batch.

As for temperature stability, it is usually +/ 0.2°F from your set point so a total fluctuation of 0.4°F. Sometimes, especially if changing several degrees it may fluctuate for a bit at +/-0.4°F until it settles in to temp. That is pretty rock solid in the stability department!

Head, lid, rod and high krausen. 3rd batch.

As for how quickly it can cool, it has mostly met my needs so far but I can imagine that I might have reason to cool faster (or further) than it can go. Again, a 10°F change, for me, at ~74-82°F ambient, takes a bit over an hour per degree.

Calming down. Things have gotten a bit gunkier. 3rd batch.

The unit uses a blowoff tube for ale primaries and a one-way check valve for lagers and ale secondary, if you like. I have only been using the blowoff tube so far and it has been working great, although I do wish it were slightly bigger as I can see it getting blocked someday. The supplied connectors and tubing are 3/8″.

The jacket I got is compatible with normal 5 and 6.5 gal carboys, Speidel 20 and 30L, Fermonster PET 6 and 7 gal, 5 and 6.5 gal plastic and glass Big Mouth Bubblers, and other PET carboys in this size range. The possible difference between any of them is simply which lid you use. Currently I use the Universal Big Mouth Bubbler lid with a plastic BMB 5 gal.

All in all, I really like my Immersion Pro as it was my ticket to “solving” fermentation temperature control, a big hangup for me. I am looking forward to moving on from certain of its restrictions if/when we can get more space cleared in the detached “garage” and get another refrigerator/freezer and dual-stage temp controller out there. I also need space for conditioning. So , ….

Oh, what a hobby.

Great service report: Imperial Yeast and Casey

I want to take an opportunity to give a shout out to Imperial Yeast (Portland, OR) and in particular to their rep, Casey Helwig.

Casey came and spoke during the education session of our monthly meeting of COHO back in April of this year. One of the owners also came with her but she handled all of the presentation and ~98% of the questions. I took a lot of notes that night but have sadly been unable to find them.

The main thing I remember was how seriously impressed I was by Casey that evening. She did an excellent job, which I tried to let her know before I left but she was engaged with others answering even more questions after the meeting ended so I was unable to do so.

My first beer, Path of Totality SMaSH pale ale used their A01 House yeast and my second, Time and Tide: A Romance of the Moon, used their A10 Darkness. Both seemed to do a great job right out of the can. They both kicked off to a rocking primary fermentation. I have tasted Path of Totality but it is not yet fully carbonated. Clean with some light esters (fermented at 67F). Time and Tide was last tasted on bottling day so questions remain. I have not detected any off flavors from either so far though.

While I was working on recipes for my third batch, another pale ale, and fourth batch, a big barleywine, I was running into trouble getting the yeast I wanted.

I was trying to get some A15 Independence for my pale and also trying to figure out which would possibly be good for the barleywine. My local homebrew shop had ordered my previous two cans but they have a glut of other Imperial yeast on hand right now and are not ordering currently. With the weather so freaking hot here (and elsewhere) it is not the time of year for mail ordering yeast. Or the time of year for much homebrewing in these parts perhaps (Casey’s suggestion).

So on 3 August I asked some questions on Imperial’s contact form about where/how I might source some A15 and about suggestions for the barleywine. Within an hour, I got a phone call from Casey. She spent at least 10 minutes on the phone with me chatting about yeasts for both of the beers.

Sadly, yet not unexpectedly, she couldn’t help me source the A15 but we ended up agreeing that for what I was trying to do with the hopping in the pale that A04 Barbarian and its stone fruit esters would probably work nicely. That one, Annie Jump Cannon pale ale is still in the fermenter but boy did it get off to a rocking start.

She also gave me four suggestions for the barleywine. My thoughts are still open on this one but I am seriously considering using one (or more) of her suggestions.

So, in many ways, I have little empirical evidence for how the Imperial yeasts have worked in these recipes. I accept that. This shout out is more specifically about the great customer service—even to homebrewers—by a young company putting out, as best I can tell, a solid and very useful product.

Their yeast is all-organic—only organic yeastery in the world (for now)—and comes in convenient, keep cold until use, small cans that have double the amount of yeasts cells as the liquid yeast competition. This means that for normal gravity beers you can skip the yeast starter step and still provide plenty of yeast. Yes, a can does cost a bit more than a smack pack or vial but it is nowhere near twice as much, perhaps 30% more.

For now, I am sold. I certainly will try Wyeast and White Labs yeasts at some point, and hopefully others as more yeasteries arrive, but Imperial has allowed me to feel good about giving my wort plenty of healthy yeast in an easy manner. They have also provided me with education and spent good time on the phone chatting with me. That means an awful lot to me.

By the by, I did tell Casey right away once she called that she impressed me at the club meeting. Wasn’t going to blow that chance! [Thank you kindly, Mark’s mind, for remembering.]

Thank you, Imperial Yeast. And thank you, Casey.

SMaSH beers (The Session #125)

This month (July 2017), I am hosting The Session #125 on the topic of SmaSH beers.

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

This is my post on the topic, along with an initial recap of what I said in my announcement post.

Recap of Announcement

Our local, annual SMaSH Fest, part of Central Oregon Beer Week, happened two weekends ago [May 27th]. Sadly, I missed it this year due to a bout of illness. When considering whether I was going to make it or not, I jokingly asked myself if single malt and single hop beers can be considered a “thing” (trendy, etc.) until we have coffee-infused, barrel-aged, and fruit SMaSH beers. Maybe we do; I have not seen them yet though.

I will hopefully have brewed my first batch of beer—ignoring that attempt in Belgium in the early 1980s—between this announcement and The Session itself and, wait for it, that beer will be a SMaSH beer. It will be an all-Oregon, not too hoppy American pale, if anything.

  • Mecca Grade Estate Malt Lamonta pale malt
  • Sterling, 2016 whole flower, hops
  • Imperial Yeast A01 House yeast

So, at the moment, at least, it appears I think they have some value.

Here are some potential directions you could consider:

  • Answer my question above. Are they trendy? When would they be considered to be trendy? Have you seen/had a variant (x-infused, fruit, …) single malt and single hop beer? More than one?
  • What purpose do SMaSH beers fill? For you, personally, and/or generally.
  • Do they fill a niche in any beer style space? One that matters to you? Are they a “style,” however you define that?
  • Have you ever had an excellent one? As a SMaSH beer or as a beer, period.
  • Do you brew them?
  • Are there any styles besides pale ale/IPA that can be achieved via a single malt and single hop beer? (How about achieved versus done quite well.)
  • Do they offer anything to drinkers, especially non-brewing drinkers?
  • I consider this to be wide open and am interested in your thoughts, whatever they are, regarding SMaSH beers. I sincerely hope this is not too limiting of a topic in the number of people who have tasted and/or brewed single malt and single hop beers.”

My thoughts (at the moment) on SMaSH beers

As to my SMaSH pale ale, it is happily well into fermentation. I brewed it on 2 July and it got off to a vigorous fermentation, which has now slowed down a good bit. I intend to give it plenty of time for secondary and cleanup of diacetyl, etc. Sadly, it will not be ready for this post but no doubt I will post about it closer to the solar eclipse [see below].

This beer serves two purposes for me. Or perhaps one purpose with lots of extra meaning attached. Our home(brewery) is called Starshine Brewery, based on pet names the wife and I have for each other. Thus, the beer names will be mostly, if not entirely, celestially and astronomically-related.

The timing of the eclipse just worked out for me and my first homebrew batch. I needed to make a SMaSH beer to get a good handle on what I taste/smell in Mecca Grade Lamonta pale ale malt and on how it comes across on my system as I bought a 50-lb. bag of it back in April.

It is an all-Oregon beer, as best as I could do and within my “definition.” I would have preferred to be a bit stricter but I got what I got.

My semi-American SMaSH pale ale is named Path of Totality as the path of totality of the 2017 solar eclipse will be passing directly over Central Oregon. My Mecca Grade malt was grown and malted right under the path. [They are, in fact, hosting a big party on their property which I truly wish I was attending. But we are not campers and have decided trying to travel anywhere that weekend just adds us to the other a-holes clogging up the streets.] The water and yeast come a bit outside of the path, on either side. And the hops were the best I could do on a first go but are, at a minimum, OSU/USDA hops.

I was after Santiam hops as the Santiam Pass will also be under the path of totality but could only get 2015 (or older) pellets. I wanted 2016 harvest and wanted whole cones for this so ended up switching to Sterling, which I do not really know. It got chosen as I am not really a fan of Cascades, Centennial, and Chinook as the more famous OSU/USDA hops.

Sterling: “… aroma and oil composition very similar to Saazer (USDA 21077) and other Saazer clones. Pleasant continental aroma; suitable for replacing Saazer hops in brewery blends.”

Might be a strange hop for a pale ale but I wanted something I could ID and not be in the way of the malt flavor and aroma. Even if I decide I love these hops, I was warned when I bought them that they are rapidly being replaced. I did look into it and, yes, production has been minimal for a while now and is decreasing; something like <1% of hop acreage.

They were also probably grown in Washington, not Oregon, but my local Central Oregon hop growing friends only had Cascades and such on hand, in pellets, from last year. I will make another all-Oregon pale and source it completely from Central Oregon, except for the yeast and, technically, if I used Wyeast yeast then I could call it all Central Oregon. So maybe I will. I have several hop growing friends here so will get some whole flowers this year. I am thinking some (CO)-East Kent Goldings from Tumalo Hops, but we will see who has what that isn’t Cascades or Centennial.

As to my trendy question, my friend, Ryan Sharp, one of the folks who puts on Central Oregon Beer Week commented regarding my “can they be a thing” question with this info from the SmaSH Fest:

“22 beers this year.

3 of them lacto sours (and one using a wild sacc strain).

1 beer had fruit added (mangosteen).

16 different hop varieties represented, including 2 experimental varieties.

4 beers showcased Mecca Grade’s local malt.

Styles represented by brewer description: Fruited sour, Berlinerweisse, Dry Hopped Sour, Pale Ale Extra Pale Ale, IPA, IIPA, Hoppy Wit, Hoppy Lager, Vienna Lager, Pilsner, Blonde, Rauchbier.”

Based on the strength of current trends such as “IPA forever,” saisons, sours, barrel-aged beers and any other actually hot sections of the market, I do not believe that they are trendy. I am not sure I want them to be trendy either but I would love to see a lot more of them, especially commercially available.

Yes, there were soured and fruited versions available at SMaSH Fest but those are trends in themselves and, yes, perhaps I contradict myself from above but I believe it is actually a more thought out answer than my off-the-cuff jest.

I would love to see more commercial breweries producing them and touting them, though. Especially with the rise of craft malting—Mecca Grade is just one of many around the country—I think this would be a useful thing. If you are paying a premium for your malt then you ought be working at convincing yourself and your customers that the cost is worth it. What flavors and aromas is that malt bringing to your beers? Or the more basic (but misguided) question, does malt contribute to beer flavor or aroma? [Hard to believe but I have seen and heard this explicitly asked. It is our current focus on hops that has led to such ridiculousness.]

On top of the truly large and emerging issue of malt contributions to flavor and aroma, there is the question of bittering, flavoring and aroma provided by individual hop varieties and how they are used. We have new varieties with new and different flavors and aromas, and we have vastly different ways of using them versus mostly as kettle/bittering hops, thus some of that focus is certainly called for but not at the expense of applying the same kind of interest to barley and malt.

I believe that a well-produced series of SMaSH beers could go a long way to helping consumers understand these agricultural products and the ways in which brewers are using them. This assumes a brewery that feels consumer education is a part of their mission versus simply selling as much beer as they can. I am pretty sure that is not always the case though.

As for purpose, I think that SMaSH beers primarily serve as education, for both the brewer and the consumer. What do your ingredients and processes add? Reducing ingredients to a minimum is a great way to control the amount of variables.

I feel that they, currently anyway, fill a niche in style space for me both as a fledgling homebrewer and as an interested consumer. A brewery that helps to educate me is going to get a lot of extra love and goodwill from me. I assume that there are others who feel the same but no idea how prevalent this attitude might be.

As for are they a “style,” for me, I would say no. I consider them a sub-sub-style, if you will. Or more accurately, a “give me a box to brew within” constraint on brewing a style of beer; that is, you choose to work within certain limit while still aiming for a tasty beer in its own right within a specific style or sub-style.

I have had several excellent SMaSH beers. Perhaps my favorite was a SMaSH American pale ale made by Mazama Brewing in Corvallis, OR in 2015 with an early batch of Mecca Grade’s malt and Crosby Hop Farm Centennial fresh hops. We got lucky and were in Corvallis for the release of this, which included talks by Dr. Pat Hayes, OSU’s barley breeder, on the origins of Full Pint (variety) barley and by the Seth Klann of Mecca Grade on their experiences growing and micro-malting it. Perhaps, as stated above, the educational and experiential component added immensely to the experience and to the beer—there has been a lot of talk online lately of the experience versus the beer itself and I come down (almost) fully on the experience side, assuming nothing is off in the beer itself. But this was a delicious American fresh hop pale ale, one which I would be happy to drink repeatedly and routinely. Deschutes has also made several SMaSH beers with Mecca Grade malts, including a saison that was quite good and excellent in its own right.

Based on my friend Ryan’s comment, there were many styles of single malt, singe hop beers made for SMaSH Fest. Based on my own (limited) experiences I would say that pale ale, saison, Pilsner, light(-colored) lagers and golden ales are the styles that have the best potential for making a great SMaSH beer. Next in potential, I would add IPA and Vienna Lager. After that I expect it to be a total crapshoot. I see an I/DIPA in the list but I would want at least a touch of some specialty malts in my I/DIPA although I imagine many IPA lovers could appreciate one done well. I am not claiming that no other styles would work; judgment is fully reserved on those.

As to do they offer anything to drinkers, especially non-brewing drinkers, I would have to say “Yes.” I think they can serve as a very valuable component of educating drinkers. What exactly do the individual ingredients taste like? Do I like it? Do I like it on its own or is it better as part of a mélange? Am I happy (possibly) paying a premium for a beer made with a craft malted malt or one of the trendy, thus in high demand and higher-priced, hops?

Personally, I am not a fan of most of the trendy new hops. Many of them have more thiols and bless the hearts of people who get berry and whatever else flavor and aroma they are sold on as providing. I just (OK, mainly) get allium from them; garlic, onion, shallot, scallion, leek, …. Pretty much one of the last things I want in beer aroma and/or flavor. I have had some IPAs and DIPAs with them and despite the aroma or flavor I quite enjoyed them. But. That note was always present and I always wanted it gone. The beers would have been exquisitely improved without that damned allium note, in my opinion. If you like them, more power to you. No grudges from me. Non-trendy hops are cheaper anyway and easier to source often.

That covers much of my thoughts on SMaSH beers, as of now. I am truly interested in what the rest of you have to say and look forward to doing the round-up over the next few days.

Again, to contribute:

How to Participate in this month’s The Session

Today (Friday 7 July) or the next day or two, you may comment on this post or the previous one 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 three of the first Friday (July 7th) I will post a round-up of all of the submissions with links.

The links are already rolling in.

Cheers!

Announcing The Session #125 SMaSH Beers

The Session #125: SMaSH Beers

The next installment of The Sessions, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, on 7 July 2017, will be hosted here. This is #125 and the topic is SMaSH (single malt, single hop) beers.

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

Our local, annual SMaSH Fest, part of Central Oregon Beer Week, happened two weekends ago. Sadly, I missed it this year due to a bout of illness. When considering whether I was going to make it or not, I jokingly asked myself if single malt and single hop beers can be considered a “thing” (trendy, etc.) until we have coffee-infused, barrel-aged, and fruit SMaSH beers. Maybe we do; I have not seen them yet though.

I will hopefully have brewed my first batch of beer—ignoring that attempt in Belgium in the early 1980s—between this announcement and The Session itself and, wait for it, that beer will be a SMaSH beer. It will be an all-Oregon, not too hoppy American pale, if anything.

So, at the moment, at least, it appears I think they have some value.

Here are some potential directions you could consider:

  • Answer my question above. Are they trendy? When would they be considered to be trendy? Have you seen/had a variant (x-infused, fruit, …) single malt and single hop beer? More than one?
  • What purpose do SMaSH beers fill? For you, personally, and/or generally.
  • Do they fill a niche in any beer style space? One that matters to you? Are they a “style,” however you define that?
  • Have you ever had an excellent one? As a SMaSH beer or as a beer, period.
  • Do you brew them?
  • Are there any styles besides pale ale/IPA that can be achieved via a single malt and single hop beer? (How about achieved versus done quite well.)
  • Do they offer anything to drinkers, especially non-brewing drinkers?

I consider this to be wide open and am interested in your thoughts, whatever they are, regarding SMaSH beers. I sincerely hope this is not too limiting of a topic in the number of people who have tasted and/or brewed single malt and single hop beers.

Resources

Some resources–mostly brewing-focused, sorry–about single malt and single hop beers:

Brewing

Keeping it Simple with SMaSH Brewing [AHA]

Single-Malt Brewing [All About Beer]

Brew Your Own 20/4 Jul/Aug 2014 Single Malt and Single Hop 55-64

Zymurgy 40/2 Mar/Apr 2017 Uncommon Taste of Place SMaSH recipe 35

Style Guidelines

Neither BJCP 2015, NHC 2017, Brewers Association 2017, World Beer Cup 2016, or GABF 2017 have anything on them based on searches for “smash” and “single malt.”

Event

This looks like an interesting set of events and I wish more breweries did something similar:

SMASH Vertical Tasting Event

For General Beer Drinker (non-brewer)

I did try to find anything specifically directed more to the drinker/general consumer rather than the brewer but I could not find any. I would be interested in anything along that vein any of you have seen.

For instance, neither Mosher Tasting Beer, 2nd ed. or Alworth, The Beer Bible or Oliver, ed., The Oxford Companion to Beer have anything on SMaSH beer, although single-hopped does make an appearance in some of these.

How to Participate in this month’s The Session

On Friday 7 July, 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 (July 7th) I will post a round-up of all of the submissions with links.

Koch and Allin – The Brewer’s Apprentice

The Brewer’s Apprentice: an Insider’s Guide to the Art and Craft of Beer Brewing, Taught by the Masters by Greg Koch and Matt Allyn
Date read: 26-27 March 2017
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2017nfc

Cover image of The Brewer's Apprentice: an Insider's Guide to the Art and Craft of Beer Brewing, Taught by the Masters by Greg Koch and Matt Allyn

 

Library binding, 192 pages
Published 2011 by Quarry Books
Source: Deschutes Public Library [641.873 KOCH GREG]

Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Brewing Basics
  • 1 Mashing and Lautering: Eric Harper, Summit Brewing Co.
  • 2 Bittering Hops: Vinnie Cilurzo, Russian River Brewing Co.
  • 3 Aroma Hops: Nick Floyd, Three Floyds Brewing Co.
  • 4 Lager Brewing: Bill Covaleski, Victory Brewing Co.
  • 5 Water Chemistry: Mitch Steele, Stone Brewing Co.
  • 6 Brewing Like a Belgian: Tomme Arthur, The Lost Abbey
  • 7 Wheat Beer: Hans-Peter Drexler, Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn, Germany
  • 8 English Ales: John Keeling, Fuller, Smith & Turner, England
  • 9 Lambic Brewing: Jean Van Roy, Brasserie Cantillon, Belgium
  • 10 Brewing with Fruit and More: Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
  • 11 Brewing Big Beer: James Watt, BrewDog Ltd, Scotland
  • 12 Barrel Aging: Scott Vaccaro, Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.
  • 13 Organic Brewing: Ted Vivatson, Eel River Brewing Co.
  • 14 Tasting and Evaluating Beer: Ray Daniels, Cicerone Certification Program
  • 15 Making Beautiful Beer: Ken Grossman, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
  • 16 Mead: Bob Liptrot, Tugwell Creek Meadery, Canada
  • 17 Hard Cider: James Kohn, Wandering Aengus Ciderworks
  • 18 Traditional Cider: Jérôme Dupont, Domaine Familial Louis Dupont, France
  • Brewer’s Glossary
  • Contributors
  • Resources
  • Index
  • Photo Credits
  • About the Authors

My notes:

Aroma hops with Mitch Steele contains a chart with seven suggested hop blends for “flavor and aroma” (36). These include hop variety and ratios. For example, Goldings and Target at 4:1 for English ales; earthy and spicy with hints of tangerine. I am interested in trying a couple of these.

Lager brewing with Bill Covaleski contains the clearest, most succinct, explanation of the gross differences between German, Czech, Swiss, and American Lager yeasts (44).

On Soft water [We have extremely soft water!]:

“A bonus of using soft water is that because of a low temporary hardness level, there’s little trouble hitting a desired pH with pale base malt.” 54

The chapter on Brewing with fruit and more contains the second full-on WTF?! Moment I came across in this book. [Sadly, I failed to note the first]. The section titled, Sanitizing Fruit, begins “Fresh or frozen fruit will both need to be sanitized unless you are adding it after your boil” (101). I believe that is incorrect.

On the next page, in Adding fruit to the brew it states there “are three common points in the brewing process at which you can add fruit: at the end of the boil, during primary fermentation, and to the conditioning tank” (102). So, in practice, all the additions are “after your boil” and, thus, no fruit needs sanitizing. And that is simply wrong.

Brewing big beer contains some good information on pitching rates, making a yeast starter, using Champagne yeast and high-test yeast strains.

Following this chapter proper is an interview with James Watt of BrewDog. I was particularly dismayed by this choice because despite their three “world’s strongest” records they used freeze distillation for all of them. Freeze distillation is illegal in the US for homebrewers as it is distilling. This is a book for homebrewers so why focus on something clearly illegal? Better choices would have been Sam Calagione and World Wide Stout, among others (Palo Santo Marron) and Jim Koch and Utopia. No doubt in 2011 there were plenty of other choices too.

All in all, I found the book useful and enjoyable, even if in a middling way [3 of 5 stars]. There is some poor editing throughout but not a substantial amount. For instance, Beyond fruit has an incomplete sentence: “Most culinary elements that have a manageable fat content (yes, chocolate works), and can be sterilized, added, or infused into beer in some way” (103). [Just remove the “and” is one way to fix it.] Plus, it mentions “fat” with no commentary as to what is “manageable” or even why fat is an issue. There are several more minor editing issues between the above and “… , we’ll rack the fermented cider the sediment off yeast” (174). Most of the poor editing is comprehendable but not always and perhaps not to people with limited knowledge.

I do think it could be a useful book, but at this point, with all of my others, I would not pay much for it.

This is the 17th book read and 7th reviewed in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge 2017 [2017nfc]

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!

Who you gonna invite? (The Session #118)

Stan Hieronymus of appellation beer, author of Brewing Local and For the Love of Hops, and the founder of The Session is hosting the 118th Session: He asks “If you could invite four people dead or alive to a beer dinner who would they be? What four beers would you serve?

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

This can go so many directions as there are very many scenarios I can imagine, so I am going to put forth a couple different ones here, seeing as they are all fantasy anyway.

As much as I was inspired by this, I also seriously struggled with writing it. Not sure what’s going on, but here it is, as it is.

Beer & Brewing #1

Jessica Boak – co-beer blogger extraordinaire at Boak & Bailey’s Beer Blog and co-author of Brew Britannia: the strange rebirth of British beer and Gambrinus waltz: German Lager beer in Victorian and Edwardian London

Ray Bailey – the other half of the dynamic B&B duo; see Jessica above

Jon Abernathy – friend and another extremely long-term beer blogger at The Brew Site and author of Bend Beer: A History of Brewing in Central Oregon

Peter Kopp – author of Hoptopia: A World of Agriculture and Beer in Oregon’s Willamette Valley

I have been reading Boak & Bailey for a couple years now [blog, books, & newsletter] and interact with them a tad bit on Twitter too. They seem like good folks and ones I would love to actually have a chance to sit with in a pub and talk, so they are natural fits.

Seeing as they are somewhat fairly-to-heavily focused on the recent history of beer in Britain, I thought my friend, Jon Abernathy, would be an excellent choice due to his same focus on our local region.

A fourth here was tougher but I went with Peter Kopp as another historian of an aspect of beer production.

So I guess my theme here, if there is one, is authors of recent historically-focused books on beer.

The beers I would serve—I’m sure I could be swayed as my creativity here got exhausted quickly—are the following:

A lovely British cask bitter in perfect nick. Because. I have never had such a thing and I need the experience. What is all the fuss [SPBW, CAMRA, real ale, …] about?

Heineken (Dutch) c1984. While I was stationed in Belgium in the mid-80s one of my fellow soldiers—a Dutch airman—would bring me this by the case. I also drank Rodenbach—in 33 cl bottles—and a couple others by the case. This was so very different than the stuff imported in green bottles that I had been drinking 5 years earlier just before joining the Army and leaving for Europe. I would really love to taste this and see if it was as good as I remember it.

1842 Pilsner Urquell. Why would you not want to try the first—and only—Pilsner? What was this thing that so changed the world?

Thrales 18th century Russian Imperial Stout. The wife and I adore big Imperial stouts, so again I would love to try one of the early exemplars and possible eponym.

Women in Beer

I definitely would love to do my part for the many great women in and around great beer and there are so very many inspiring choices here. Sadly, my creativity was restrained here as there are no doubt many more amazing and interesting women in this field that I am not aware of.

Women in Beer #1

Tanya Cornett – R&D Brewer at 10 Barrel, former brewmaster at Bend Brewing

Tanya is a great brewer—I don’t care about your feeling re AB InBev here—and someone I’d love to get to know. One of my beer heroes  in my newly adopted hometown.

Carla Jean Lauter – “the beer babe,” beer writer, blogger, twitterer

Carla is always interesting on the Twitters and her longer form writing—when I get a chance to see it—is also. Another person from my corner of the interwebz that seems like a really cool person to hang with over some beers

Mirella Amato – beer educator, author of Beerology: everything you need to know to enjoy beer…even more and one of the first Master Cicerones

Again, another really cool seeming person whose passion is focused on beer education, something near and dear to my heart.

Annie Johnson – 2013 AHA Homebrewer of the Year

I read an article—somewhere—about Annie in the last couple years and maybe even saw a short video and she just seemed so interesting and enthusiastic.

So I have award-winning brewers, both professional and homebrewer, and a beer writer and a beer educator/author.

For the women in beer dinner I would want the ladies to each bring their own selection. This would (hopefully) be a dinner in which I, the host, would mostly sit in and listen. Keep my mouth shut as much as possible and allow them to discuss what they want, how they want.

Women in Beer (Science)

Veronica Vega – R&D Brewer for Deschutes Brewery

Karen Fortmann – senior research scientist at White Labs

Nicole Garneau – geneticist & curator at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science; coauthor of the Beer Flavor Map [see above link] [This is a bit breathless, to say the least, but gives an idea. Am immensely interested in discussing this with the coauthors.]

Lindsay Barr – sensory specialist at New Belgium; currently serves as chair of the ASBC Sensory Subcommittee; coauthor of the Beer flavor Map.

Veronica is one of my favorite people and another definite local hero of mine. I also know, for a fact, that she is an amazing person with a wide variety of interests and experience. I have been on a couple hikes with her—beer-related—and see her now and again at the pub or around town. I always get a hug. But please don’t let any of that distract you from her brewing chops—she has a much larger role now and well deserves it—but she was the Deschutes Bend Pub brewer when we moved here and is a major force in why I adore those pub beers so very much. I have drank quite a bit of her beer.

I read about Karen Fortmann in that Beer Advocate article and her work sounds absolutely intriguing.

The other two scientists, also mentioned in that article, came to my attention a few months back due to their work on the Beer Flavor Map. I have read Meilgaard’s work and others on the flavor wheel and find this [set of] topic[s] incredibly interesting. I would love to get a first-hand account of that work and the resultant product.

One professional brewer with a science background and three brewing scientists. This one would be extremely hard for me to be quiet so I would not hold myself to that here. Beer science. Got to learn. Got to ask questions of the researchers when you get a chance. Still, hopefully, not being a typical guy and letting the ladies have at it.

I would leave the beers up to the professionals, as above.

Growers / Researchers

Seth Klann – barley and rye grower, maltster Mecca Grade Estate Malt

Pat Hayes – OSU barley breeder

Gail Goschie – hop grower, Goschie Farms

Al Haunold – USDA hop breeder. Took over the hop breeding program in Corvallis (USDA-ARS) in 1965:  Nugget, Willamette, Cascade and several other hops are credited to him.

These people and their roles are critical to great beer! We need farmers–especially ones like Seth and Gail whose families have been farming in Oregon for over 100 years each. We also need our agricultural researchers and these two–at least in my world–are rock stars.

I do know Seth and Pat personally and they are both great people. I have had the privilege of attending OSU Barley Days with Pat playing host and another huge privilege of hanging on the Klann family farm for a a day during a homebrew club group brew and seeing the mechanical floor malter and the storage silos and so learning about all they do to bring us great malt. I have also heard both men present on barley a couple of times.

I do not know Gail personally but she seems like great people from all I have seen and heard. I never had the privilege of meeting Al Haunold either but in our little part of the world he is legendary.

For these folks I would love some vibrant, yet simple, SmaSH beers made with Mecca Grade malt [Full Pint, thanks Pat!] and Goschie Farms’ Haunold-developed hops.

Others

I had a couple other scenarios lined up but due to struggling with writing they need to be left out—there were plenty more women in beer, more growers and researchers, more beer writers, a foursome or three of library folks, homebrewing folks, beer education folks, and so on.

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.”