Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Book Review: Designing Great Beers: The Ultimate Guide To Brewing Classic Beer Styles

Tomorrow I go back to work, so I need to finish my review series.  I saved the best for last.

Designing Great Beers.
Information on Malts: 5/5
Information on Wort Biochemistry: 5/5
Information on tops: 5/5
Information on Yeast: 2/5
Information on Style History: 5/5
Information on Style Characteristics: 5/5 Information on Style Composition: 4/5
Overall: 4.42/5

Designing Great Beers: The Ultimate Guide To Brewing Classic Beer Styleslink by Ray Daniels is, hands-down the best advanced brewing book I have ever read. While not a good book for beginners, this book is a must-read for any brewer interested in designing or optimizing recipes, what goes on in the brew pot, hops characteristics & chemistry, the history of various styles, and what goes into award-winning brews.

More Below the Fold


This book is split into two sections - the first covers nearly everything you need to know about the brewing process, while the second covers the history, characteristics and composition of the major beer styles, plus includes information on the composition of award-wining beers typical of the style.

The first section is astoundingly comprehensive. A partial list of the topics covered are the characteristics and production methods for the major malts, where colour comes from in beer, the enzymatic reactions that occur during malting, the chemical changes that occur during boiling, water chemistry, three chapters on hops, calculations for malt & hop bills, and so on. These chapters present these often technical subjects in a way easily understood by most brewers, and most importantly, provide the information with an emphasis on how it can be applied by the homebrewer to build and improve their beers. The only downside to this section is the chapter on yeast - the coverage of yeast choice, characteristics & handling is trivial compared to the comprehensive information provided in all the other chapters.

The scientist in me was enamoured by the first section - the brewer and beer-fan in me loves the second. Unlike a traditional brewing book, this section does not provide recipes. Instead, each chapter covers one of the major beer styles. A chapter starts with an overview of the history of the style - a topic which I never considered before and found quite enthralling. This is followed by an extensive description of the style - both historically and in modern commertial and homebrewed versions. This is followed by a breakdown of the characteristics (OG/FG, IBUs, etc), malt bills, hop bills, yeast choice, etc, used in various award-winning versions of the style. Each chapter finishes off with style-specific advice in designing & brewing the style. I tried hard to think of something in this section that needs improvement - the closest I can think of is that the chapters are organized alphabetically; splitting ales versus lagers into separate sections may have made this section a little more logically orientated.

Throughout the book, well-illustrated tables, graphs and charts are provided to outline complex details and concepts. Inset panels are frequently found containing various hints & tricks for brewers - including how to replicate no-longer produced malts in your kitchen!

If you're an intermediary or advanced brewer, and you don't have this on your bookshelf, all I have to say is get to the bookstore!

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