Saturday, July 25, 2015

Get Your Brew On

When learning something new, it only makes sense to learn from someone who's an expert. Having been there and done that in the realm of home brewing, Emma Christensen's new book, Brew Better Beer is the expert advise you need to walk you through getting started making your own beer. (Or, if you've made a few batches and aren't quite sure why it's not tasting how you'd like or imagined, the book will steer you in the right direction!)

Christensen does a super job at laying out the basics for everyone who has wanted to try making beer but found themselves overwhelmed in the beginning. I appreciate that she does a bit of hand-holding (and lets experienced brew masters know when to skip ahead unless they want to review the basics with us newbs). In addition to in-depth narrative, the book includes easy to read and follow charts on all the basics from equipment needed to the rich variety of ingredients needed. She even has a chart to help beginners figure out if they are more likely to enjoy and find success with brewing smaller 1-gallon batches or larger 5-gallon quantities. (I suspect I'm more your 1-gallon sized brewer as I'm the type who doesn't want to have to drink through a whole lot before I get to try something else.)

My eyes were certainly opened to the plethora of possibilities home brewers have when it comes to ingredients that will affect the beer you make. Varieties of hops, types of grains, different yeasts, even the mineral content of the water used will provide different flavors in the final product. Christensen takes each ingredient in hand, explains what its purpose in the brew is, and then lists the options available for each ingredient and what it will do to your beer. I was amazed and thankful for a concise "play-by-play" scorecard that will provide handy reference in the future.

With the opening elementary chapters behind, the rest of the book is divided up according to styles of beer to brew: Pale Ales, India Pale Ales (IPAs), Brown Ales, Porters & Stouts, British Ales, Belgian Ales, Scottish & Irish Red Ales, Wheat Beers, Rye Ales, Session Ales, Gluten-Free Beers, and Lagers. Interspersed between chapters are great tips and talks on things like "How To Pour and Taste Beer" and "Ten Small Habits That Will Make You a Better Brewer". (Especially helpful, the section labeled "Common Problems, Easy Solutions"!)

Each chapter on a style of beer includes several tried and true recipes for brewers. What I love is that each recipe offers readers several beers that are already out there on the shelves to try which are similar in nature to the one in the recipe. Don't know if you're up for a whole batch of "Bitter Brit English-Style Pale Ale"? Well, run out and grab Whale's Tale Pale Ale by Cisco Brewers, Inc. or Schlafly Pale Ale from The Saint Louis Brewery to find out!

Each recipe also includes "Brew Notes" to help ensure optimal success with your batch of brew and "Make It Yours" ideas on ways to switch up the ingredients to tweak your flavor results in a way that might be more to your own liking.

If you've ever thought of making your own home brew, Brew Better Beer is the book you will want to get! Thanks to Blogging For Books for the review copy I received in exchange for this review.

From the Publisher . . .

In this colorful homebrewing guide, The Kitchn’s Emma Christensen gives you the keys to the brewery. Start out by mastering the basic styles, like A Very Good IPA and A Very Good Porter, then move on to inspired variations such as Centennial Dry-Hopped Double IPA, Campari IPA, and Smokey Chipotle Porter to discover which flavors, infusions, hops, and yeasts work best with each ale and lager. Want to brew a signature beer with your own personal stamp? Go wild with the “Make It Yours” suggestions and try tossing anything from cherries to chai spices into your brew.

This handy manual also dives deep into the mechanics of brewing all-extract, partial-extract, and all-grain brews, and includes a big, beautiful photographic guide to brewing beer so you can see exactly how each step is done. You can brew small 1-gallon batches, perfect for apartment brewers and low-risk experimentation, or brew 5 gallons and have enough to share with all your friends. You’ll also be introduced to up-and-coming beer trends like rye malts, barrel-aging at home, sour beers, gluten-free beers, and Old World beer styles.

Filled with inspiring recipes like Riding Lawn Mower Pale Ale, Maple Cider Dubbel, Finnish Juniper Rye Sahti Ale, Figgy Pudding British Barleywine, and Farmers’ Market Gruit, Christensen’s accessible approach will have you brewing better beer in no time.

About the Author . . .

EMMA CHRISTENSEN is the recipe editor for the popular homecooking website The Kitchn (, and a graduate of the Cambridge School for Culinary Arts in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A former beer reviewer for the Columbus Dispatch, she is a dedicated home-brewer always eager for the chance to nerd out about fermentation. Emma lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

To learn more, visit

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