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L. Wall (Oxford, U.K.)

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Designing Great Beers: The Ultimate Guide to Brewing Classic Beer Styles
Designing Great Beers: The Ultimate Guide to Brewing Classic Beer Styles
by Ray Daniels
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.26

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Book, 19 May 2009
First off, it should be pointed out that this book is concerned with creating recipes. It is not an introduction to home brewing and doesn't have any information on technique. If you're looking for an introduction to brewing, or an introduction to full mash brewing then John Palmer's book, How to Brew: Everything You Need to Know to Brew Beer Right for the First Time, is excellent, and also free on the web.

This book is split in to two parts. The first part, which accounts for about a third of the book deals with brewing calculations. Things like how to estimate your mash efficiency, hitting your target OG, and calculations for minerals additions to your water.

This section is quite good. Some of the material is covered in other sources, for example John Palmer's book, but not all of it.

In part two, each chapter covers a beer style, and there are 14 chapters in total. (Some chapters sneak a couple of related styles in.) The styles covered are mostly British and German. Within each chapter there is a historical overview of the style, some discussion of where the style is now, and lots of statistics. The stats are things like how much of a given grain or hop is used on average in commercial examples of a style, and in beers which have made it to the second round in NHC beer competitions.

Part two is useful if you want to brew closely to style or for competitions, but I don't often use it. I'll try to explain why with an example. On the page 165 there is a table of the incidence and proportion of specialty Malts used in NHC second-round pale ales. In the table we see (among other things) that almost all of them use crystal malt, at up to about 20% of the grain bill but at an average of 8%. A few used Munich malt, but most didn't. Well, that's great to know, but what are we going to do with that information? Probably we'll use around 8% crystal in our pale ales, and leave Munich malt out. This is my problem, despite the book's title there is not really a lot here about designing recipes, it really just guides you towards the style average. I'm sure "average pale ale" is perfectly nice and will do very well in competition, but it's just not what I usually want to brew!

In summary, if you want a book which will help you brew some major styles closely, then this is the book for you, but when you want to go a little off-piste there isn't much here to help you. That said, there is an impressive amount of information in there, and even though I only consult it once in a while I'm glad it's there on my shelf.

Radical Brewing: Tales and World-Altering Meditations in a Glass
Radical Brewing: Tales and World-Altering Meditations in a Glass
by Randy Mosher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.88

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book, 15 July 2008
This is an amazing book to read. I read it while making the transition from extract to all-grain brewing. Actually that's not quite true, I bought this book and it inspired me to switch to all-grain brewing, which I have definitely not regretted.

What this book has is lots of all-grain recipes, which you can brew as they stand, or use as starting points for your own ideas. Mosher gives lots of hints about where you could take different recipes, and the book is packed with tips about how to combine ingredients to make great tasting beer. It's not exactly a book about how to design your own recipes, but it will get you thinking in that direction, and if designing your own recipes from scratch is your aim, this book is be a great place to start.

Two caveats:
1. Keep in mind that the gallons means US gallons.
2. It seems like somewhere along the way some of the numbers in the book got mixed up. Before you brew a recipe I recommend checking that the numbers all add up. I.e. that the amount of grain used should give the OG the recipe says, and if not check the errata on Mosher's website. This might seem like a big defect in a book of beer recipes, but it really isn't. The value of this book is the wisdom it imparts, and working out the correct numbers is not to difficult.

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