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Home » Beer 101

5 Essential Books for the Homebrewer

Submitted by on November 5, 2011 – 3:06 pmOne Comment

The American Homebrewers Association has decreed that Saturday, November 5, 2011, is Learn to Homebrew Day. The first was in 1999.

I began homebrewing five-gallon batches earlier this year. So far I’ve been really lucky, considering some stories I’ve read and heard about others’ first attempts at brewing, in that the first two batches I made actually tasted like beer and were quite drinkable. My third batch, a holiday ale, is currently fermenting in the bottles. Early tastes give me high hopes.

The best part of homebrewing – other than the beer – is that you’ll learn a lot more about the brewing process. When you actually understand what  your guide is talking about during a brewery tour, it adds value to your road trip.

And I learned one important thing. If you bring along a few bottles of your home brew on a Road Trip for Beer to give as gifts, you will find a lot of new friends who are willing to share their homebrewing tips and strategies with you. Of course, most will do that anyway, but chatting over a couple of bottles of your beer makes any conversation better.

One other thing I learned is that other brewers – both amateur and professional – always have a reference shelf of brewing books near at hand. So once you decide that making your own beer is a hobby you want to pursue, you might want to start building your own reference library. To help you with that, here is a list of the 5 Essential Books for the Homebrewer.

The Complete Joy of Homebrewing Third Edition This book should be the first one you should own. Charlie Papazian, master brewer and founder and president of the American Homebrewers Association and  the Association of Brewers, presents a fully revised edition of his essential guide to homebrewing. This third edition of the best-selling and most trusted homebrewing guide includes a complete update of all instructions, recipes, charts, and guidelines. Everything you need to get started is here, including classic and new recipes for brewing stouts, ales, lagers, pilseners, porters, specialty beers, and honey meads. And this book is where coined the mantra of homebrewers everywhere: “Relax, Don’t Worry, Have a Homebrew.”

How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time It’s true that you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to brew beer, but that doesn’t mean rocket scientists can’t do it. Brewers often cite this book as the other must-have besides “The Joy of Brewing.” John J. Palmer has not only written two books on brewing beer, but he also has helped design, build, and inspect hardware that is currently flying on the International Space Station, worked in research and development of orthodontic appliances, and been awarded two patents. As the title suggests, a great reference work for the beginning homebrewer.

Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation Most beginning homebrewers start with ingredients kits that include the yeast, the essential ingredient that makes turns your wort into beer, so you won’t have to worry too much about it at first. But trust me, it doesn’t take long before yeast becomes an important subject and you’ll want to learn everything you can about it. When I have let veteran homebrewers taste my creations, the first question they ask is, “What yeast did you use?” This book by Jamil Zainasheff and Chris White will quickly become one of your most valuable tools.


Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew It’s often said that if you can cook, you can make beer, but whether it’s your own or someone else’s, it’s helpful to have a recipe to guide you. Once your homebrewing endeavors move beyond prepackaged ingredient kits into all-grain brewing, you might want to have on hand a copy of this book by  Jamil Zainasheff and John J. Palmer, which has multiple recipes for every basic style of beer, and plenty of handy how-to tips.


Brewing Better Beer: Master Lessons for Advanced Homebrewers This is NOT a book for the beginner. Author Gordon Strong, three-time winner of the coveted National Homebrew Competition Ninkasi Award, writes this for the advanced all-grain brewer who already knows how to make beer, but is looking to improve their techniques. You’ll learn about technical aspects of such subjects as water quality and tips for choosing specific ingredients and equipment.


Of course, by limiting this list to only five books, there are many fine works that have been left out. Which books other than these have proven invaluable in your brewing education? Let us know in the comments section.

Books aren’t the only resource of course. The American Homebrewers Association website offers plenty of information and tips, and local homebrewing groups are usually eager to share their knowledge with newbies and veterans alike.

For more insights into the world of brewing beer, be sure to check out our Featured Brewer series.

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