Most homebrewers get into the hobby as a means to produce their favorite styles or brands of beer. They yearn to produce world class beer right at home. But many variables ultimately determine whether or not a brewer can actually achieve his or her goal. Skill level, commitment, technical accouterments, and that certain “knack” all enter into the equation of creating great beer.
Then, of course, there is the recipe. What seems to be a pretty straightforward proposition is in fact a fairly elusive quarry, and there are as many opinions and variations on recipes than there are brewers. Who to emulate—websites, friends, or books?
Try Mark and Tess Szamatulski, who have followed their original recipe book, Clone Brews, with a second, equally impressive work entitled Beer Captured. As owners of a homebrew shop and long-time brewers, they have a vested interest in recreating their own favorite beers.
The authors spend the first 13 pages of the book with a succinct overview entitled “The Magic of Brewing.” This has the requisite information to explain beer color, hop utilization, mashing, yeast handling and other pertinent topics. This book is not a how-to-brew manual, but this information is welcome nonetheless. All aspects of brewing are presented in a concise fashion.
The overview is followed by 150 recipes, one per page, of commercial “world class beers.” Each page adheres to an identical format, making the book consistent throughout, that is laden with information. A description of the beer heads the page, along with its vital statistics, such as original gravity, final gravity, color, bitterness rating and alcohol content. The bulk of the page presents a 5-gallon recipe based on malt extract with some specialty grains. As the authors don’t recommend hopped extract, each recipe has a complete hop schedule befitting the beer. Two choices of liquid yeast are given for each beer recipe. Detailed instructions are also included for each brew, including fermentation conditions.
Not to exclude more advanced brewers, a sidebar gives a mini-mash and all-grain alternative for each beer with appropriate adjustments for hop additions. The sidebar also offers “Helpful Hints” and serving suggestions. Lots of data, without seeming cluttered.
The recipe section is arranged by style and it appears that none are forgotten. Each style is represented by at least one and up to eight commercial examples. There are even two Baltic porter recipes that, if you’ve never tried this style, are luscious and await your magic touch.
Following the beer ledgers are 16 food recipes that use beer as an ingredient. Entrees, soups, side dishes and desserts are all represented. How does an evening of homebrewed oatmeal stout, pepper encrusted filet mignon with stout gravy, and chocolate stout cake sound with a nightcap of your own barley wine? I thought so.
Finishing the book off is a 20-page section of appendices. This consists primarily of charts that summarize everything imaginable that is useful in brewing. Included are water treatment, BJCP style guidelines, hop characteristics, malt and adjunct descriptions, and yeast characteristics. Again, lots of tabular data for a singular resource.
The Szamatulskis are focused on their vision to help others reproduce classic brews at home and offer an amount of information and instruction in this book that is unsurpassed. You can now take a shot at your favorite beer without having to make several batches to tweak the parameters. Pull up a barstool with Mark and Tess, whose glass is always brimming with great beer.