Extreme Beer: An Enthusiast’s Guide to Brewing Craft Beer at Home
In his role as Pied Piper of the envelope-pushing American brewing movement, Sam Calagione is famous for his “off-centered beer for off-centered people” philosophy. As founder and owner of the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, he simultaneously pays homage to and thumbs his nose at brewing tradition. In short, he is a serious brewer who knows no boundaries when it comes to fun. Sam chronicles his exploits in his new book, Extreme Brewing, a coalescent treatise of the utilitarian, ingenious, and downright unusual.
Calagione leaves no doubt about his belief in sound brewing fundamentals as the foundation for making great beer. He dedicates fully half of his book to rudimentary brewing, ingredients, and appreciation. By gearing the book towards extract-and-steep brewers, he gently persuades and encourages rather than intimidates.
A tea (pre-boil steep that is added to the wort) and boil (wort and subsequent additions like hops and spices) approach is followed in each recipe. His rundown on an essential brewing kit and first-brew methodology is thorough and simple. Likewise, descriptions and use of each brewing component, be they hardware or software, is unassuming and enticing. He gives examples of extreme versions, along with the mundane, of malt, hops, and yeast, then leads into the exotic, like herbs, fruit, spices, and sugars. A few pages on beer styles give an essentially blank palette with which to create extreme masterpieces and serves as the ideal preface to his recipes.
The recipe section, Sam’s undisputed forte, is a marvelous anthology of formulae extreme in every way imaginable. There are “Imperial” recipes, simply trumped up versions of common beer styles, his own house brews, and classic brews that employ ginger, molasses, blood oranges, and licorice among other additives. Extreme procedures, like barrel-aging are also covered.
Calagione graciously gives 20 pages to “Master Brewer’s Recipes,” a series of some of his renowned peers’ sublime creations, all of which adhere to his tenets of extreme brewing, proving that he is not only confident, but also selfless when it comes to creating outstanding beer. A chapter dedicated to beer and food pairings and food using beer as an ingredient give this tome a perfect finish.
In Extreme Beer, Calagione serves up his unabashed style, know-how, and most importantly, his detailed recipes to a sector that he respects, homebrewers. Without homebrewers, we might not have had the renaissance in the past 20 years: Sam himself began as one. His book serves to guide, inspire, and remind those who brew that there is a vast and virtually infinite world of beer out there just waiting to be discovered.