Soft Cover, $17.95, 272 pp.
Many are now discovering what the Belgians and longtime beer aficionados have known for some time: that Belgian ales are unique and magical. Brewing is a combination of art, science and skill, but the monks and their secular brethren that make Trappist, abbey and the ales they have inspired seem to also have a little mystique. Perhaps it’s their spurn of the restraints of rigid styling and their embrace of natural and divine forces. The simplistic and individualistic approach exalts many of these beers to the very pinnacle of brewing art.
If it is your desire to examine these various nectars from all angles, then the new book, Brew Like a Monk by Stan Hieronymous, is just what you need. Hieronymous is one of the most prodigious and decorated beer journalists around, and his humble passion for beer is truly a gift to the beer world. In Brew Like a Monk, Hieronymus takes us on a journey through the world of Belgian brewing at its source and into the new realm of Belgian-style brewing in North America. His style is contemplative, thorough, light-hearted and a perfect tribute to the brewing culture.
Hieronymous logically begins his sojourn with the six Trappist breweries, all fairly well-known to the beer world, by deftly conveying the culture of the Trappist monks to the reader in a palpable, personal way. The reverence and humility by which life and craftsmanship are practiced is reflected in the brewing. Hieronymous presents both solid recipe information, as well as philosophical musings from the brewers and monks—a testament to the duality of these beers. Each monastery is presented individually and their brews discussed. A recipe and brewing method of a signature beer is also offered.
Next in line are the abbey brewers. Like the monastic offerings, abbey ales are quite varied, but Hieronymous somehow distills their considerable collective essence and culture into a definable sect of Belgian brewing. He follows up his look at the abbeys with a short chapter on independent brewers whose beers are no less inspired than the monastic and abbey brews. Again, he gives the guidelines of a few classics, including Leffe Blonde, St. Bernardus 12 and Tripel Karmeliet.
Finally, Hieronymous jumps across the Atlantic to examine the burgeoning North American fascination with Belgian-inspired brewing. He visits those breweries that are seminal to the new world movement, as well as the newcomers: those that specialize in Belgian-style brews and those that dabble. It is obvious to the reader that Hieronymous views the passage as nothing short of amazing.
As a solid and informative ending to the treatise, Hieronymous outlines the actual procedures, tricks and specific tips and ingredients that will help to make your Belgian brewing as authentic as possible. He pulls together the attitude and minutia into one essential package with an excellent set of guidelines.
Brew Like a Monk is as comprehensive a guide on the world of Belgian brewing as there is. Aimed at brewers, both amateur and professional, it also is a wealth of information for non-brewers. Hieronymous’ skill as a writer and passion for beer merge in this book, and his effort is as rich as the beers and brewing culture of which he writes. It is surely a mystical, literary trip through Belgium and its brewing art.