soft cover, $17.99, 175 pp
Beer Craft is a valuable guide for extract brewers looking to move up to all-grain, and new brewers who want to start at the pinnacle. The book’s waterproof cover gives it instant credibility―authors William Bostwick and Jessi Rymill must have also accidentally splashed hot wort onto their favorite homebrew manual a time or two. Brilliant!
Beer Craft opens with a concise history of beer, beautifully illustrated by numerous colorful charts and timelines. From there the authors dive into the process with an overview of the six steps: mash, sparge, boil, chill, ferment, and bottle. Each section includes suggestions to make brewing easier. Using Oxy-Clean to remove labels from old bottles and clean the gunk from the fermenter is just one great tip. Peppered throughout the book are interviews with the founders and brewmasters of U.S. craft breweries.
Unlike other books that begin with recipes for 5-gallon extract brewing, Beer Craft is for all-grain brewing, 1 gallon at a time. That’s just 10 bottles―this is a great entry to all-grain brewing.
With smaller equipment, homebrewing becomes accessible for apartment dwellers with tiny kitchens and those of us who want to experiment. Your fermenter could be a 1-gallon cider jug. A 2-gallon stockpot is your brew kettle. You can go a little crazy with adjuncts without worrying about pouring out 5 gallons of undrinkable beer.
Beer Craft includes instructions for brewing 10 major styles with interesting experiments for each before you even get to the “Bonus Steps,” which include dry hopping, fruit additions, and spices.
What sets Beer Craft apart is the authors’ use of the print medium to represent information that could overwhelm brewers who have yet to memorize the qualities of different hops, malt, and yeast varieties. Their “Field Guide to Hops” clearly presents the varieties according to bitterness, flavor, and aroma.
Although I have yet to try it, Beer Craft includes an enticing flavor identification exercise created by sensory directors from New Belgium and Flying Dog breweries. Thirty distinctive foods and flavors are outlined with corresponding aromatic descriptions relating to beer. A couple of drops or crumbs of the flavor or food are placed in a small jar with a cotton ball to trap and absorb the smell. Open each, take a whiff and write down your thoughts. The idea is to practice recognizing aromas to give your nose a vocabulary.
It is fitting that in such a beautifully crafted book, a chapter is devoted to the design of both labels and bottle caps. Suggestions include using waterproof paper and a Xyron sticker machine. Label templates are provided.
My only criticism concerns the brew record at the end of the book. It doesn’t photocopy well, rendering it pretty useless. This is one part of the book where the color and design get in the way.
Like those who have revisited traditional crafts in other areas, Bostwick and Rymill bring a modern sensibility to small batch brewing. Beer Craft would be an excellent companion to the 1-gallon Williams-Sonoma beer kit you may have given or received for Father’s Day. After a thorough reading, I want to make this book a part of my permanent collection.