Homebrewing is no different from any other hobby. It is undertaken out of curiosity, as a means of self-expression or perhaps even as the foundation for a career. Nearly all of us start from the same place: rudimentary brewing involving extract, specialty grains, a hop addition or two and dried yeast. At some point, though, most brewers get the itch to move beyond the basics. Perhaps the most daunting step is the move to all-grain brewing. It involves more equipment and technical know-how than extract brewing, but also offers far more control over the finished product. If you are looking to take the plunge into all-grain brewing or want to expand your brewing knowledge in general, then Mike Karnowski’s new book may be just the ticket.
Karnowski has an excellent pedigree, having paid his dues over the past 25 years in the industry as a home and professional brewer, and now head brewer at Green Man Brewery in Asheville, NC, a city that rivals any in the United States in its taste for quality beer. Karnowski’s objective is quite clear from the get-go: He is here to lead you to the enlightened world of all-grain brewing, one that strips all obstacles from your brewing creativity and replaces them with the confidence and advice to ease the transition. The book is essentially an open-ended guide, perfectly symbolic of the essence and philosophy of homebrewing.
Homebrew Beyond The Basics: All-Grain Brewing and Other Next Steps (Lark Crafts, Paperback, $19.95, 192 pp) starts exactly where the title suggests, assuming that the brewer is well-versed in the fundamentals and is ready to enthusiastically move forward. It kicks off with simple, foolproof all-grain brewing, beginning, in natural order, with equipment, then grain, hops and yeast. These sections encompass fully two-thirds of the book. The malt and grain section covers mashing, the hop section covers nearly everything about hops, and the yeast portion explores selection, handling and fermentation.
The coherent progression of the book is impressive, a steady stream of information and logistics that locks into the goal: making excellent, professional-quality homebrew. No aspect of brewing is unaddressed, no matter how obscure or common, sanitization, bottling and kegging included.
The last third of the book moves onto the more adventurous, experimental and trendy aspects of the craft. Everything—including wood-aging, souring and alternative organisms and fermentation strategies, adjuncts, sugars, fruits, spices and flavorings—is canvassed in detailed and straightforward, intelligible fashion.
Recipes are scattered throughout the book, always in a topical and pertinent spot, creative interludes to break the pragmatic discussion. I like the fact that there is not a specific recipe section, but one that emphasizes the point, scenario or method described in the few previous pages. Once again, the book serves as inspiration rather than concrete instruction.
As brewing books go, Homebrew Beyond the Basics is unusual, homing in on the more advanced brewer and the minutiae that pertains to the art. Its well-organized, comprehensive approach is impeccably executed, and the guide is full of elegant color photos, neat tabular data and technical information. This book is a joy to look at and learn from. Karnowski nails every point in his presentation, and it would be hard to miss any of yours with his guidance in your future brewing adventures.