Book review – How To Brew by John Palmer

After collecting a good amount of books about homebrewing all these years, it was time to start doing some reviews about them. It was something that I had planned for the beginning of the blog, but one way or another, it didn’t start until now.

For the first book review, I knew which one I was going to choose. It couldn’t be another one than my first homebrewing book, How To Brey by John Palmer. My copy has a few years since I bought it when, after a couple of extract batches, I decided to start brewing all grain. It is therefore the third edition. Nowadays, since 2017, the fourth edition is available, with revised and updated information, plus five new chapters about subjects that didn’t appear in the previous edition. Besides, for those of you who just want to take a look, the first edition of How To Brew is available online for free.

The description below the title on the book, “Everything you need to know to brew beer right the first time”, although it may sound pretentious, fits quite well what this book offers. In my opinion, one of the strongest points of the book is the explanation and description of the basic concepts and processes that are part of homebrewing. Palmer explains them almost from the beginning in an clear and understandable way.

The book is divided in five different sections with a logical order. The first one is about brewing with malt extract, detailing all the necessary processes, a lot of them (cleaning, sanitizing, boiling, fermentation, bottling) being the same for all grain brewing. In this section most of the ingredients that are part of beer are introduced (water, hops and yeast), describing the different possibilities for the brewer. The second section goes a step further, describing brewing with malt extract plus specialty malts. In this part, which is shorter, Palmer writes about the different types of malts and adjuncts that can be used. The third section enters all grain brewing and it is focused especially in all the processes involved in mashing, explained by Palmer in a very approachable way. These chapters may be the most complex and detailed of the whole book. Finally, the last two sections gather some assorted recipes and a few appendices.

Although after some years some of the subjects may be a little bit outdated, the book has its main strength in the basic principles, and these are the same now that they were when the book was written. I can be a little bit biased because it was my first book about homebrewing, but I think that the explanations of the homebrewing basics are one of the best I’ve ever read. And as I said before, there is a new edition with updated information on the subjects that may seem a little bit outdated. All in all, I think this a great book for those who want to start homebrewing, and also for those that already brew beer at home but want to understand well the basics of our hobby. It could even provide some help for the intermediate howebrewer looking for new experiences, since the five new chapters in the new edition bring information about some new subjects like sour beers.

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