by Mike Retzlaff
Back in the late 70’s, Dave Line wrote THE BIG BOOK OF BREWING followed a few years later by Charlie Papazian’s THE COMPLETE JOY OF HOMEBREWING. Both of these authors are considered the Godfathers of homebrewing in their respective countries (UK & USA). John Palmer wrote HOW TO BREW which is a very popular book and fills an enormous gap in the void of knowledge with which the new brewer is faced. Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer wrote BREWING CLASSIC STYLES which gets a bit deeper into the world of home brew. Gordon Strong wrote BREWING BETTER BEER which gets into even greater detail in the many aspects of all-grain home brewing. Greg Noonan wrote NEW BREWING LAGER BEER which delves into the many serious details of chemistry, physics, and microbiology involved in brewing.
There are magazines such as BREW YOUR OWN, CRAFT BEER & BREWING, and ZYMURGY which contain varied articles of fact, opinion, and suggestion on particular styles, techniques, and other specialty aspects.
There are journals for commercial brewers which convey technical articles which can enlighten any of us. Many of these focus on new and innovative techniques which have been developed and are now in use in a few breweries. Some explain in detail, age-old techniques of which most of us are unaware or don’t fully understand.
These books, articles, and publications exist in a multitude of forms and places. Some are like an “Idiot’s Guide” while others read like a textbook. Some encompass either a general or a very selective aspect of the subject.
The problem is that much of this information is often more than many of us can or want to absorb at a sitting. Many of us are seeking a quick fix to a brewing problem when an overall understanding of the process would certainly better suit our needs. Even though the vast majority of us don’t plan to make a living in the brewhouse, this knowledge is at least, handy.
Short of attending a brewing school or serving an apprenticeship, the answer is to READ. So much information is freely available on the Internet. For a few dollars, books can be had which can encompass the knowledge of a lifetime. Just a little reading on a regular basis can reap benefits far beyond imagination. We need to get beyond the conjecture, anecdote, and “seems to me” Op-Eds that are readily available on the various Brewing Forums of social media.
To brew better beer, at least on a consistent basis, we need to become better brewers. Becoming a better brewer requires more than luck. We need to arm ourselves with knowledge and to put in the hours to gain the brewing experience that will make us better brewers.
Who’s worse off, the person who can’t read or the one who can but won’t?