Steps to Becoming a Homebrewer, Part 1 – Building Your Brewer’s Library

So yesterday I went to Savory Spice Shop in Huntersville to buy vanilla beans for Tarbaby’s Vanilla Coffee Stout. Unfortunately, they only had 1 Madagascar vanilla bean left in stock, although they did have some more expensive, organic Madagascar beans. The shop owner very kindly sold me the organic beans at the non-organic price. 🙂

I was telling him that we use the beans for homebrewing and this ridiculously well put-together woman with a ridiculously cute, well-behaved child overheard me. She asked me how we had gotten into brewing because she and her husband had talked about it but didn’t know where to start. Did we get a kit? Did we go to a class?

I gave her the names of a few good authors to check out (and of course, directed her here!) but I felt like I should have given her more information. So that got me thinking that I should do a blog series on the steps to take if you, too, would like to enter into the wonderful world of homebrewing. Now, DB being who he is, the first step we took to get started as homebrewers was to read any and every available book on brewing. Not all of them were helpful, particularly to novice brewers, but after years in academia, it’s hard to shake the “research a subject to death” mentality. Note: I just counted and DB has 19 books on beer and brewing. 19!!!!

So the first part in the Steps to Becoming a Homebrewer Series is a list of books that you should purchase and read before you take the plunge.

1) The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian: This is a very relaxed book for the person who less interested in learning the science behind brewing and more interested in jumping right in. (If this is your attitude, that’s fine. You can still make decent beer without knowing the science behind brewing – that’s just not how DB operates.)

2) How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time by John Palmer: Palmer’s style of writing is laid back and easy to read, which makes it a great introduction to brewing without being condescending. The first chapter is a “Crash Course in Brewing” and is enough to get you through your first brew day successfully, while the remainder of the book goes into further detail on what you should do and why. This is probably my favorite, most read book in our brewer’s library.

3) Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew by Jamil Zainasheff: This book is perhaps not necessary for the beginning brewer but will be an essential addition to your library as you advance your techniques and recipe building skills. Each section covers the key characteristics that define a particular style and then gives an award winning recipe for that style. We’ve used recipes straight from this book and have also used it as a basis for creating our own recipes, both with great success. Also, if it’s written by Jamil, you can be pretty sure that it’s chock full of information, techniques, and tips that you will need at some point.

4) Designing Great Beers: The Ultimate Guide to Brewing Classic Beer Styles by Ray Daniels: This book provides tons of useful information for the brewer interested in taking the next step and creating their own recipes. It provides information regarding how the major brewers are brewing a particular style  and with what particular ingredients, giving you a great starting point for successfully crafting your own recipes.

These four books (and particularly the first two) will teach you enough about how to brew properly to make you a fairly successful homebrewer. As you grow and advance as a brewer, there are other books that you may want to add to your library but we’ll cover those in a later post.

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