There are many good books on homebrewing currently available, so why did I write one you ask? The answer is: a matter of perspective. When I began learning how to brew my own beer several years ago, I read every book I could find; books often published 15 years apart. It was evident to me that the state of the art had matured a bit. Where one book would recommend using baking yeast and covering the fermenting beer with a towel, a later book would insist on brewing yeast and perhaps an airlock. So, I felt that another point of view, laying out the hows and whys of the brewing processes, might help more new brewers get a better start.
Here is a synopsis of the brewing process:
- Malted barley is soaked in hot water to release the malt sugars.
- The malt sugar solution is boiled with Hops for seasoning.
- The solution is cooled and yeast is added to begin fermentation.
- The yeast ferments the sugars, releasing CO2 and ethyl alcohol.
- When the main fermentation is complete, the beer is bottled with a little bit of added sugar to provide the carbonation.
Sounds fairly simple doesn't it? It is, but as you read this book you will realize the incredible amount of information that I glossed over with those five steps. The first step alone can fill an entire book, several in fact. But brewing is easy. And it's fun. Brewing is an art as well as a science. Some people may be put off by the technical side of things, but this is a science that you can taste. The science is what allows everyone to become the artist. Learning about the processes of beer making will let you better apply them as an artist. As my history teacher used to chide me, "It's only boring until you learn something about it. Knowledge makes things interesting."
As an engineer, I was intrigued with the process of beermaking. I wanted to know what each step was supposed to be doing so I could understand how to better accomplish them. For instance, adding the yeast to the beer wort: the emphasis was to get the yeast fermenting as soon as possible to prevent unwanted competing yeasts or microbes from getting a foothold. There are actually several factors that influence yeast propagation, not all of which were explained in any one book. This kind of editing was an effort by the authors to present the information that they felt was most important to overall success and enjoyment of the hobby. Each of us has a different perspective.
Fortunately for me, I discovered the Internet and the homebrewing discussion groups it contained. With the help of veteran brewers on the Home Brew Digest (an Internet mailing list) and Rec.Crafts.Brewing (a Usenet newsgroup) I soon discovered why my first beer had turned out so brilliantly clear, yet fit only for mosquitoes to lay their eggs in. As I became more experienced, and was able to brew beer that could stand proudly with any commercial offering, I realized that I was seeing new brewers on the 'Net with the same basic questions that I had. They were reading the same books I had and some of those were excellent books. Well, I decided to write an electronic document that contained everything that a beginning brewer would need to know to get started. It contained equipment descriptions, process descriptions and some of the Why's of homebrewing. I posted it to electronic bulletin boards and homebrewing archive computer sites such as Sierra.Stanford.edu . It was reviewed by other brewers and accepted as one of the best brewing guides available. It has been through four revisions as comments were received and I learned more about the Why's of brewing. That document, "How To Brew Your First Beer" is still available and free to download and/or reproduce for personal use. It was written to help the first-time brewer produce a fool-proof beer - one they could be proud of. That document has apparently served quite well, it has been requested and distributed world-wide, including Europe, North America, Australia, Africa, and Asia- the Middle East and the Far East. Probably several thousand copies have been distributed by now. Glad I could help.
As time went by, and I moved on to Partial Mashes (half extract, half malted grain) and All-Grain Brewing, I actually saw requests on the 'Net from brewers requesting "Palmer-type" documents explaining these more complex brewing methods. There is a lot to talk about with these methods though, and I realized that it would be best done with a book. So, here we go...
Oh, one more thing, I should mention that Extract Brewing should not be viewed as inferior to brewing with grain, it is merely easier. It takes up less space and uses less equipment. You can brew national competition winning beers using extracts. The reason I moved on to Partial Mashes and then to All-Grain was because brewing is FUN. These methods really let you roll up your sleeves, fire up the kettles and be the inventor. You can let the mad-scientist in you come forth, you can combine different malts and hops at will, defying conventions and conservatives, raising your creation up to the storm and calling down the lightening...Hah hah HAH....
But I digress, thermo-nuclear brewing methods will be covered in another book. Okay, on with the show...