I’ve read a number of books on Homebrewing and beer and I have to say most of them put me to sleep after the first chapter. See I’m a self proclaimed visual learner and while I don’t mind reading books on my passion, beer, sometimes the overall layout and design of the books have me sleeping faster than a bottle of World Wide Stout. It’s the graphic designer and book layout editor in me, that makes me look at some of these books and think why are you making a how to book with such a poor layout and horrible visual appeal. In walks HomeBrew: Beyond the Basics by Mike Karnowski and its fancy pictures and well laid out pages to shut my mouth.
I made the transition from extract brewing, brewing with liquid or dry malt, to All Grain a while ago but I had moved back to partial mash for a while for its simplicity and flexibility. My take on it was, if someone is going to do all the work with my base malt and I concentrate on the secondary malts that will make my brew day faster and easier without much loss in quality. A few bad batches and a basement full of empty bottles and my need to brew a 5 gallon batch quickly came back. So I recently brewed an all grain five gallon porter and I hit all my target numbers and nailed the brew day. Three weeks later, I didn’t like the beer I brewed, so now what?
Homebrew: Beyond the Basics
The book is a great tool for those moving from partial or extract for the first time or in my case brushing off the all grain cobwebs. It provides the best laid out and visually appealing homebrew book on the market. Most homebrew books explain a process but they forget that without illustrations and /or pictures its hard to imagine what a three tired brew stand with a re-circulating HERMS system with the integrated temperature controlled monitors, brew sculpture, fly sparge arms and counter flower chiller looks like. Try saying that all in one breathe! For that I tip my hat to the book and say, job well done.
Homebrew: Beyond the Basics gives a homebrewer a nice glancing over of the process. It holds your hand through the first recipe and let’s you loose later in the book by providing many very nice follow-up recipes. With that positive there is a little head scratching involved with the inclusion of the recipes. First, they seem to scatter the recipes through the entire book and sometimes before you even finish a section, a recipe is thrown in there. The first recipe is on page 22 and this is the most helpful recipe in the book because it not only shows you the recipe but holds your hand through the process breaking down each step and telling you what to do next. Some of the others though just seemed to be thrown in there and confuse the hell out of me. Some of the recipes do a great job of integrating the chapters section with the recipe BUT is anyone seriously going to stop reading and go brew and wait 5-6 weeks before moving on to the next section, no. After a few of these recipes, I got tired of reading through them and just skipped it all together making this book more of an easy read.
The highlight of this book are these three sections: Yeast, Hops and Mashing. If you are interested in those topics this books does a great job at exploring it and really giving you not just descriptions but also profiles and pictures to accompany them. Some of the other books on the market tend to either do too much or too little on those topics and this one hit the nail on the head. It gave me the perfect balance of information and practicality without boring me on the history, molecular composition, cell count or semantics of the topics.
If you are moving from extract to all grain, this is a great book to get the gears moving and really introduce you to the process without overwhelming you. I would highly recommend this book if you are starting out and want to know more. For those like myself that have been doing all grain for a while, the later sections of this book give me enough insight and education to be informative and not overwhelming. If you are looking for a book to really dive deep into the ph balance of water or the molecular beta acid composition of hops or the history of a strain of yeast, look elsewhere.
Happy Brewing and Cheers!