It doesn’t matter if brewing beer is a hobby reserved for the weekends or if it’s your actual chosen profession, if you want to get better and improve the quality of your beer, you’re going to need to be a student. Like with any hobby, if you want to get better and continue to grow, you need to always be learning and consuming as much information as you can. Luckily for us beer brewers, there is no shortage of information on the Internet. A quick Google search for “how to brew beer” will yield literally millions of results and you’ll be inundated with blogs, videos, magazines, and websites all talking about the best way to brew. However, if you’re more old school like us, you may want to take a look at some of the classic homebrew literature that’s been helping beer fanatics brew at home for years.
Types of Homebrewing Books
General Beer Brewing Books
You may be asking yourself why you would want to pay for a book when this information is freely available online? Well, while all of these free resources are certainly a great thing, for some people it can lead to a bit of information overload. After all, everyone has a different opinion and their special process, so for someone just starting out, it can be hard to decide what brew method to follow. One of the best ways to avoid this is finding a good book on homebrewing that has stood the test of time. There are a ton of books that are widely loved and talked about by homebrewers. They usually go through many editions and are updated over the years to include new tech, recipes, and opinions so you always know you’re current with what’s happening in the world home brewing.
These books are also incredibly well written, well thought out and include great illustrations and visuals guides. This makes them great gifts for either yourself of the homebrewer in your life.
Specialized Homebrewing Books
Most homebrewing books are going to thoroughly cover the basics from the ground up, but at some point, you may want to specialize. By specializing, you can not only deepen your knowledge of beer and brewing in general, but also dive further into one style of beer, or even the history of brewing. Beer brewing in the United States has a really interesting history, and if you want to go further back, there are books on brewing in ancient times that are fascinating as well. If history isn’t your thing, some books included on this list are comprised of award-winning recipes that are a great supplement to a more step-by-step guide. No matter what you’re looking for, there are just some things that can’t be found online in a concise fashion that are reserved for the printed form.
Now that we’ve got that sorted out, let’s take a look at 5 of my favorite homebrewing books.
The Complete Joy of Homebrewing Fourth Edition: Fully Revised and Updated
The Complete Joy of Homebrewing is the first book about brewing beer that I ever owned and is probably the most well-known book on the list. It has been purchased alongside more homebrew kits than times I’ve thought about beer, and it’s been updated several times (it’s currently in its 4th edition) keeping it as current as ever. In this book, you will find everything you need to know to brew beer at home from beginning to end. This includes tasty beer recipes (more than 53 in total), beautiful charts on all different types of hops (I refer to this frequently), tips and tricks about fermenting, what you need to know when putting together a beer kit and much more. What really makes this book so great is that all this info is coming straight from Charlie Papazian, one of the absolute masters of brewing beer!
If you can only buy one book on this list, make it The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. It really is an essential guide to understanding brewing and beer in general. As we mentioned above, it makes a great gift for someone that loves brewing, or as an add-on to a homebrew kit.
How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time
Like many homebrewers out there, How to Brew was the second book I purchased after Charlie Papazian’s seminal work. What I love about this particular book is that many of the techniques and equipment recommendations come from years of trial and error and honing in on what works best. In many ways, this is the best basic book out there in that it is written in a very linear fashion. You can begin with extract beers and then move onto using specialty grains in addition to extract, then graduate to all-grain brewing while incorporating your own recipes and personal beer style. This book can take you on the brewing journey and provide all the information you need along the way.
The level of detail in this book has a way of meeting you where you are in terms of your homebrew knowledge. The information ranges from the very basics of beer brewing like how to sanitize your equipment properly and why it’s important, too much more technical subjects like the chemistry of water and water temperature and how it will impact your beer. Even the most advanced homebrewer can learn something from this book. For example, for many years I was almost exclusively an extract and specialty grain brewer, and never completely understood the ins and outs of all-grain brewing. But after purchasing this book, I felt like I knew everything I needed to know and was able to brew my very first batch completely from scratch. Even though it was nothing too exotic, it was a landmark in my homebrewing career and this book will always hold a special place in my heart because of it.
Mastering Homebrew: The Complete Guide to Brewing Delicious Beer
Randy Mosher is an internationally recognized beer-brewing master, and with his years of knowledge, he has created one of the most thorough guides to the craft of homebrewing. This book is a great addition to any brewer’s library, no matter how new or advanced they are. One of the things I love most about this book is how it’s written. Where other books can be wordy and complex, Randy writes in a way that feels like your buddy is just talking to you about brewing beer. The instructions are actually fun to read and the book is loaded with great graphics and illustrations that make more complex brewing processes and techniques easy to grasp.
With more than 30 great recipes, this book outlines the step by step process you can use to achieve wonderful beer. You’ll learn about what ingredients to use, as well as the best equipment for mashing, bottling, sampling, and serving. This is one of the books I like to recommend if someone needs just one reference manual for brewing. It doesn’t matter if they are a total newcomer or have been brewing their own beer for a few years. Unlike other books, Mosher’s takes a more scientific approach and explain why you take certain steps, but does so in an approachable and easy to understand manner.
Homebrew Beyond the Basics: All-Grain Brewing and Other Next Steps
This is probably the most visually rich book on the list and features dozens of great photos that accompany guides to making everything from all-grain beer to more advanced mashing techniques and malt selection. It also dives into some more unique aspects of homebrewing like water chemistry whirlpool hopping, brewing beer with fruit, collecting yeast in the wild and kegging beer. Because of this, beyond the basics is a great supplemental book to a more traditional guide.
Having brewed beer for over a decade, I can safely say I wish I had found this book many years earlier. It clarifies a lot of points and lessons that I had to learn the hard way. While there is value in that experience, this book would have saved me some time and money. Another cool part of this book is the experiments that Mike documents that you won’t find anywhere else. Two that come to mind are using different mash temperatures and sparges to produce different results in the finished beer. It’s little gems like these that make this book a solid addition to any homebrewing library.
Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew
Jamil Zainasheff is an absolute legend in the homebrewing world and has won many competitions since he started competing in 1999. In his brewing career, he has brewed every style of beer that is recognized by the Beer Judge Certification program, placed well in the National Homebrew Competition and has collected more than 20 best-of-show awards. So if anyone is qualified to author a book of great beer recipes, it’s Jamil.
What makes this book awesome is the fact that you know no matter what recipe you’re looking at it, it’s a time-tested winner that has won judges over in competition. A lot of brewers will get their recipes online which can be OK, but you really have no way of knowing the quality of it. With Brewing Classic Styles, you can be sure that the recipe is fine-tuned and created by a true master of the craft. This book is very straightforward and with each recipe, Jamil includes notes about the particulars of brewing in that style. As an added bonus, each extract recipe is listed for every beer recipe. Jamil’s book is great if you already have a thorough brewing guide, and want to take your brewing to that next level.
Our Final Thoughts
Hopefully, you found something on our list that looks interesting as we tried to include something for everyone. If we missed your favorite book, let us know in the comments!