Written by: Savannah Sharrett
California Campus | Communications Liaison
The Secrets of Master Brewers: Techniques, Traditions, and Homebrew Recipes for 26 of the World’s Classic Beer Styles by Jeff Alworth
It wasn’t until the last few years that it has become “cool” to know about beer. Even for those who are not necessarily interested in brewing their own beer, the food history content included catches my interest. This book examines 7 major traditions and their relative subcategories that beer might fall under British, German, Czech, Belgian, French & Italian, American and “Brewing Wild”. Author Jeff Alworth notes that during the research process for this book and his previous, Beer Bible, he discovered that there were contradictions in methods between professional brewers, each one believing his own was correct. He explains how the varieties of styles are a result of the regional and national ways of thinking about beer. It was fascinating for me to learn that the study of beer and brewing is actually quite established and extensive. The forward includes the thoughts from a university instructor, John Isenhour, who conducts classes on both the scientific and cultural aspects of brewing. Each chapter of this book begins with an introduction to the region and gives a general view of why it’s unique. The chapters go deeper into understanding the unique brewing process by breaking it down into malt, mash, boil, fermentation/conditioning, sugars, yeast, and packaging. Despite this book being data heavy, there is an enjoyable amount of food and beverage history that lends to understanding the social and economic aspects of each region.
Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink (2nd Edition) by Randy Mosher
Author Randy Mosher urges, “Don’t even consider starting this book without a beer in your hand”. For those of us who struggle to describe why one beer is better than the next, this book provides clear and logical tools to help us be more decisive. One feature that stood out to me the most was the “Beer Aroma Spiral”: A diagram that identifies 11 common base aromas that beer tasters will experience. The diagrams in this book are really what make this book useful. From a scale of beer coloring to a bitterness ratio chart, the haze of beer identification and classification is made clear. Mosher provides the reader with an understanding of the terminology used by the professionals. Just as when a Sommelier identifies a wine, a Cicerone can deconstruct a beer into 9 aspects: aroma, head, color, carbonation, body, mouth feel, flavor alcohol and taste. For the foodies out there, Chapter 7 explains the argument of why beer and food are the perfect matches. Mosher encourages finding the harmony between the dish and chosen beverage and he gives excellent pairing suggestions.
The Homebrewer’s Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to Making Your Own Beer from Scratch by Marika Josephson, Aaron Kleidon, and Ryan Tockstein
Creative inspiration can definitely be triggered by the environment around us and, looking back at the product can be a testament to our journey. The Homebrewer’s Almanac takes a more naturalistic view of brewing as the authors note in the preface, “carrying on the heritage of ancient traditions brings us closer to the long life cycle of the plants we briefly live with side-by-side”. They encourage seasonality and making the most of what flavors naturally occur at different times of the year. As I am sure most chefs would agree, cooking with freshest ingredients brings out the most flavor possible. The same goes for brewing beer; The quality of the final product can significantly decrease if one uses a hop that was picked, shipped and stored for who knows how long versus a hop that was just picked and immediately used. The Authors also give the readers tips on how to apply this concept via buying local and foraging. This book chronicles a 6-year collection of unique beer recipes that use seasonal ingredients. Some examples are a winter “Sweet Potato Vienne, American Ale”, a spring “Dandelion Tonic, British Ale”, a summer “Chanterelle Biere de Garde, German Alt” and a fall “Pumpkin Seed Ale, British Ale”.
Pitmaster: Recipes, Techniques and Barbeque Wisdom by Andy Husbands and Chris Hart
Barbecue is not a new invention. As noted in the foreword, “the cooking and the culture…are inextricably entwined and deeply rooted in heritage and history”. That makes me wonder why then, has barbecue become such a cornerstone of food culture? Mike Mills, four-time World BBQ Champion and owner of several restaurants gave one explanation: “folks are flocking to barbecues in search of sustenance and community…it wraps you in warmth and belonging”. Pitmaster begins with a lesson on equipment and emphasizes that fire control, clean charcoal, seasoned wood and proper airflow are all key. The photography in this book is particularly notable. I wouldn’t recommend flipping through on an empty stomach as the images, although technically being one-dimensional, capture bold 3D flavor! One recipe that is on my to-do list is the “Burnt Ends”. Interestingly, there is a recipe for “Smoke Shop Hot Links” that really teaches readers how to grind meat and smoke sausages (Hog-sausage-casing and all…).
Project Smoke: Seven Steps to Smokes Food Nirvana, Plus 100 Irresistible Recipes from Classic to Adventurous by Steven Raichlen
Now on his tenth book on the subject, Steven Raichlen focuses in on smoking techniques. Whether its beef, pork and lamb or vegetables and desserts, this book provides a crash course in everything smoke related. Recognizing that the technique had been evolving over a long period of time, Raichlen clarifies what smoke really is at the onset of the book. In a chart entitled, “A Brief Science Lesson—What is Smoke and Why Does it Taste So Good,” the reader comes to understand that smoke essentially happens when you burn wood. The variation of taste lies within the type of wood, the size of the wood pieces, the equipment used and the airflow. For those who may already have knowledge on the subject, the conversion tables and study of types of smokers may be most useful. The book provides a complete picture to a successful meal as it provides suggestions for starters, main dishes, desserts, and cocktails.
BBQ Rules: the Old-School Guide to Smoking Meat by Myron Mixton
As a winner of more barbecue competitions that anyone else in the world, Myron Mixton certainly knows his subject. What I appreciate about this book, in comparison to others on meat smoking, is that Mixton takes a butcher’s approach, dividing his recipes and how-to’s by animal and by cuts of meat. For example, chapter 2 on “The Hog” is broken down to the whole-hog, hog parts (shoulder, spare ribs, tails, ham, etc), and hog-extras (snout, skin, etc). Mixton encourages readers and new smokers to be involved with the whole process and avoid taking shortcuts. He is a believer in cooking outside, making your own coal, and building your own pit. He comments that many today over complicate the technique, often adding exotic ingredients and extra steps. In his book, Mixton takes readers, “back to the way real barbecue is done” and encourages always relating your processes back to, “the old-school way of doing things”.