Craft Beer on the High Street

Cover of the Homebrew Handbook.Future Publishing, best known for producing magazines about computers and music, has just published a chunky one-off ‘bookazine’ about home brewing.

It caught our interest largely because of the signal it sends about the status of beer: this must surely be the first time since the eighties that a guide to brewing at home has been available in WH Smith. It is also, we hear, on sale in many supermarkets.

It is notable, too, that the cover boasts ‘50 craft beer recipes’, and has the subtitle ‘How to make the craft beer you love at home!’ Had it been published ten years ago, would it not probably have used the buzz-phrase ‘real ale’ instead?

We also have an inkling that there are more ‘craft beer’ related publications on their way from Future — perhaps a more general guide to appreciating beer based on hints dropped here and there. An interesting development if we’re right.

Should you buy it?

If you have been thinking about getting into home brewing, you could certainly do worse.

It is clear and colourful, and makes the process seem less intimidating than some other guides, and plenty of demonstration photos (with a spectacularly glum-looking reluctant model) help on that front.

If you’re a more experienced brewer, you might still be interested in getting your hands on the recipes which make up the bulk of its 172 pages.

First, there are those donated by breweries, most of whom seem to have recognised this as an opportunity for a free full-page advertisement in exchange for the secrets of one of their more obscure or less-exciting products. So, for example, St Austell’s contribution is a recipe for 1851 IPA, a very occasional seasonal we’ve never actually rarely seen on sale. There are some better-known beers included, however, such as Kernel’s Export India Porter, Lovibond’s Henley Gold and Moor Illusion.

There is also a batch of adaptable ‘essential’ recipes covering a range of styles, put together by home brewer Paul Saunders, which look fine to us, and would no doubt make a good start point for designing your own beer.

It won’t be making our list of essential home brewing books, but we don’t regret spending £9.99 on it.

4 thoughts on “Craft Beer on the High Street”

  1. I’d agree – if you’re an experienced homebrewer, the recipes are the most useful aspect -some in particular, and kudos to the brewers fr offering these up. Maybe could have got a little more variation in the sources for the homebrew recipe section from other UK homebrewers and BrewUk get a good shout out from that section (and lots of Nottingham yeast use :-/), but that’s being pretty picky!

    It’s not a Zainasheff or Gordon Strong book, but then it’s not meant to be – experienced homebrewers are not necessarily the target. For someone looking to start out, or attracting the odd magazine browser in store, it’s a great buy. Now, what about that UK version of Brew Your Own or Zymurgy…?

  2. It’s either an indication of general widening interest in beer or an indication that beer is expensive.

    I mean, why home brew? It’s a pain in the backside. People either do it out of interest or out of saving a bob.

    In the 70’s it was part “The Good Life” and part saving a bob during austerity.

    Most of this arstinal hand crafted craft bobbins is regular commodity beer with too many world hops in. It’s no more rocket science to knock up your own than it is to knock up a Geordie Bitter kit.

  3. 1851 was widely available, just once. It was a ‘special’ in 2001, celebrating St A’s 150th birthday.

    It was on draught, in many outlets, and it was a cracking drink. In fact, that was the beer that moved me from lager crowd, (which even then I felt it was a dire drink but at least you knew what you were going to get) to the real ale camp. It was a revelation – ‘so THIS is what beer is supposed to taste like.’ And I’ve never looked back.

    We still have about 8 bottles of the original 2001 issue left. The bottle version is stronger, 10.2%, and we share a bottle on special occasions.

  4. I remember getting a few bottles of 1851, I think I drunk them too young, remember a banana-like note, a crisp carbonation and a sense of disappointment — should have waited

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