The Best Books on Home Brewing

Publicity shot of Boots home brewing range 1979.
Pub­lic­i­ty shot of Boots home brew­ing range c.1979.

Every time we find our­selves answer­ing the same ques­tion more than two or three times on Twit­ter, we take that as a hint that a quick blog post on the sub­ject is in order, if only to save us the trou­ble of repeat­ing our­selves. One com­mon ques­tion is ‘Which book on home brew­ing should I buy?’ and these are our rec­om­men­da­tions.

  • How to Brew by John Palmer. This is one of the best all-round guides. It’s per­haps a touch dry and even (or so we found) dis­cour­ag­ing in places, but it’s worth a look, espe­cial­ly when the first edi­tion is free online from the author’s web­site.
  • Rad­i­cal Brew­ing by Randy Mosh­er. Full of his­tor­i­cal­ly-informed recipes, crazy ideas, sol­id research and step-by-step advice, this is like hav­ing an inspi­ra­tional teacher at hand. Par­tic­u­lar­ly good on decoc­tion mash­ing and brew­ing lager at home.
  • Brew Like a Monk by Stan Hierony­mus. In-depth research into the prac­tices, recipes and ingre­di­ents used at Trap­pist and abbey brew­eries in Bel­gium, with bonus mate­r­i­al on Duv­el and oth­er relat­ed beers. A fas­ci­nat­ing read as well as a prac­ti­cal guide.
  • Farm­house Ales by Phil Markows­ki. Sai­son and Biere de Garde are giv­en the same treat­ment as above. The book that helped us under­stand sai­son and, recent­ly, to brew a pret­ty bloody good one.
  • 1909 Style Guide by Ron Pat­tin­son and Kris­ten Eng­land. Self-pub­lished so a lit­tle scrap­py in places but the con­tent… wow. Not only an edu­ca­tion in what British beer was real­ly like before World War I but also a gold­mine of inspi­ra­tional recipes and ideas. (Short ver­sion: more sug­ar in every­thing!) (Print on demand.)
  • UPDATE 07/10/2014: for a broad­er range of his­tor­i­cal recipes, and more pro­fes­sion­al pre­sen­ta­tion, we might now sug­gest Pat­tin­son’s Home­brew­er’s Guide to Vin­tage Beer (2014) instead.

Note: we haven’t yet come across a book of ‘clone’ recipes which is worth the both­er; read one or two of the books above and you’ll be able to work most of them out your­self.

29 thoughts on “The Best Books on Home Brewing”

    1. Rad­i­cal Brew­ing is a prop­er­ly inspir­ing book – I can’t read it with­out men­tal­ly design­ing my next three beers and itch­ing to get the mash tun out.

  1. I’ve nev­er real­ly under­stood the inter­est in ‘clone’ recipes any­way – if I want­ed a bot­tle of then I’d just go and buy one.

    The joy of home­brew to me is being able to make (and make up!) my own beer, not copy oth­er peo­ples.

    Def­i­nite­ly a list to inspire some addi­tions to my Christ­mas list!

  2. I quite like Clone Brews, not that it pro­duces accu­rate results – that would be bor­ing – but it’s good for find­ing out how that aspect of that beer can be recre­at­ed.

    There’s also appar­ent­ly use­ful clone data in Les Howarth’s self-pub­lished recipe data­base, as reviewed here.

  3. His­tor­i­cal­ly speak­ing, and in keep­ing with your cur­rent research, we would have to men­tion Dave Line, pub­lish­ing in the mid/late 70’s. His Big Book of Brew­ing is excel­lent for impart­ing the­o­ry fair­ly pain­less­ly, and his Brew­ing Beers Like Those You Buy is prob­a­bly as good a clone book as exists, with recipes that are now of his­tor­i­cal inter­est.
    Both these books went through numer­ous edi­tions, so must have sold well, and pre­sum­ably been inspi­ra­tional. They both have a home in my beer library to this day.

  4. Great list. I would also add brew­ing clas­sic styles – this is a great start­ing point for design­ing a recipe for an unfa­mil­iar style

  5. All great sug­ges­tions in the arti­cle.

    My sug­ges­tions:

    Brew­ing Bet­ter Beer – Gor­don Strong. An excel­lent resource for any­one look­ing to improve/refine their brew­ing tech­niques.

    Clas­sic Styles – Zainasheff/Palmer. While not a book of clone recipes, it has proven exam­ple recipes for each of the BJCP sub-styles, which pro­vide good base/inspiration for your own recipes (or you can just fol­low them to the let­ter if you wish!). There are details missed out about some of the recipes, but that’s where com­bin­ing expe­ri­ence and knowl­edge comes into it.

    On the sub­ject of clone recipe books – cloning a beer is so much more than the recipe alone. BYOBRA is fair­ly lim­it­ed in it’s range, and there are dif­fer­ences in some of the recipes to the actu­al com­mer­cial recipes – fine if the inten­tion is to give a home­brew­er a good base. There is (inten­tion­al­ly I believe) no guid­ance on yeast (where obvi­ous­ly for some beers this is vital!), mash temps, etc. I find the recipes can be improved upon (late/aroma hop rates seem to be par­tic­u­lar­ly low for exam­ple) – for the begin­ner, it’s fine for recipe for­mu­la­tion. For the more expe­ri­enced brew­ers, it’s a bit sim­plis­tic (and you’d prob­a­bly be makign your own recipes any­how).

    Clone Brews – this is a bit vari­able. Some recipes make sense, oth­ers are just miles off, even from inspec­tion (adding pear essence to a Duv­el clone? huh?). Again, good for start­ing points, but it is very much US focused, there are bet­ter sources of recipes out there, and the tech­niques are again skipped over a bit.

    1. I sec­ond Gor­don Strong’s book. It’s not a begin­ners guide but a foun­tain of infor­ma­tion for a brew­er who wish­es to up their abil­i­ties.

  6. What about Dur­den Park’s Old British Beers and How to Make Them? I’ve also heard good things about Mitch Steele’s IPA, for both its his­tor­i­cal and con­tem­po­rary con­tent (not read it myself though).

    1. Not read it Dur­den Park yet, but have heard that (thought inter­est­ing) it may not be espe­cial­ly his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate. 1909 Style Guide cer­tain­ly is!

        1. Its not all that accu­rate but it is worth read­ing with the knowl­edge of Ron/Kristen/Martyn in your mind. The recipes are sounds , just the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of style wonky/lacking.

  7. Thanks for fur­ther rec­om­men­da­tions, every­one! The com­ments are usu­al­ly the best bit on our blog posts…

  8. I would sec­ond the David Line “Big Book” rec­om­mend as well as Al Kor­zonas’s “Home­brew­ing – Vol­ume I” both of which are gen­er­al brew­ing instruc­tion book and not recipe books or lim­it­ed in style. The nice thing, see­ing as one is from the 70s and the oth­er from the 90s is they are utter­ly untrendy, don’t guide you to fad styles or ingre­di­ents but focus the read­er on the basics upon which an under­stand­ing of the new­er more niche books can be under­stood.

  9. Just stum­bled on this blog today and thought I’d share a cou­ple of Amer­i­can clas­sic home­brew books by Char­lie Papaz­ian, a nuclear engi­neer who found­ed the Asso­ci­a­tion of Brew­ers and the Great Amer­i­can Beer Fes­ti­val, and who, through his books, helped kick-start home­brew­ing as a hob­by in the US when it became legal in 1978.

    The Com­plete Joy of Home­brew­ing:

    The Home­brew­er’s Com­pan­ion:

    Look­ing for­ward to check­ing out the rest of the blog 🙂

  10. TK – thanks for stop­ping by. Hope you find a few posts to inter­est you.

    Cook­ie – fun­ni­ly enough, we stum­bled across that post when research­ing Dave Line. He’s a bit of a mys­tery. Jeal­ous of your vin­tage edi­tion – we’ve had to make do with mod­ern reprints.

    1. What’s the mys­tery about Dave Line? Had­n’t realised his stuff is still in print – amaz­ing!
      Your com­ment about too much crys­tal malt is rel­e­vant way beyond just Dur­den Park – it seems to be a real issue with the US home­brew scene, for exam­ple.

      1. Just not much bio­graph­i­cal info avail­able: he came, he wrote sev­er­al of the ear­li­est ‘defin­i­tive’ texts on home brew­ing, then died young in 1979.

        They still sell reprints of his books in branch­es of Wilkin­son’s next to the home brew­ing kit. Amaz­ing.

        1. Maybe there’s not much to tell – he was an elec­tri­cal engi­neer, lived, I think, in Andover, mar­ried with a child, and had a pas­sion for beer and brew­ing. Died trag­i­cal­ly young.
          Per­haps his career, his fam­i­ly and his hob­by were pret­ty much his life. Which would describe many of us, I dare say.

          I am huge­ly pleased that his books are still in print, though, and per­haps the pub­lish­ers could put you in touch with his wife (Sheila?)

  11. Not exact­ly a rec­om­men­da­tion: near­ly two years ago now, I came away from the 2011 NWAF with a copy of Clive la Pensée’s CAM­RA-pub­lished _Homebrew Clas­sics: Stout and Porter_ (with an intro­duc­tion by Roger Protz, and cor­rec­tions to the intro­duc­tion by C. la P.). I wrote at the time:

    Clive la Pen­sée … appears to be Mar­tyn Connell‘s evil twin, with an even greater appetite for his­tor­i­cal brew­ing triv­ia and even stronger opin­ions, most­ly about how brew­ing has gone to the dogs since the eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry. The blurb on the back of the book promis­es that it gives “full instruc­tions for brew­ing your own Stouts and Porters with mod­ern ingre­di­ents”, but I think this is wish­ful think­ing. A quick scan of the book reveals 27 dif­fer­ent recipes, but out of these all 27(!) are labelled ‘his­tor­i­cal’ and only three look at all fol­low­able – and those three are pre­fixed with com­ments like “now things go from bad to worse”. I think this is going to be my kind of beer book.

  12. Evil twin” – hmmm. I’m not a brew­er, but Clive la Pen­sée’s two books cer­tain­ly looked good to me, and he’s clear­ly done some research in old Ger­man texts as well as British ones.

    1. Mar­tyn – no offence intend­ed (to you or Clive la P.). I haven’t got the book in front of me – it’s in a to-read pile some­where – but the autho­r­i­al voice made me imag­ine some­one with your kind of exper­tise who’d done a lot of read­ing in a short time and then wok­en up in a bad mood, or logged on to Rate­Beer, or both.

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