I’ve been homebrewing for a while now, and as I’ve gotten more involved, I realized that not everyone got their start reading Charlie Papazian’s Joy of Homebrewing. In fact, many people did not. Many people got their start with John Palmer’s How to Brew. For those of you who don’t know, it began as an electronic document online, then made into a free web-based book, and was then published. So, while it seemed a little redundant, I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about.
First of all, Palmer’s How to Brew seems a lot more like a textbook. A quick flip through shows lots of charts and graphs, and plenty of photos. It feels dense. It is impressive.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t read it straight through. I gave the introduction my full attention, and just so that we could get on the same wavelength, I read through the full first chapter. Then I went on to jump around from topic to topic, depending on what I felt like reading at the time. I eventually made it through the whole book, but you can read it however you want.
I like Palmer’s style. He’s a scientist, and it comes through in his writing. No bull, here’s how it works — and that’s pretty much how the book is broken out. That being said, if you’re a little intimidated by how that sounds, don’t worry — Palmer breaks down the process initially, giving you just the basics that you need to proceed, and explains that in the chapters following, he’ll break each step down into more information. How awesome is that?
This, more than anything, is what I liked the best about How to Brew. Want to learn more about mashing? There’s a whole chapter on it. Building a lauter tun? He breaks down all the common methods, with pictures and pros and cons for each type. It’s like all the research you could do online, with varying opinions to sort through, has been consolidated into one volume.
Best of all, this book is not just for extract brewers or all grain brewers, it’s for both. The beginning of the book, as you would expect, walks you through extract, then partial mashing, then full-blown all-grain brewing.
I love the Joy of Homebrewing. I love the attitude, and heck, it should be required reading just so that every homebrewer can get it through their thick head that they need to “Relax, don’t worry, and have a homebrew.” But when I have a question about process, you’d better believe I’m going to Palmer’s How to brew.