A heady discussion: Brewmeisters help pick the best of what's on tap among books on beer


SOME PEOPLE are already finished with "it." The "it" I refer to is the task of buying holiday gifts for friends and relatives. But some of us are just beginning to focus on our gift-buying obligations. For us, there are beer books.

These are books about our frothy, welcoming friend, beer. The purpose of these tomes ranges from telling us how to make beer at home to directing us to where we can enjoy locally made beers when we visit various cities. These books make ideal gifts to give to students of suds. They are also fun to thumb through. And buying them helps us get through "it."

Last fall, during the Baltimore Book Festival, a handful of local brewers and I got together to compare notes on favorite beer books. Here is a distillation of that discussion, coming out just in time, at least for some of us, for the holidays.

Bill Bohrer, head brewer at Oxford Brewing Co. in Linthicum, divided his recommendations into several categories. For people who are more interested in drinking beer than making it at home, Bohrer recommended the works of British writer Michael Jackson. His guidebook, called "The Simon & Schuster Pocket Guide To Beer," is an excellent companion for the traveling suds quaffer, Bohrer said.

For folks inclined to brew beer in their basements and bathtubs, Bohrer suggested two books. One was Charlie Papazian's "The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing." "It seems like all brewers started out on Charlie's book," Bohrer said. The other was Dave Miller's, "The Complete Handbook of Homebrewing." Miller's book, he said, "has a wealth of information" on the brewing process with special emphasis on how components of a recipe can change a brew.

The next step up in beer books, he said would be the 1957 two-volume classic, "A Textbook of Brewing" by Jean De Clerck. "This," according to Bohrer, "is intense stuff. It is the home test for somebody who is thinking about becoming a commercial brewer. If you can get through this and not fall asleep, then you might be ready to move up," Bohrer said.

Bohrer said he gives his friends gift subscriptions to brewing magazines. Zymurgy is a magazine put out five times a year by the American Homebrewers Association, a division of an outfit called the Brewers Association located in Boulder, Colo. This magazine, he said, is something most beginning brewers would appreciate. He said a slightly more adventuresome approach to homebrewing -- one that goes beyond recipes -- is found in a bimonthly magazine called Brewing Techniques, published by New Wine Press in Eugene, Ore.

Jack Callanan of Sisson's South Baltimore brewery added a few more book titles to the hopper. Jack Erickson's "Brewery Adventures in the Big East" is a good guide for folks interested in sipping their way through the craft breweries on the East Coast, Callanan said.

He said home brewers who already have the Papazian book would probably enjoy Dave Line's "Brewing Beers Like Those You Buy." For the advanced brewer, Callanan recommended "Brewing Lager Beer," by Gregory J. Noonan. This book, Callanan warned, "gets rather technical in parts." But it offers a solid, if somewhat numbing, account of the scientific side of brewing, he said.

Rick Kennedy of Baltimore's Brimstone Brewing Co. recommended the "The Classic Beer Styles Series," a collection of books published by Brewers Publications, another division of the Association of Brewers in Boulder. Each volume of the 10-book series is devoted to a particular style of beer, ale for example, he said. This series is a beer-makers' encyclopedia, Kennedy said.

Finally, Tom Flores, head brewer at Clipper City Brewing Co. suggested a book for the extremely serious beer maker. It is "Malting and Brewing Science," by Hough, Briggs, Stevens and Young. This two-volume work is a comprehensive look at each aspect of the brewing process, Flores said. The chapter on barley, for instance, cites about 150 different comments on the role barley plays in the beer-making drama.

Pub Date: 12/18/96

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