Jim Beauregard's Tasting Notes: A valuable guide for new homebrewers

By JIM BEAUREGARD | March 22. 2017 12:50AM


“The Secrets of Master Brewers: Techniques, Traditions and Homebrew Recipes for 26 of the World’s Classic Beer Styles” by Jeff Alworth. Storey Publishing, 293 pages, $24.95.

If you enjoy making beer, or even if you’ve contemplated the possibility and think you might want to give it a go, this book will be a useful resource for you. Jeff Alworth has been a beer writer and brewer for two decades from his home in Portland, Ore., and has also written “The Beer Bible,” and maintains a regular blog, Beervana.

This is very much a how-to book, so if you do want to get started, you will find recipes and brewing tips for many of the world’s beer styles including British, German, Czech, Belgian, French, Italian and American traditions.

Each style section of the book is set up the same way, taking you through the knowledge base you’ll need, as well as the brewing process — including recipes.

The section on Belgian ales, for example, begins with a bit of history — Belgian history, naturally — where you’ll learn that Belgium was for a very long time the home, primarily, of dark ales. Golden ales came along later. Alworth gives you a quick tour of Duvel (whose golden ale is available here in New Hampshire).

Alworth has visited Belgium, of course, and comments that “The lesson I’ve taken from tasting and brewing these beers and visiting breweries in Belgium is that the way to perfect them is slowly, variable by variable at a time. First you have to master the individual parts and then adjust them so that they work in concert as closely as possible every time. So far as I know, there aren’t any tricks with Belgian ales — you just have to put in the time.”

Then he shows you how: First the ingredients — Belgian pilsner malt, Carapils malt and dextrose — then mashing, boiling and fermenting.

In addition to the styles, Alworth goes into detail about the individual components of brewing, with sections on yeast, water, hops, malt, spices, and the ins and outs of the equipment and processes you need to know.

The book concludes with a succinct glossary, so that any technical terms you might not be familiar with can be looked up as you go. That’s followed by some recommended reading — a good list.

The one thing that I would have liked to see in a book this comprehensive is some guidance on where to obtain the various supplies for the different brews. Nowadays, shops that sell beer making supplies can serve as a guide, and most anything can be found through the internet, but some tips on the best places to look for supplies would make for a more complete process.

Despite that one shortcoming, if you’re a budding brewer and are looking for a place to get solid information, you have it here.

And since it’s a book about beer, let’s take a look at one before we call it a day:

Switchback Citra Pils Keller Bier, Burlington, Vt. 12 fl oz. bottle. 5.1% alcohol by volume. It’s a pilsner so we expect light. Average white head, lasting, frothy. Gold beer, very bright in the glass. Low malt, high hops on the nose. On the palate it’s a dry beer, with medium acidity, alcohol level, body, texture and flavor intensity. The flavor profile is hops, with grain, grass and citrus. Refreshing for a cold day or evening.

Contact New Hampshire wine and beer writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com


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