This week we feature an interview with Randy Mosher, author of the books “Brewer’s Companion”, “Tasting Beer”, and my personal favorite “Radical Brewing“. Randy is an accomplished long time brewer (27+ years) who was in on some of the early days of the homebrewing resurgence in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Randy is also an accomplished graphic artist who created most of the graphic art in his books. I would like to thank him for taking the time to do this interview!
Like most people, got interested in the flavors of decent beer, although there wasn’t much of it around. I started to drink beer in 1970, pretty much the low point of good beer in this country, but when we did find some weird import we were all over it–if we had the money. By 1983, a friend named Ray Spangler and I finally stopped talking about it and ordered a kit, with we promptly made an ungodly awful concoction, which we drank anyway. Second batch was worse, but batch three was almost palatable. By batch eight, we had switched to all-grain and were poring over the ponderous professional brewing tomes we’d checked out of the library, and then, well, we never really looked back. Ray, BTW, won AHA Homebrewer of the Year in 1989, so eventually we made some pretty tasty brews.
You are one of the best known brewing authors. How many books have you written and how did you get started writing?
Three books as of right now. So, we’re brewing along, and I started to feel the need to keep track of things, so I cooked up a recipe sheet. Well, all those little spaces needed information–gravity, hop bitterness, etc–and so I made up some quick reference charts to aid with that. Then hop bitterness prediction, water treatment, and so on. Before long, I had a pile of stuff in my three-ring binder. Somehow Charlie Finkel of Merchant Du Vin got hold of me, and we hit it off, and he generously offered to publish the book through his homebrew business, Liberty Malt and Supply, in Seattle.
Radical brewing is a really unique brewing book with an eclectic style, and one of my favorites. Where did you find the inspiration for it?
It was about a ten year brain dump. I’m a voracious (if not big spending) collector of old books and xeroxes of old books, and once you start to dig into this old material you realize how narrow the beer wold had become by the middle of the 20th century. So, plenty of material to work with when you add all the wacky homebrews I’d seen over the years, and also brewed myself.
I noticed you are a graphics artist. Did you do the graphics work on your books?
Graphic design has always been my main profession, and now I mostly do craft beer branding and packaging.
What advice would you give to experienced brewers looking to do something new?
Shut up and do it. Don’t worry, it’s just a batch of beer. One of the most fun things is to invent a faux-historical situation and try to imagine what the beers might have been like. Pirate Ale? Albert Einstein’s homebrew? Beers made by the combined efforts of the Vikings in Newfoundland and the native people they encountered there? What would Captain Nemo have brewed on his submarine, the Nautilus? Or, just look at ingredients, take a trip to the spice shop, brew a beer with a grain you never used before. Make a beer your grandma will love. Download one of the rare old brewing books available for free on the internet, and decipher a recipe. Bored? Don’t tell me you can’t find ideas!
Tasting Beer is another interesting book. What made you move from books on brewing to a book on beer styles?
Just wanting to move to a larger audience. I’d been teaching a class for Siebel Institute called the “Professional Beer Styles and Tastings” class, and as I got this huge outline together, it just started looking like a book. Sam Calagione was kind enough to hook me up with his literary agent, and we’ve been conspiring ever since. It’s only 1/3 about beer styles. The rest of the book helps you understand what’s in the glass, how it got there, and how to get the most out of every little drop. It’s about becoming a connoisseur–or as we usually say, Beer Geek.
How has homebrewing evolved since you started?
The answer should be obvious if you just know that we started with basically nothing, and now, just look around. But now, even with all this wondrousness, it’s really about ingenuity, creativity, self-expression. Oh, and making a beer to drink that no one’s ever tasted before.
Where do you see the hobby going in the future?
Homebrewing already went somewhere. It’s called craft brewing. It’s my hope that the tremendous relationship of pro and amateur brewers, based on mutual respect and human-to-human fellowship will continue, no matter what else. My far-out dream? A licensed cooperative brewery, a kind of a big open clubhouse where people can sign up to use the equipment and then enjoy other brewers beers at the end of the day.
Brewers Companion was focused on the beginner – any advice for homebrewers who have just started?
Be brave, be bold, dream big, and pay attention to the details, because they matter like crazy. And remember, beer is one of the defining acts of civilization.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I need a beer!
Thank you for joining us on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog, and thanks again to Randy Mosher for agreeing to do this interview. Please don’t hesitate to subscribe or tweet this article if you enjoyed it, and have a great home brewing week.
Related Beer Brewing Articles from BeerSmith:
- Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher – Book Review
- Brewing in Brazil with Randy Mosher – BeerSmith Podcast 45
- Mastering Homebrew by Randy Mosher – A Book Review
- Designing Beer with Randy Mosher – BeerSmith Podcast 30
- Beyond Barley Brewing – BeerSmith Podcast #13
- An Interview with Brewing Author John Palmer
- Tasting Beer with Randy Mosher – BeerSmith Podcast #89
- Mastering Homebrew with Randy Mosher – BeerSmith Podcast #98
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