Mastering Homebrew by Randy Mosher – A Book Review

by Brad Smith on March 17, 2015 · 2 comments

Mastring HombrewMastering Homebrew is the latest book from Randy Mosher, author of Radical Brewing and Tasting Beer. Randy’s new offering is a comprehensive book on brewing, covering a wide variety of topics and techniques. I personally believe Mastering Homebrew will quickly become a beer brewing classic.

Mastering Homebrew Overview

I first heard of Mastering Homebrew (Amazon Affiliate Link) over three years ago. Randy Mosher, who is a graphic designer, had started on the book and showed me some of his early work. It was clear, even at that point, that he had a different approach to brewing and that Mastering Homebrew was not going to be just another beer brewing overview book. Randy was shooting for something new and unique. Its a book that would appeal to any brewer – from beginner to master.

Three years later, after countless revisions, the book is finally here. It fills a unique space in the home brewing world – providing an encyclopedic overview of brewing while still encouraging the brewer to “brew with both sides of the brain.” Randy approaches brewing from a flavor and taste perspective and not just a technical perspective. Its a heavy tome – at 376 pages with small fonts – but well worth the trip.

The book is comprehensive – covering everything from a simple extract batch to advanced all grain beer techniques. The sections on ingredient flavors and designing beer alone are worth the cover price. I’ve been brewing for over 28 years myself, and I still learned a lot from this book.

I’ll also mention the book itself is beautiful. Almost every page is splashed with color graphics illustrating everything from brewing processes to flavor profiles to equipment. The wealth of graphics and their organization make even complex subjects easy to understand.

Brewing with Both Sides of Your Brain

While Mastering Homebrew is encyclopedic in coverage, in my opinion what makes it unique is Randy’s approach which he sums up as “brewing with both sides of your brain.” The core of this idea is to approach beer design and beer brewing with not just the technical, scientific numbers in mind but also the artistic. One does not brew a beer for its IBUs or OG, but its flavor. This core idea of creating flavors and effects permeates the entire book.

For example in his section on malts, he carefully groups malts into base malts, color malts, roasted malts, caramel/crystal malts, wheat and other specialty malts. For each he focuses on the flavors these various groups impart to the beer, explaining their usage and perhaps as importantly when not to use them. He covers the “harsh zone” in malting, and explains why malts close to this color zone such as very dark caramel malts can impart harsh flavors to the beer. He also provides great details on the malting process, Malliard reactions, and understanding malt analysis.

Even reading this small section of 25 pages will increase your understanding of malts dramatically. Randy does not stop there though – he does the same for hop varieties, yeast and water – giving the reader a much better understanding of the flavors you’ll get from each brewing ingredient.

The Art of the Recipe

Randy’s chapter on recipe design is another area where his “flavor” approach to beer really shines through. He covers the critical process of establishing goals for your beer, and then provides amazing advice on how to build recipes to achieve the flavor you are looking for. He then covers recipe strategies for many of the most common beer styles – providing solid guidance on malts, adjuncts, and ingredients to use for each to achieve a given flavor. This is something I’ve not seen in any other book, and it is a great starting point for those looking to make their own recipe.

Randy follows his design chapter with a chapter on recipe styles where he applies his own advice and provides some great examples of many popular styles including recipes for both extract and all grain brewers. Throughout the chapter and entire book he illustrates key points as he goes – making his design choices easier to understand and apply.

And SO Much More

I’ve barely scratched the surface with this review. Mastering Homebrew covers so much more than ingredients and recipe design. It is truly an “all in one” brewing book. Just a sampling of topics include: brewing ingredients, detailed brewing processes, brewing equipment, bottling, cleaning, sanitation, yeast, fermentation, recipe design, flavors, styles, recipes and troubleshooting. Its a comprehensive book – covering everything from beginning with extract to advanced all grain topics. Its also a beautiful book – packed with many hundreds of illustrations covering every conceivable topic.

Is the book absolutely perfect? Not quite – the font is a little small for my aging eyes, and in some cases it tries to cover so many topics that the narrative does not flow as well as it could. However in my view these are minor imperfections that can be easily overlooked. The overall content and value are excellent, and I believe this book will become a brewing classic.

If I were stuck on a desert island (with hops, barley and yeast of course) with just one brewing book, this would be a great choice for that one book. So in summary, yes, I really like this book, and recommend you grab it. And no – Randy has not paid me to publish this review. [Full disclosure: I have included Amazon affiliate links above – so if you use those links I may get a few cents for each copy sold to support the site. Even if you don’t use the links above, I still recommend that you buy a copy for your brewing library]

Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube…and streaming radio station) for more great tips on homebrewing. Also check out the How to Brew Video series I shot with John Palmer if you want to learn more about all grain brewing.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Russ April 4, 2015 at 1:55 pm

Hey there, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues.
When I look at your website in Chrome, it looks fine
but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.
I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
Other then that, superb blog!

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