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Book: Brew Better Beer by Emma Christensen


Apr 25, 2015
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Long Island, NY
[size=12pt]2 out of 10, only for design and typography not content.[/size]

I have been borrowing books from my public library on brewing the past several months. After going through the online catalog I came across this book: Brew better Beer by Emma Christensen published in 2015. Seeing as it was new I was hoping for at the very least some recipes that utilize updated techniques and ingredients we have available to us now. What I ended up with was a book I am left scratching my head over how and why it was published.
Every recipe is written for 1 and 5 gallon batches with the 5 gallon information in parentheses, not horrible but annoying. The recipes are formatted in a very awkward way, there is a box on the page with names and volumes of ingredients, but times and temperatures are in the text elsewhere on the page. The first of these recipes is A Very Good American Pale Ale (in fact every style covered begins with "A Very Good...") has a grain bill with Crystal 20L at 25% of the bill! She uses this formula of 75% base grain to 25% Crystal in many of the recipes. When I've used Crystal it's been at most 10% of the bill but usually 5%. Needless to say none of these will be plugged into my copy of BeerSmith, very unlike the time I checked out Gordon Strongs newest book!
After going through the book for an hour or so this persistent "why?" was aching in my head so I went to the back of the book to read "About the Author". Emma Christensen is a recipe editor for an online homecooking website and a culinary school graduate who also home brews. Egads, another gripe: home cooking is two words not one as in her bio (AP style...and English). She also reviewed beer for the Columbus Dispatch. Not necessarily a set of credentials that justify getting a book on home brewing published. Maybe she has industry connections that saw a way to make a quick buck with a pretty book on making beer?

My conclusion: this is the home brewing equivalent of a "coffee table" cookbook, something that would be titled "100 Ways to Cook Chicken in a Crockpot". You might look through it and see a picture and think "Hmm, maybe I should brew an Irish Red Ale next" but then do yourself a favor and find a recipe in another book, or on the BeerSmith cloud!

About the author: I am a culinary school grad, have worked in publishing and I'm married to an editor. I have read and used countless cookbooks and culinary textbooks and I have an expectation on how information on how to cook (brewing is essentially cooking) should be delivered to the person seeking it out.