Book review: The Brewer's Apprentice

I don't usually review homebrew books. Because, uh, I'm not a homebrewer, never have homebrewed and have no inkling to do so. But there was something about The Brewer's Apprentice that beckoned to me.

The cover, for a start. Bold, contemporary, eye-catching. With Stone Brewing's Greg Koch's name on the cover, there's a fair bet that the text will be feisty. And by the time I'd finished the introduction, I was won over. Why?

Imagine books are people. Most homebrew books are the slightly fusty, check-shirted dork who's just over your shoulder, the one who's memorised all the tables and temps. This book is a lounge full of truly expert brewers, chewing the fat and sharing a beer, happy to chat about whatever's on your mind.

It's a devilishly simple but effective approach. The eighteen chapters start with the basics - mashing, hopping, water chemistry - before moving onto styles - English ales, lambics, wheat - and ending up with what may be called advanced or even adventurous topics such as barrel ageing and hop growing. There's essential technical information, put across in a clear and cogent fashion. Hop blends, water salt profiles, yeast tolerance... this book makes such things look good even to the casual reader.

But what makes it for me are the interviews that accompany each chapter. Greg Koch has talked to the best in the business and the results are both insightful and entertaining. Want to know about hop bittering? Vinnie Cilurzo, inventor of the double IPA, tells all. Ever wondered why yeast strains are vital to English ale character? John Keeling of Fuller's explains why it's akin to riding a horse. Is lambic brewing mystery or mastery? All is revealed by the man from Cantillon who says he's not a brewer, Jean van Roy.

This is a book that delivers on its introductory promises. Perfect to have on the coffee table, to dip in and out of. Effortless in covering the "technical, diverse and spectacular". And here's the rub; the interviews are so engaging that it makes me want to read the detailed stuff. The detailed stuff is so clearly presented that I actually get it. And because I actually get it now...

... I think I want to brew beer.

If that's the case, Greg Koch and Matt Allyn will have a great deal to answer for in the future.

The Brewer's Apprentice by Greg Koch and Matt Allyn is published by Quarry Books. Thanks to Quarto for the review copy.


  1. put me down for a bottle of your first brew ;)

    Sounds like one to add to my Amazon wishlist!

  2. But I haven't got a coffee table? ;-(