Brewing Local – Book Review

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Brewing Local: American-Grown Beer is one of those books that every homebrewer should have in their library. The concept behind the book is relatively simple but the inspiration that it provides can keep someone with “brewer’s block” going strong.

Through 340 pages divided into four sections, Hieronymus provides a detailed history on American beer, gets in depth on possible ingredients and finishes with a list of 22 recipes that are sure to impress your beer-drinking friends.

“I think beer should come from a place, and it should be recognizable.  What I hate when traveling is not being able to tell if I am in Phoenix or Milwaukee or Pittseburg.”  – Deb Carey, New Glarius Brewing Company

A summary of this book is that beer comes from somewhere.  That place should shine clearly in each and every beer from the brewery, going even more so for homebrewing.  A commercial brewer has restrictions from regulations to financials while the homebrewer is free to do whatever they please!  For this reason alone homebrewers are often at the forefront of using indigenous ingredients to our fermented pleasures!

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Some of the sections in this book seem to drag on but do provide extensive detail for historical obscurities that may or may not be true; history has a way of blurring the line between fact with fantasy. While interesting, this section isn’t why we recommend putting the book in your library. Reading about the history of Tiswin is enlightening but not appealing to our modern tastes.

Where this book shines is in Part III – From Farms, Gardens, Fields and Woods where Hieronymus provides details of a wide variety of potential ingredients indigenous to the United States. Some of these ingredients have a long history of brewing while others are more recent additions to the brewer’s repertoire. Just reading this list can inspire the formulation of a variety of beer styles with ingredients that can be grown or foraged, true farm/field to glass brewing. The clear and concise format that Hieronymus follows for each ingredient includes icons that provide information at a glance including if the ingredient adds any fermentable sugars, bitterness or spiciness similar to hops, flavors and if the ingredient is either cultivated, wild or both.

This list of over 200 ingredients includes what have become standards to some including barley, wheat, grapefruit and coriander stretching to the outright bizarre including potato, turkey tail (a mushroom) and dandelions. Actually even writing that sentence has me inspired to create a potato, turkey tail and dandelion saison. Sounds like it would be… interesting.

If the list of ingredients in this book doesn’t provide enough mental stimulation the recipes in this book are stellar beers. The 1835 version of Albany Ale is very drinkable while still having unique flavors that you won’t see every day! If you’ve never heard of Albany Ale check out Albany Ale Project for a lot more info!

There are recipes in this book for two mushroom beers, both of which were provided by Denny Conn (one of the brewers behind Experimental Brewing) and are both stellar beers but the one recipe that I’m thrilled is in this book is a clone of Cucumber Crush by 10 Barrel Brewing. The reason that we are excited about this beer being included is that this was one of our favorite beers to drink when 10 Barrel was independent. It’s a summer beer that refreshes with each sip but we do not support AB InBev (big beer) when we can help it, as such, we haven’t bought this beer in some time. Having a homebrew recipe of it is excellent and with the weather heating up it’s going to be on tap in the house in short order!

Overall this book is an outstanding read. It inspired us to learn more about the historical style Albany Ale, leading to Upper Hudson Valley Beer by Craig Gravina and Alan McLeod. More than that, this book set into motion the idea that things growing in the woods around us can make amazing beer! Pick up your copy of Brewing Local from Brewers Publications!