Home brewing author Andy Hamilton is back with a new book, Brewing Britain*, a guide to not just making your own beer, but also tasting the ever-widening spectrum of British-brewed beers available on the market. Oh, and growing your own ingredients…
With more than 200 new breweries opening in the UK every single year it makes sense that quality literature should follow, especially of the practical kind. Home brewing is nothing new – I remember those basic kits when I was a student, you know, the ‘mix powered ingredients with water, shake thoroughly and wait a few weeks’ kind – but being creative in the kitchen is somehow very much of the zeitgeist. I believe this means Brewing Britain will resonate.
Tips for homebrewers
As an aspiring – and failing, thus far – home brewer I found Brewing Britain extremely useful. Having attended brewing courses, tasting sessions and attempted around ten full mash brews at home (with only one grainy porter standing out with any pride) the information contained within will stand any aspiring home brewer in good stead.
I have got a number of homebrew books at home, but this is the one I could have done with to start with. While the others I have tried read rather like textbooks, Brewing Britain contains narrative, making the information digestible and – most importantly, enjoyable – in bite-sized chunks. For someone like me with horrendous attention to detail and terrible concentration levels this is invaluable.
My definition is this…
As well as providing excellent summaries of what ingredients bring what flavours and characteristics to the party, Hamilton also tells you which beers use those ingredients so in your mind’s eye (or should it be ‘tongue’?) you can conceptualise the flavour.
He also runs through the definition process, which – as a beer review blogger – I found particularly useful. I stand suitably chastised at my use of the word ‘hoppy’ in prior reviews, when I should have said ‘hop-forward’ and then described the hop characteristic, such as grassy or grapefruit etc. Duly noted.
A history lesson
While the best beer history book (coupled with an incredible personal journey) I think I have ever read was probably Pete Brown’s Hops and Glory, Brewing Britain also provides a useful history lesson. I believe it’s important to understand how beer developed, especially in an era when old recipes are being dug up and re-created by the likes of, for example, Truman of East London (listen to my podcast with the founder here) and Alloa’s Williams Brothers.
Get a brew on!
Hamilton himself runs a home brew shop in Bristol and includes a whole bunch of recipes of famous beers for home brewers to try to recreate. I will be trying one out this weekend, but the key thing is the demystification of the entire brewing process. The book also contains a useful list of beer festivals and home brew suppliers.
For those of us who didn’t pay enough attention in biology class at school, this is the book for us.
About Andy Hamilton
Andy Hamilton runs brewing workshops at his local home brew shop and the occasional tasting session too. He is also a member of the British Guild of Beer Writers and CAMRA. He also gardens ingredients for beer in his vertical hill top garden and forages ingredients for various alcohol drinks in and around the parks and waste grounds of Bristol.
His website is www.theotherandyhamilton.com
*Bantam Press, the publishers of Brewing Britain, provided The Guest Ale with a copy of the book to review in October 2013.