Thursday, December 13, 2012
For the Love of Hops
Brewers Publications, 321 pages, $19.95
Brewers Publications, 352 pages, $24.95
Just in time for the holidays, Brewers Publications has two complimentary new books out. BP publishes multiple series on different topics; IPA is the latest in their style series, while For the Love of Hops is likely to become the crown jewel in the "brewing elements" series. Complimentary because, obviously, hops are the centerpiece of the IPA style. I would love to spend more time reading and reviewing these books, but that will put this post well out into the post-Christmas future. Instead, since these may be in your gift-giving plans, I'll do a quick-and-dirty instead.
For the Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops
First up, Hops. It is a very deep dive into the history, genomics, and science of hops and is simply one of the best books about beer ever written. Stan's a friend of mine, and BP sent me this book, so you should take that statement with the appropriate amount of sodium chloride. But thumb through a copy and see if you don't agree. The thing about a subject like hops is that there is a ton of related but distinct information: technical aspects about the constituent elements of hops; the science of the way the elements interact not only with each other, but with human sense faculties; agricultural and brewing history and the story of how hop varieties came to be. It's possible some people have their head around these disparate elements, but they are vanishingly few. Stan has now given us the keys to the kingdom. Although Stan's voice is reporter-clear and his descriptions are studded with quotes and stories, this is not an breezy read. There's a lot of technical information in here, and you sometimes have to read paragraphs twice. But that's good--Stan hasn't done a lot of filtering here. He's spent months talking to the people who know the most about hops and in this book you'll find out what they told him.
IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale
Next up is the style treatment of IPA by Stone's master brewer, Mitch Steele. It is slightly less revelatory. Mitch (whom I've never met) has a tougher subject--IPAs are so ubiquitous that even the casual reader knows a lot about them. There's a very long section on the history (137 pages) where Mitch relies heavily on Martyn Cornell and especially Ron Pattinson (whose charts are reproduced throughout) to get the story straight. He adds another 15 pages on the history of craft-brewed IPAs. The rest of the book goes toward describing the sub-schools of IPA, brewing processes, and recipe formulation--pretty standard stuff for a BP style book. Homebrewers are going to find a few tips and insights here, but most will have already spent quite a bit of time practicing the now well-known methods of mash and first-wort hopping, dry hopping, and so on. The recipes may be the biggest draw--Mitch has selected a wonderfully diverse group (Firestone Walker to Fuller's), including several historical recipes.