Your neighbor's doing it. We're doing it. The White House chef is even doing it. If you've been thinking about coming on board the homebrewing party bus but aren't quite sure where to start, Beer Craft by William Bostwick and Jessi Rymill is definitely the book you want.
Homebrewing is deceptively simple. Water, malts, hops, and yeast: how hard can it be? And yet the would-be homebrewer can very quickly get lost in opinions on mashing technique, equipment both necessary and unnecessary, and the complex physics of temperature control.
Beer Craft breaks everything down in to bite-sized chunks. The authors first guide you through buying equipment and then each part of the brewing process. They explain why each step is necessary without going into too much confusing detail and tell you what to expect along the way. Later on, they include basic recipes - formulas, really - for each major style of beer, with suggestions for how to vary the ingredients to create your own special beer. Everything is very clear and easy to understand.
Even more helpful are all the clever visuals integrated into the text. These are things like the handy step-by-step guide pictured above, color-coded graphs explaining the different kinds of hops and malts, and diagrams showing exactly how to use equipment like airlocks and siphons. The graphics take what is explained in the text and give the visual learners among us something to work with (and which is sorely missing in almost every other how-to book on brewing).
This is the book I wish I'd had back when I made my first homebrew. With it, the greenest homebrewer could go into the kitchen with confidence and make great beer. All the techniques and recipes are also formulated for one-gallon batches, making this book the perfect accompaniment to Brooklyn Brew Shop's one-gallon beer kits (something else I wish had back when I started brewing!).
Highly recommended for anyone thinking about starting to homebrew. Advanced brewers might also consider picking up a copy just for the great reference charts on malt varieties, types of hop, yeasts, and basic recipe formulas.
• Find It! Beer Craft: Six-Packs from Scratch by William Bostwick and Jessi Rymill, Rodale Books 2011 ($12 on Amazon)
Related: Gift for Beer Buffs: The $150 Complete Homebrew Kit
(Image: Rodale Books)