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Brewing Science: A Multidisciplinary Approach (Book Review)

Brewing Science book coverRight at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic there was a great opportunity to pick up a free digital copy of Brewing Science: A Multidisciplinary Approach by Michael Mosher and Kenneth Trantham from Springer. It was a phase we’ve passed through, but the idea was to give an opportunity for people to learn new or expand old skills during the lockdown. And I’m a book kind of guy so I grabbed this (along with a couple of unrelated text books). That being said, having spent 10 years at University I know that a text book is just a part of the learning process and having read one doesn’t make you that much smarter without the practicals, exercises and self-guided research required of an actual student.

I’m not sure I’d pay the textbook price for this one unless I needed it as a student. However, this textbook has a great rundown of brewing processes and chemistry from a commercial perspective specifically targeted at new brewers training to enter the industry. So, while there’s a bit of chemistry and physics involved, there’s no real reason you need to be able to do all that mathematics. It’s interesting to understand some of those brewery constraints about pressure in piping systems and so forth, but anyone should really hire a professional to design the brewery rather than trust their own mathematics and physics. In short, it’s more complicated than you would intuitively think.

The middle chapters of this book were the most interesting even though I’ve heard and read most of this stuff before. There’s always a little more you can glean from each teacher’s delivery and examples. The University of Oklahoma has an exceptionally strong Youtube channel where they have a free course called Chemistry of Beer that looks at a lot of these same chemical reactions. Because, as a home brewer, it’s important to understand the simple agricultural realities of the ingredients and processes that go into making the beer.

Understanding grain and malting, the anatomy and chemistry of yeast and other inputs; understanding enzymes and how they affect the different sugars in wort. Getting an appreciation for the reality that each and every beer is a unique chemistry experiment from start to finish with huge opportunities for variance. The unpacking of the why something went right or wrong versus the age-old GodIsGood magic stick mentality of brewing. The more the brewer understands about the why in making beer, the more levers that can be manipulated to produce, if not great beer, certainly the intended beer. And sometimes the unintended beer turns out great, too. “Love the beer you’re with” is my motto.

Yes, Brewing Science: A Multidisciplinary Approach is a rather dry textbook. But if you got the chance to pick up a free copy it was well worth taking the time to read. One thing I have learned about education over the years is that each teacher and every book or opportunity will give you a slightly different perspective. If you just read one book on yeast then you only have the information one book intended. The same for malt, hops, water and all the rest. You can never stop learning about science.

Personally, I have over 20 books about brewing beer. But you might be the sort of person who just likes to make some magic in a pot over fire, and then this textbook isn’t for you. In which case, like I said, love the beer you’re with, brewer. Salut.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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