If you’re getting serious about brewing then you will want to start formulating your own recipes, or at the very least brewing some reliable recipes for the styles you are interested in. Say you’re keen to try a slightly unusual style, like a Vienna lager. Where do you get a recipe? There are LOADS on the internet, but some of the recipes you find will have been formulated by people with less experience than you. Some of them seemly have been put together by complete idiots. No, when I’m planning to brew a recipe I make sure it’s from a brewer I trust. Some of those recipes are found online, but mostly I turn to a small selection of books. Some of the books are full of reliable recipes, some of them are full of information and thought processes to help you come up with your own recipes. At the very least you’ll be able to take a good base recipe and make a series of informed tweaks.
BREWING CLASSIC STYLES, Jamil Zainasheff & John J. Palmer
If you only purchase one brewing book, then make it this one. It goes through every style in the BJCP guidelines and gives a nice, middle-of-the-road recipe for every single style. Each of these recipes has won a home brew competition in the past, so has been kind of independently validated as being right on style. I say the recipes are middle-of-the-road for the styles, but some of the styles are definitely not middle of the road for a beer! There are some amazingly interesting brews in this book. If you’re curious to try a beer style, but there isn’t a way of getting hold of one in New Zealand, then you could do worse than brew the recipes exactly as they are in this book. I bought this online from the Book Depository, but you may be able to purchase it off the shelf in a good home-brew shop.
DESIGNING GREAT BEERS, Ray Daniels
Not really a collection of recipes, rather a collection of information, history and suggestions. Ray Daniels has selected a range of styles, and for each style he gives a history, analysis of hundreds of award winning recipes and a thorough discussion on the style. It’s a bit of a masterclass in how to design a beer recipe. Pretty technical stuff for a new brewer, but once you get a few brews under your belt the information comes in very handy. You can even start to dissect other recipes and spot obviously dodgy ones. The styles include English ales, porters, stouts & barley wines; along with their American counterparts; Scottish ales; German beers such as altbier (one of my favourite styles), bocks, weissbier, vienna lager; and a chapter on pilsner.
BREW LIKE A MONK, Stan Hieronymus
The go-to book for those of us that like to brew Belgian beers. Stan Hieronymus takes you through the history, ingredients and processes of brewing the Trappist style beers (Chimay, Rochfort, Westmalle and the like). It’s a little like Designing Great Beers but for Belgian beers. I read it cover to cover and it did improve my Belgian style beers no end. I altered my mash schedule, and some of my temperatures and my beer has been better for it. If you’re into Belgian beer (and what beer geek isn’t?) then you need this book!
CLONE BREWS, Tess & Mark Szamatulski
I purchased this book in 2008, mainly because it has a recipe for Duval in it. My mate and I were on a quest to brew ourselves this particular Belgian tipple in our early days of brewing. We thought that brewing Duval would be easier than buying it (at less than $7 a bottle, we thought we were onto a winner). It turns out that Belgian beers are really, really hard to brew right. Since then I have found that I have used this book quite a bit. I don’t often try to clone beer these days, mainly because I want the beer to be MY beer, but I do use this book as a sanity check when I’m developing recipes close to the styles in the book. A lot of the recipes can be brewed as written too. You can also find a style that’s close to what you want and adjust it for the ingredients you have at hand.