That blasphemous statement is the thesis behind The Homebrewer’s Almanac, a resource and inspiration guide book that should be in every amateur brewer’s library.
Authors Marika Josephson, Aaron Kleidon, & Ryan Tockstein strive to make the case that for all the hype, hops are a relatively small part of the recipe for a delicious pint. To craft a truly great beer, the book posits that paying attention to the place or origin is the key. Beer recipes that rely on local, fresh, seasonal ingredients are the primary focus of The Homebrewer’s Almanac and it has the photographs and prose to back it up, melding into a fantastic reference book.
As with a traditional cookbook, all of the ephemeral attributes don’t mean much if the recipes aren’t motivational for the chef. Each recipe in The Homebrewer’s Almanac starts with an interesting base ingredient, provides some background on its qualities and then hits you with the goods. For example, the modest dandelion weed is elevated to become the core of a roasted dandelion root stout beer. The plant’s roots are roasted, ground into a powder and steeped into an espresso after fermentation and before bottling, giving a potent kick of smokey herbs. That’s not a trick you’ll find in a beginning home brewing manual.
In another recipe, the green tomatoes of late summer are pureed in a food processor and added to the boiling pilsner malt at flame out. The wort is fermented with a Belgian yeast strain to create a decidedly new world interpretation of the classic farmhouse saison. Carrot seeds, mushrooms, stinging nettle and other unexpected vegetables are used in addition to more traditional (but still pretty out there) fare like ginger, sweet potato and elderflower. The Homebrewer’s Almanac also includes helpful tips on how to tap a maple tree and forage for wild chanterelle mushrooms for real do-it-yourselfers.
Related Post: How to Grow Your Own Hops
Perhaps my favorite part of the book is the manifesto of the brewers involved. “DO care about sanitation and fermentation temperature. DON’T care about calculating IBUs. Everything else can be approximated.” For many home brewers there’s a push for exacting precision. The Homebrewer’s Almanac is a refreshing change of pace, encouraging brewers to slow down, savor nature and enjoy the work of making beer.