I'd like to learn more about brewing, but am not concerned with the basic mechanics as I've been doing all grain for several years. What are some good books on creating your own recipes, improving/better understanding your process, or even just improving your understanding of the different characteristics of beer?

EDIT: After reading Good Subjective Bad Subjective I'll attempt to better define the question. I'd like to know specifically how to approach creating a recipe with a style or specific example in mind, including things like selecting ingredients, determining mash schedules, fermentation temperatures, etc. Ideally I'd like to know specifically how a book has helped a more experienced brewer (lets just say more than a couple brews).


Brewing Classic Styles is a recipe book, but you can learn how to formulate your own recipes by analyzing what Jamil did. I often use it as a starting point in designing my own recipes. I'd say the key is not to go to any one book. Look at several and kind of "average" their recommendations. Add in your own knowledge and experience with what various ingredients taste like. Although not a book, the AHA recipe wiki http://wiki.homebrewersassociation.org/Recipes is a great source to see what award winning brewers are doing in terms of recipes. I'm generally leery of recipe websites, but this one is pretty good. BLAM not only has some good recipes in it, but has solid info on ingredients and how they're used that will aid in creating your own recipes.

  • If my friend didn't already own it, I wouldn't have known BLAM = Brew Like a Monk, but excellent recommendations!
    – Mlusby
    Apr 4 '11 at 21:28

Designing Great Beers has been the most helpful to me. It's also the most dog-eared and mangled of all of my brewing books, because I keep coming back to it for reference of one sort or another.

Probably the two biggest things I got out of the first part of the book are the explanation of the chemical compounds in the hops, and the bitterness to gravity ratio. There's a whole lot more in there, though, and it's the most technical of the brewing books I own.

I have used the second half of the book to help figure out what sorts of things to put together to have a decent example of a particular style. Usually, I'll read through the chapter on the style before attempting to make my own recipe. Though, as Denny says below, this information is somewhat out of date, and some of it is based on some pretty statistically insignificant sample sizes. It also doesn't cover Belgian beers in any sort of depth.

  • 1
    Be careful with DGB. It's fairly out of date when it comes to the ingredients used in the award winning recipes.
    – Denny Conn
    Apr 4 '11 at 19:00
  • True, but most of the 1st half of the book is still relevant.
    – baka
    Apr 4 '11 at 19:01
  • +1 for link to great review. Are there any highlights specific to you? Or is this more like a Bible for brewers? Also, Denny, are there any published books more up to date, or would you just advise supplementing with some information on newer ingredients?
    – Mlusby
    Apr 4 '11 at 20:24
  • extrapolated a bit...
    – baka
    Apr 4 '11 at 20:47
  • If Daniels had continued to expand his data set as the years went by, and revised some of the unreadable infographics in the book--Edward Tufte would have a heart attack--it would really be astounding. As it is, it's just very, very good. I keep going back to it. Apr 5 '11 at 1:10

If DGB has an entry about the style I'm interested in, I'll read it. But there are a lot of styles that it misses. As others have said, the first half of DGB is still solid.

Brewing Classic Styles covers all the BJCP styles and gives a decent introduction & recipe for each. It's also more recent than DGB. So that's a book I'll always use when working on a recipe.

After that I usually check the BJCP guidelines for that style, since those frequently include notes on recipes or procedures specific to a style.

Lastly I'll sometimes listen to the episode of The Jamil Show that covers the style. There's a lot of overlap between the show and the entry in Brewing Classic Styles, but sometimes there are some interesting tidbits in the Jamil Show that aren't in his book.


Books are great places to start. But realistically, I have found that my recipe formulation never really got any better until I started to brew rather than read. I don't mean that in a facetious way. I brewed my Oatmeal stout about 7 different ways until I really understood how each ingredient created the beer the way I wanted to taste it.

Books are great places to start, but if you brew a great recipe from a book or a website, you haven't really learned a lot about recipe formulation. The best way is to get a recipe from one of the great books mentioned or a trusted brewing friend and start brewing it.

Brew your favorite brown ale one time without chocolate malt in it, and you'll be infinitely further ahead of the game than if you had ever read the book.

  • I can really appreciate what you're saying, the few times I've modified a recipe that I've brewed multiple times, it's helped tremendously. Of course the obvious other side of this is that I don't want 10 gallons of headless pale ale because I removed crystal malt to give it a lighter color (been there).
    – Mlusby
    Apr 5 '11 at 19:48
  • I make plenty of beers without crystal malt and they have plenty of head. Brew with just base malt and I still get head. Head is driven by process and quality malting and ingredients more than whats in your recipe.
    – brewchez
    Apr 5 '11 at 21:39
  • Again, worldview changed. Looks like I have more digging to do to uncover the cause of my recent headless beer.
    – Mlusby
    Apr 6 '11 at 0:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.