I've been brewing for a while now, and would really like a comprehensive book on the history of brewing. Something that covers the development of different styles of beer, and delves into the science behind brewing as well. I read Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation and found it extremely informative, and would like other books along this line, but covering grains, hops, styles etc. Any suggestions?

  • Hmm... I'm note sure how to choose an answer to accept, since these all could be good books, but I haven't actually read any of them yet... There isn't really a correct answer.
    – pjreddie
    Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 20:07

5 Answers 5


A good book on English style beer is Amber, Gold & Black. It is a fairly comprehensive history of beer in Britain. I have taken a step further back to beyond the use of hops and just picked up Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers. This goes into more detail and includes the folkloric backgrounds of the individual ingredients.

For Belgian beers, pick up Brew Like a Monk. The author gives a detailed history of every brewery, their styles, etc. A lot of information crammed into this little book. The author also has a book on wheat beers, but I have not yet read it.

This is enough to get you started, hopefully. If you want information on American beers, just watch Beer Wars.


Radical Brewing by randy Mosher might be a good choice. He covers a lot of ground, so he doesn't ever spend more than a few pages on any given topic (malting, hops, etc), but he does a great job of covering the basics of pretty much all aspects of brewing. He even has some chapters on creating an automated home brewery and malting at home, I think.


I am not sure where you are located, but there was a book published in the UK in 1990 called "The Historical Companion to House-Brewing" There is a synopsis of the book on a more recent reprint.

I paraphrase from the inner cover blurb... "The book contains a wealth of detailed historical information on European beers, with recipes from the 15th to 19th centuries. It also has step-by-step instructions on making malt that can no longer be purchased in order to brew beers not now commercially available. There is also guidance on keeping a hop garden and drying the cones, plus numerous examples of how to make herb beers and using hop surrogates."

There are some very interesting old recipes. One, called Worker's Ale (c 1798), has a starting gravity of only 1028, uses Pale, Amber or Brown Malt, with adjuncts of chillies, coriander and salt, and uses kentish hops. Interestingly, the mash temp is 85 deg C for 2-3 hours. I would have thought this too high, but I guess this could well be a light in alcohol but full-bodied ale.

Anyway, it's a really good book which I shall hang on to. It might still be available somewhere.


You are almost exactly describing Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels.

This book has two parts. The first part goes into the science of malt, hops, water, etc. The second part describes all the classic styles, going into history, technical parameters, and ingredients that have won NHC competitions. The history is always very well researched (he cites all his sources) and very interesting. The technical style descriptions are highly useful also - a good friend recently won a gold medal at NHC by simply making a recipe using the parameters provided in this text (and perhaps also being a fantastic brewer ;)

  • Interesting my friend actually got this book last year and I read through a lot of it, but I think I was more focused on the recipe stuff back then. I remember it being good though, I just bought a copy for myself after reading this, time to give it another try!
    – pjreddie
    Commented Jul 8, 2011 at 4:26

The first book is not necessarily on the history of brewing, but it is an historical brewing book which I found to be a fascinating read:

This second is a very well researched academic dive into the history of brewing looking at the few written accounts there are from that early period., and building to the 1880s. I found this one of the best books I have read on the subject.

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