Adrian Tierney-Jones delves into the pages of Ted Bruning’s ‘omnibus of brewing materials’ and finds it a trove of information
Choose a new hobby, choose a new washing machine, choose a new variety of hops, ok then, let’s choose life. Talking and thinking about hops (and malt and mashed veg for that matter), you might want to also choose a copy of this rather fascinating book, whose modus operandi is a rigorous run-through of all the various grains, malts, hops and yeasts that you can use to make beer (mind you my first glance of the cover — a washed out image of what look like hops — made my heart sink and my interest flutter away like a piece of paper on the wind). However, my advice is perseverance, which is the approach I took, and with that in mind you will embark on a fascinating journey through every ingredient that brewers are currently using to make beer.
If you want to know to know what happens when you use garden peas in the mash (popular in Soviet-era Lithuania) or prickly pear, then this is a book to dive into and get your ideas for the beer that will wow all and sundry (I suppose you could be making an IPA, an India Pea Ale that is, which would get round all the objections to Black IPAs). As for hops, there are around 300 varieties listed in the book, each entry compact but solidly sparged with essential information such as the character and the alpha of the variety. There’s also the lowdown on yeast, the aforementioned mashed veg (bet you thought we were having a giggle but do have some garden peas or a carrot), and malted and unmalted grains. Be warned though, this is not a how-to-brew book, more a what-can-I-use guide that both brewers and those interested in beer like myself will find fascinating.
Ted Bruning (for whom I used to write when he edited What’s Brewing) is a very clear and easily understood writer; he is not a fancy dan man or addicted to being asymmetrical. He’s also been a busy bloke in the production of this book as he has burrowed like a mole through the online sales catalogues of hop merchants, maltsters and yeast labs, and then gone through other websites, before dropping into home-brewers’ forums and news groups. The result of this Herculean research is this neat little book with a dull cover. I think it’s worth getting for Christmas (or any time really).
The Craft Brewers’ Compendium — An Omnibus of Brewing Materials, Ted Bruning with Technical Editor Don Burgess (www.posthousepublishing.com, £14.95).