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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Book Week: Beechum and Conn's Experimental Brewing

Experimental Homebrewing
Drew Beechum and Denny Conn
Voyageur Press, 240 pages, $25
  • What is it? A detailed guide to modern American beer types
  • Who's it For? Intermediate-level homebrewers
  • Reviewer Disclosure. None (though Denny Conn does live in Oregon).

The Review
Rare is the homebrew book with a running theme, but Beechum and Conn devised one with their "experimental" concept. The notion is that homebreweries are essentially little labs, and homebrewers should embrace the science of experimentation. I'd put it a different way. While most homebrew books describe standard techniques and help you brew classic styles, Experimental Homebrewing encourages you to dabble. In this way, it is the most modern homebrew book out there, and one that closely mirrors the experimentation going on at the professional level.

There's a lot to love about this book. Beechum and Conn brew separately--and differently. They bring their first-hand experiences to bear, and the reader gleans one of the most important lessons in brewing: there's no one way to do anything. They have a loose, informal approach to brewing, and while they're happy to give you the math if you want it, they do so only to show their work (and, I suppose, for those math nerds who love it). Everything else is in clear, descriptive prose that makes the process of homebrewing seem approachable. Which is perfect--it is approachable. You can make great beer without understanding hydrogen ions.

Homebrewers are nearly always experimental in temperament (they like to make jalepeno helleses before they really know how to make helleses), and this book encourages them. There's plenty of talk of crazy ingredients and how to use them. More interesting are the sections that teach brewers how to experiment with process and technique. There's modern stuff like force injection (infusion might be a better term) , along with classics like parti-gyle brewing, invert sugar, cask brewing, blending, and more. There's quite a bit on experimenting with ingredients and technical stuff like dissolved oxygen and yeast counts.

This is a great book. If you haven't started brewing yet, you need one of the standard manuals to teach you how to get started. This would be a perfect second book--and I put it right there with Randy Mosher's Radical Brewing as a great intermediate resource. As a bonus, the authors have set up an interactive website to continue discussions about the experiment.


  1. Yes. They roll out some math for the blending that sort of baffles me, but they seem to do a great job.