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Monday, July 06, 2015

Book Week: Strong's Modern Homebrew Recipes

Modern Homebrew Recipes: Exploring Styles and Contemporary Techniques
Gordon Strong
Brewers Publication, 322 pages, $20

  • What is it? A beginner-to-intermediate homebrew guide for modern tastes
  • Who's it For? Beer fans who want to brew their own
  • Reviewer Disclosure. None; never met Gordon Strong
The Review
According to the Amazon stats the moment I checked them (6:30 pm, July 6), Charlie Papazian's Complete Joy of Homebrewing is the 5,024th best selling book on the entire site. It was originally written over 30 years ago, and show no signs of losing commercial viability. But the truth is, it's very, very badly outdated on nearly every front. It mainly explains extract homebrewing, which no one should ever do, tells you how to improvise a homebrewery out of materials that existed in the early 80s, and worst of all, gives you a bunch of recipes that look ... quaint. Anyone coming to beer in 2015 should rightly regard it more as a historical text.

Many homebrew books have been written since, but few actually consider the interests of that 2015 beer fan. It's next to impossible to assess a homebrew book without brewing several of the recipes, and I haven't done so with Gordon Strong's new book, Modern Homebrew Recipes, but by all appearances, it is for that 2015 beer fan. The first section in the book starts right where that fan live: IPAs. Perfect. People may one day get around to an altbier, but it's the IPLs and double IPAs and Belgian IPAs that they really want to sink their teeth into. As you glance through his recipes, you see the same kinds of beers you see in pubs now. These aren't homemadey, hippie batches from the heart of the Baby Boom era, they're updated versions of modern styles.

Strong is the president of the Beer Judge Certification Program, the author of the BJCP guidelines, and an award-winning homebrewer. He is, unfortunately, a self-trained brewer, and it shows in places. The Flanders red is a case in point. "When I visited the brewery, I saw how after the beer came out of the barrel it was much more sour than their finished product. They must do some blending to hit a target sourness level, most likely like gueuze." Actually, not really. The recipe itself makes the same mistake every American brewer whose made this beer (except Josh Pfriem!) has made--pitching the Roselare strain straight into wort. That's not how Rodenbach makes it, and it's a sure-fire way to make a chemical stew. Sometimes, trying to reverse-engineer beer works brilliantly; sometimes it doesn't.

But hey, small criticism. Overall, I think it's the kind of book brewers are probably actually looking for now when they decide to take up homebrewing.


  1. “It mainly explains extract homebrewing, which no one should ever do,…”

    That statement is patently false. I stopped reading the review at the point of reading this erroneous information.

  2. You do realize, anon, that opinions can't be fact-checked?