Brewing Britain

Andy Hamilton is a Bristol-based home brewer, teacher, gardener and forager. His first book, Booze for Free, was a guide to growing and foraging ingredients for making your own beer and wine. Brewing Britain, subtitled The Quest for the Perfect Pint and How to Make It has a wider scope, still covering the brewing element but adding a more general guide to beer and beer styles as well.

The format is very much that of a practical handbook for the total novice, starting with how to analyse beer: the colour, aromas and flavours and how they're achieved; glassware, serving temperature and cellaring. The second section moves us on into making our own beer, introducing the basics of sanitising, taking readings, priming and bottling, followed by concise descriptions of what's involved in kit, extract and all-grain brewing, and a guide to trouble-shoooting problems in finished beer. 

Once we're au fait with the drinking and the brewing, Andy takes us back to the fundamentals with a guide to creating ingredients. If you fancy growing barley on the allotment or in the garden, there's a guide here to how much space you'll need, what seeds to buy and how to get the best yield. A couple of pages are dedicated to the malting and kilning process which, although I'm sure it's considerably more complex than described here, should be plenty to get the beginner started. Beer's other ingredients are covered next, both in terms of how to use them, and in a more descriptive encyclopedic way: the attributes of commonly used hop varieties are provided in detail, though no such detail is given for yeasts, which would have been useful.

The second half of the book is a guide to British styles, with a description of the famous examples, plus several homebrew recipes for each one. It finishes with a directory of beer festivals, off licences, homebrew suppliers and breweries, though this is unlikely to be of use to anyone outside the UK.

Overall it's an odd miscellany, though is well-written and accessible. There are better, glossier guides to craft beer and more accomplished technical home brewing manuals, but for the newcomer to both worlds, this is a helpful starting point.

Discuss this item in the forums.