Book Review: Modern Homebrew Recipes: Exploring Styles & Contemporary Techniques

Modern Homebrew Recipes

It’s not often that I pick up a new book.

But when a new homebrewing book hits the shelves, I tend to get a little… well, giddy.

Take Gordon Strong’s new book, Modern Homebrew Recipes: Exploring Styles & Contemporary Techniques (1 May 2015).

Released soon after the 2015 BJCP style guidelines, I was interested to find out whether Modern Homebrewing Recipes represented a new, fresh look at homebrewing recipes  – or just another bookshelf filler destined to pick up dust.

So, I gave in and bought myself a copy.

Here’s my take on Modern Homebrew Recipes: Exploring Styles & Contemporary Techniques by Gordon Strong.

The first section: more than just background info

Modern Homebrew Recipes is broken down into two, easily readable parts.

Strong describes the first part as containing “background information”, but it’s worth much more than that.

Included in this section is a clear, concise run through on brewing techniques, how to develop your own style, the brewing process, how to work with recipes (and make them your own) and tons more useful information.

This section isn’t really designed to teach you how to brew (I’d recommend Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels for this). Rather, it’s aimed at reminding you of brewing fundamentals. Things you should continually remind yourself of. Things you should be crystal clear on.

But it isn’t a boring read. It’s

A chance to read into one of home brewing’s greatest minds

Take, for example, the subsection called My Process. 

Here, Strong walks you through his own typical brewday – just like a detailed brew log. How he mashes in, boils, chills, and so forth are all described. This represents an incredible opportunity for the reader to compare their own brewing process to Strong’s.

And if you’re like me, you’re always trying to perfect your processes. So who better to learn from the only three-time winner of the National Homebrewing Competition Ninkasi Award?

Here’s an example of one thing I learnt:

Prior to lautering, Strong cuts deep channels into the mash using a thin kitchen spatula – which, according to Strong, improves lauter performance.

See, it’s things like this that I’ve never read elsewhere. And it’s something I’m going to try on my next brew day.

Winner.

The second section: filled with inspirational recipes

And lots of ’em. 109 to be exact, with some being new styles from the 2015 guidelines.

The recipes are organised under the following headings:

  • IPA Recipes;
  • Everyday Beer Recipes;
  • Strong Ale Recipes;
  • Dark Beer Recipes;
  • Lager Recipes;
  • Favorite Belgian Recipes; and
  • Experimental Beer Recipes

Each recipe starts off with a little, inspirational blurb. Take this one for example, written just before the Killer Kölsch recipe:

I fell in love with this style after a visit to Cologne in 2006. I had enjoyed it before, but I didn’t remember it being anything special. Trying it fresh made all the difference. I also saw how very few Cologne brewers used wheat in their recipes, and I now leave it out of mine (the graininess of the wheat doesn’t help the style at all). I also noticed how the various beers made by the traditional Cologne breweries were similar, yet distinct. The style allows for subtle changes in balance from several components (malt, hop flavour, bitterness, frutiness), but all hovered around moderate intensity. I won a number of NHS first round medals with this recipe, which is in the style of a Früh or Reissdorf.

Doesn’t this motivate you to brew this recipe?

Yep, this is is what I want from a recipe book. One that motivates and inspires. One that gives me a reason to brew them.

After the blurb, you’re given the following:

  • BJCP style category;
  • a description of the brew (including batch size, OG, FG, efficiency, ABV, IBU and SRM);
  • the ingredients (in pounds and kilograms);
  • details on water treatment;
  • mash technique and schedule;
  • kettle volume, boil length and final volume;
  • The fermentation schedule;
  • sensory description; and
  • formulation notes

With all of this information, you’re sure to be able to replicate the brew just as Strong did.

And when I say just as Strong did, I mean it. These recipes are left un-modified – they are exactly as Strong originally brewed them. Again, another reason why this book reminds me of reading a brew log, rather than a recipe book.

This makes it both an interesting, and highly useful read. But it could also be slightly difficult for a beginner brewer to grasp.

Because the recipes are explained just as Strong brewed them, they’ll need a little tweaking to work out on your own system. Take the batch size, for example. Strong often brews 6.5 gallon batches (not the usual 5), and so most of the recipes do need to be scaled. It’s an additional step that you may not know how to do.

Luckily, the first section of the book covers this; and, in any event, it’s incredibly simple to do if you’re using Beersmith (or Beer Alchemy, the program that Strong seems to prefer).

So, just a slight consideration to note if you do decide to get a copy of Modern Homebrew Recipes.

Conclusion – worth it or not?

I’ve read tons of recipe books before – none being very motivational to me. Modern Homebrew Recipes is different. It’s motivational. It’s thought provoking.

It even has me excited to brew an IPA. Crazy.

So, would I recommend buying it?

Absolutely.

Rating: 8.5/10

Have you got a copy of Modern Homebrew Recipes? See you in the comments!

Full disclosure: I bought this book because I wanted it. But, I am an Amazon Affiliate (even Grizzly Bears need to make a living).

You can read Grizzly Bear Loves Kölsch’s privacy policy by clicking here.

Home brew beer fanatic and lover of all things Kölsch. Follow me on Twitter!

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Comments

  1. T Dogg says

    Great review. I agree with everything you had to say. I was pretty excited for this one to come out and it definitely does not disappoint. I really like Strong’s writing; how he gives you the whys as well as the hows. It’s like having a conversation with someone who really really knows what they’re talking about.

  2. therealpegibson says

    I really enjoyed this book. In particular, I like his fairly simple, comprehensible approach to water. However Strong’s techniques include quite a bit of decoction and step mashing and long boil times that all seem pretty fussy. So, while I am planning on brewing some of his recipes, I doubt I’ll get exactly the same results.

  3. Andy Farke says

    Very much in agreement with your positive review! I’ve brewed two batches based on recipes from the book – an American Wheat Beer and the New World Blonde, and both are among the best I’ve ever made. I can’t say I’ve had such consistently good luck with a recipe book before; next weekend I’ll be making the pumpkin ale.

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