This came in the mail last week and I got a chance this long weekend to look it over. Gordon Strong is a very accomplished home brewer and judge so I was interested in reading what he admits is a very personal take on making your own beer at a high level of skill.
As you know, I am a bad brewer but from around 1999 to 2003 was brewing pretty much weekly and also devouring brewing manuals as fast as I could find them. I found that I was able to think about this tweek or that without actually going out and doing the brew so that when I did make my own, there were lots of ideas to play with bouncing around in my head. As I read through Brewing Better Beer I had a sense that if I ever did get back to brewing (and right now I have about enough grain to make ten gallons of strong ale kicking around) there would be plenty to gain from a generous dive into this book for at least a few days before I got started.
A few words on what this book is not. It is not really a beginners guide. Look elsewhere for that. My favorite (mentioned also by Strong) remains Homebrewing, Vol. 1 by Al Korzonas even if it does not include all-grain brewing. It is not a style guide and it's also not jam packed with stats and tables. It's more about beer and brewing than a description of brewing. There are recipes to illustrate points being made but it is not a book of recipes. Spaced throughout the book there are sections titled "So What Do I Do?" in which Gordon sets out his personal preferences on the given topic relating them to his own experience and taste.
And that is what I see this book as offering - a way to make your own way into and along a path of skillful and even competitive brewing. And I also see it as useful for anyone wanting to explore skilled and experienced drinking. As such, it represents an advance on Tasting Beer which I concluded last year would serve an intermediate beer fan fairly well. Brewing Better Beer offers an advanced review for the beer fan, either drinker or brewer, who doesn't need need any more charts of water hardness in various cities or goofy offset fonts and sidebar explanations printed in another colour. It's a serious book about one person's approach to the subject. If you're serious, too, then it'd be worth picking up.