Book Review: American Sour Beers

American Sour Beers is a new book coming out next week from the premier sour homebrew blogger, Michael Tonsmeire. Michael began the road to this book with his blog The Mad Fermentationist. I was constantly referred to his blog when I began looking into brewing my first sour. He’s had one of the best blogs about all things sour for years, so I’m very excited for this book.

American Sour Beers

Here’s the publisher’s blurb with my thoughts after the jump:

One of the most exciting and dynamic segments of today’s craft brewing scene , American-brewed sour beers are designed intentionally to be tart and may be inoculated with souring bacteria, fermented with wild yeast or fruit, aged in barrels or blended with younger beer. Craft brewers and homebrewers have adapted traditional European techniques to create some of the world’s most distinctive and experimental styles. This book details the wide array of processes and ingredients in American sour beer production, with actionable advice for each stage of the process. Inspiration, education and practical applications for brewers of all levels are provided by some of the country’s best known sour beer brewers.

One of the more interesting and exciting chapters is the souring process used by many of your favorite craft breweries. No, they’re aren’t detailed recipes with trade secrets, but I feel the information presented is more useful. More importantly than how useful it is these processes are provided in a very adaptable way that you can tailor to work in your situation.

I enjoyed the breakdown of the various bacteria and will always keep this handy as a reference. I’ve known what Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, and Acetobacter are and do, but the in-depth info, and the way it’s presented, helped reinforce my current knowledge. The most surprising thing I learned from this book is the amount of lager yeast used in brewing American sour beers. While Russian River’s recipes aren’t in here in detail there are recipes at the end of the book to clone many production sour beers, like Russian River’s Beatification.

The only real knock I have against this book is that I don’t think it’s a great fit for most homebrewers. Many of the techniques covered only work on scales beyond the scope of homebrewers. Yes all the information on barreling and blending is great… for those people who are brewing 50 gallon batches of beer multiple times a year. I think this is a fantastic resource for smaller breweries looking to get into souring or for homebrew clubs who want to team up and fill a barrel.

Perhaps the coolest part of this book is that it’s written by a blogger. Why is that cool? What happens when a “traditional” author has to cut a section of their book? I don’t know, but I’m guessing it disappears forever. When Mike Tonsmeire had to cut sections from this book, he turned them into blog posts like List of Unpasteurized Sour and Funky Bottled Beers and Commercial Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus Descriptions

The bottom line is that this is a fantastic book that any sour lover (brewer or consumer) should read. I think the picture below best summarizes my feelings toward American Sour Beers. When I end up ear marking this many pages for future reference it is clearly a sign of a fantastic book.

American Sour BeerAll that said if you currently brew sour beers and want to up your game, you want to start brewing sour beers, or you just love drinking them and want to know more American Sour Beers is undoubtedly a good buy.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I reached out to the author and his publisher was kind enough to hook me up with a free copy. To our readers, and any companies interested in sending me stuff, giving me free stuff impacts the review in only 2 ways. That I WILL review it and that and I WILL write a blog post about it. Giving me free stuff does not guarantee you a favorable review or that I will tell everyone to go buy it.

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