I’ve read many brewing books, I’ve eclipsed two full shelves of them, and few excite me anymore. But Brewing Local: American-Grown Beer by Stan Hieronymus stands out as one of the more interesting ones. Most books about brewing are either introductory, very advanced, highly specific, or vague and generic.
Brewing Local stands out from all those by being specific in one unique area and covering a wide variety in that area. Instead of telling you how to make a Saison or just rattling off a list of recipes Hieronymus presents a great deal of flexibility and unique ingredients.
The blurb for the book does a great job laying out the basics of the text:
Explore Local Flavor Using Cultivated and Foraged Ingredients
Americans have brewed beers using native ingredients since pre-Columbian times, and a new wave of brewers has always been at the forefront of the locavore movement. These days they use not only both locally-grown, traditional ingredients, but cultivated and foraged flora to produce beers that capture the essence of the place they were made. In Brewing Local Stan Hieronymus examines the history of how distinctly American beers came about, visits farm breweries, and goes foraging for both plants and yeast to discover how brewers are using ingredients to create unique beers. The book introduces brewers and drinkers to how herbs, flowers, plants, trees, nuts, and shrubs flavor unique beers.
Brewing Local – A Sense of Place
Brewing Local starts with the idea of terroir, a concept common to wine but less so in beer. Terroir generally means the environment the beer is from, be it the dirt the hops were grown in, the water used to mash, or the local flora and fauna brewers added in for flavors. That last bit is what the rest of the book focuses on. Unfortunately, industrialization destroyed the concept of terroir in beer and the desire by producers to make the exact same product from Maine to California.
We move on to learn about local historical brews in the United States. Steam beer and common ales are likely familiar to you, temperance ale and Choctaw beer maybe less so. All these styles reflected the place and time the book helps you to recreate them in your place and your time. No discussion of locally influenced American beer styles can happen without mentioning corn. Corn is native to the Americas and became widespread in beer as a way to lighten, and cheapen, lagers.
Next up is a how-to section for scavenging for ingredients, from hops to yeast. It’s important to know before you get to the next section of the book, which is really the heart of the book.
Part III – From Farms, Gardens, Fields, and Woods
This is the heart of the book and the part that’ll keep you coming back for years to come. Just shy of 100 pages of grains, trees, plants, roots, mushrooms, and chiles ranging two to three of each per page.
Included for each item is what part to use, what flavor or aroma to expect, additional information and if you need to exercise caution in using this ingredient.
History + Local = Recipes
Great, so you know how to find local ingredients, know what to look for and a general idea of what to do with them, but how do you put it all together? Brewing Local is happy to give you a plethora of recipes from homebrewers up to Jester King’s Hibernal Dichotomous.
This book is not for your average beer fan, nor even for your average homebrewer. But if you’re the type of brewer, that really wants to experiment then this book is for you. Even more so for the pro brewer, the craft beer movement focuses on local breweries, and now the local competition is getting tough. How can you become more local than just being down the street? By using specific local ingredients that aren’t available to the brewery two states away.
I don’t think I’d recommend Brewing Local to half the brewers I know. But one-fifth of the folks I know will cherish this book.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I received a review copy of this book from the publishers. To our readers, and any companies interested in sending samples. Sending a sample does not guarantee you a favorable review or that I will tell everyone to go buy it. I promise to do my absolute best to give it a fair review in a timely fashion.