The book that actually deserves credit for my interest in “brewing” is Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury–but I’ll save that for another day. When I was still in college in 1989 at San Francisco State, I had my very first microbrewery beer. “Old Scout Stout” was the first microbrewed stout I ever tasted, at now defunct 20 Tank Brewery. There should be a golden shrine or a plaque at that location. To this day I will never forget it, and also the topic of a future blog post. It was a whole new world of beer–one that I had some inkling that once existed, something I had been waiting for, and now brought into my reality.
When I graduated in 1991 and moved back to San Diego to live with my mom, I visited the long standing Beer and Wine Crafts in El Cajon, CA, and bought Charlie Papazian’s The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing, touted then, and deservedly so, as “The Home Brewer’s Bible.” I read the book through, practically on the way home, telling my mother along the way what a great book this was going to be. It was so exciting to think that once I got the $50-$60 needed to buy the equipment, I’d be able to make my own beer–any beer I wanted.
First published in 1984, I had in my hands the revised and updated edition of 1991, the book that most home brewers in that semi-early era got them hooked. Charlie’s conversational, almost hippie personality shines through in his writing style and underscored by his mantra, “Don’t worry, have a homebrew!” You know home brewing is a relatively new thing when in the introduction, there’s the heading “Is it Legal?”
There’s also a Preface written by the late Michael Jackson (the beer Michael Jackson) who I was familiar with by watching his “Beer Hunter” TV series shown on PBS. That show is worth seeking out by any means necessary. I have my (ahem) “copy”.
Papazian walks you through everything you need to know to get started, but does so in a warm, inspiring style that gives you confidence that while there may be some bad beer brewed now and then, what you are embarking on is a divine path towards your own greatness.
The very first beer I brewed was based on “Wise Ass Red Bitter” which I know I tweaked just slightly so I could feel as if it were my very own. It turned out, like many early extract beers, not exactly what I expected but, by God, it was beer and at least mildly enjoyable. For a home brewing book of 1991, looking back through it, it is surprisingly broad in its recipes, touching even on mead and lambics. It encouraged you to be adventuresome, inventive, and pick yourself up if something didn’t go exactly right.
Now over 25 years old, sure it is a little dated but I know there is a later, updated edition out there. Still, this book was all I used for 20 years, most of that pre-Internet (or at least pre-blogs, YouTube, beer forums where every question is at the touch of your keyboard.) This was the book that graduated me from malt-extracts, to using specialty grains, to using mini-mashes where I completed the magic of turning grain into sugar.
There were a couple stretches where I didn’t brew for a year or two. One time I resolved to never bottle again and wouldn’t brew until I got a kegerator system. And then I discovered Belgians, namely Affligem Tripel and St. Bernardus 12. NCJOHB was the book that taught me how to brew my very first batch of all-grain beer, and I haven’t looked back since.
While I have acquired other books that help immensely, I still reference NCJOHB here and there, and it’ll never be supplanted as my favorite. After 25 year of shaping my ability to brew beer, how could anything knock it off its perch?
What better beer pairing for this book than one of your own! In this case I’ll be having the last of a year old batch of Chocolate Stout with Smoked Paprika Peppers, while I brew up a new one. Recipe and gallery below. As this is not a “how to brew” blog, I’ll keep the process minimal.
7lbs 2 Row American Malted Barley
2 lbs Carapils/Dextrine Malt1 lb Dark Munich.5lb Crystal 120.5lb Kiln Coffee Malt.5lb Carafa III.25lb Whole Black Malt.25lb Black Patent.5oz Nugget Hop pellets3.3oz Luker bittersweet chocolate.
2-6 whole deseeded smoked peppers–I used paprika peppers I grew.
White Labs Cal Ale yeast I. 1L starter.