Tuesday, January 15, 2008

So, You Learned to Brew on Food Network

I just finished watching Good Eats with Alton Brown on the Food Network, they were doing a piece on homebrew (titled: Amber Waves). While I must say the show was informative, I could see some issues popping up with your beer if you followed his instructions step-by-step.

Alton did a great job highlighting yeast, fermentation, sanitation, hops and barley. Really, it was very well done. He missed a few terms, but if you watched the video below carefully you will notice I do too. Of course, in 30 minutes you're not going to learn the subtleties of brewing, but you don't need to. I mean, what homebrewer do you know had it figured out on their first batch? His equipment was good too. In fact, a few pieces of equipment seemed quite logical.

Where Alton began to fall apart was the actual process of brewing. I won't rag on the specifics, if you're a brewer and you saw the show, you probably have a pretty good idea what I'm referring to. No, instead I'd like to point you to a resource that will be the best tool you can have before you brew your first batch of beer: Basic Brewing.

James Spencer started Basic Brewing back when most of the US hadn't heard the word 'podcast' and his show has been an online hit ever since. If you've not caught his shows, you need to - even if you're not a homebrewer. James brings in guests you want to learn from, people with the experiences and reputations you know and trust. Not only does he bring the guest on, he actually knows how to interview them! I've had a couple interviews on our show - they're painful! Listening to James, you'd swear you were listening to a high quality national radio program.

As if that weren't enough for a free show, James also puts out a regular video podcast that rivals programming on television! In these shows he will frequently partner with Steve to create some wonderful dishes, paired and made with homebrew. The stuff is incredible.

In addition to the shows, James offers a few DVDs you shouldn't be without.
  • Introduction to Extract Brewing: This DVD has almost everything you need to make sure your first batch of homebrew is done right. I've given this to family and friends when they've wanted to start the hobby, it's never disappointed. The info is thorough, but not overwhelming.
  • Stepping into All Grain: For those who have dabbled in extract and want to move on, or perhaps those who'd like to jump right on in, this DVD is even more complete than the first. With menu options allowing you to select the methods you'd like to use, you can literally have this set up and playing while you're brewing. To this day, I have not seen a better produced DVD for homebrewers.
  • Low-Tech Lagering and Decoction Mashing: A DVD made for homebrewers who don't think they have the means to lager a beer or do a decoction mash, which I believe is the majority of homebrewers in the US today. If this is you, don't hesitate to pick this up.
Finally, to wrap up my sales pitch for a man I've not met, James has put together Brewing Logs that are really quite helpful. I haven't ordered my 2008 book yet, but 2007's made note taking simple, clean and concise - way better than the spiral pad I'd been using for years before.

I promise you this, if you take the info Food Network gave you and put it along side the info found in any one of these DVDs, you'll certainly go into that first beer with more confidence and, most likely, a better finished product.