Tag Archives: book reviews

Reviewing my Stone Pale Ale…

Well, the Stone Pale Ale that I brewed is in, and man, this is a seriously good beer. The flavours are very balanced, with a definite caramel flavour to it from the generous amounts of crystal malt (19%). The Ahtanum hops are a unique contribution. Even though I’m expecting the signature citrusy flavours associated with American hops, it’s flavours are slightly illusive, as they seem to really blend in well with the surrounding malt body.  I’ve always remembered the saying that “if you can pick out one particular ingredient, then there’s too much of it”. They’re in there for sure, they just don’t jump out and hit you in the face. This beer is quite complex for having such a straight forward recipe.

One of the reasons, I think, is because of the water profile. I added some Epsom salt (0.55g per gallon) and Calcium Chloride (0.25g per gallon) to my water to match the profile stated in Stone’s book: The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance. Those levels are:

30ppm Ca / 85ppm SO4 / 12ppm Mg / 40ppm Na / 40ppm Cl

These numbers are not very far off my own water here from Lake Ontario, but the sulphate level is a bit higher at 85ppm as compared to mine of 28.6ppm. I’ve noticed that by using Magnesium Sulphate (Epsom Salt) as opposed to Calcium Sulphate (Gypsum), the resulting enhancement is slightly different. I’m not finding it as ‘harsh’ as I sometimes get with having too much gypsum in my beers. Maybe it’s just all in my head, because sulphate is sulphate, right? Maybe it’s the  sulphate/chloride balance? I’m not sure. My point is, I think the water profile definitely made an impact on this beer in the form of added complexity.

The other interesting choice for this beer was Continue reading

Brewing a Stone Pale Ale…

After reading The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance, I got inspired by Greg & Steve’s passion for brewing. Their obsession with hops, and their unflinching drive to make beers that they love, is undeniable.

Stone released their first beer in July of 1996, 3 months before I finished a 5 year stint in Los Angeles. Man, did I miss out on some good beer! I hadn’t discovered brewing or even craft beer at that point. The only beer I knew how to put back was Corona. Things have certainly changed since then. Little did I know I was in the heart of the U.S. craft beer revolution there in California.

I’ve not yet had the good fortune of trying some of Stone’s beers. Beers like “Arrogant Bastard Ale“, Stone Smoked Porter or Stone Levitation Ale, but fortunately enough, some of these recipes are kindly included in the book. I’m planning a family vacation this fall down to Florida, where I’m determined to sample as much of these beers and other great U.S. craft brews as I can.

Being a big fan of your standard American Pale Ale, I was interested in brewing their first release, Stone Pale Ale. Particularly because it uses Ahtanum Hops, which I’ve never tried before. I went looking for some a few months back, but had no success, so I instead brewed it up using Amarillo instead of Ahtanum, and substituting Safale US-05 for the White Labs English Ale (WLP002)  as suggested in the book. The beer still came out delicious and was a big hit around our neighbourhood. A couple weeks ago, I happened to be searching Continue reading

Brewing Better Beer by Gordon Strong

From the opening page, you quickly realize that Brewing Better Beer: Master Lessons for Advanced Homebrewers by Gordon Strong is not an ‘average’ book about brewing. The author makes this very clear. An aura is created that this is serious business. Not the kind of serious that’s dry and stuffy, but you know there will be no fooling around in this class. This is about beer after all.

You might think he’s being arrogant at first, but he’s not. It’s more like a “Zen and the Art of Brewing” mentality. “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear” is the phrase that comes to mind for me. It is possible you may find this book is a bit pretentious, but is it really? Not if you’re interested. Is it overly scientific and boring? Thankfully no. Gordon prefers to approach brewing like a chef would his/her culinary creations. He urges you to strive to the point where you intuitively know how things should be working, being able to guide the brew session as you go. Knowing what grains go best together, what hops are appropriate. So much that you don’t have to think about the process, you just ‘feel’ it. This level of mastery comes after much experience, but if you’re serious about brewing, specifically, brewing better, then this book is for you.

It is important to know that this book is not a beginners book, or a ‘learn how to brew’ kind of book. There are plenty of decent examples of those out there that will get you understanding the basics. Gordon assumes that you have the proper equipment and know how to use it. Perhaps you’ve made a few extract batches and are eager to jump into all grain. (although it would be helpful to have a few all grain batches under your belt as Gordon talks at an advanced level.) Perhaps you’ve been brewing all grain for some time and want to find out where you might make improvements.

Whatever your level of experience, when you brew beer from grain, the landscape opens wide up. It’s exciting and fresh and filled with a world of possibilities. “Brewing Better Beer” will help you understand those possibilities. This book will definitely be sitting on the top shelf in my brewing library, right beside Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels…