Recommended Reads

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Each week we receive a lot of questions, in-depth, specific questions, about our beer, brewing practices, and barrel program. The more that people drink and enjoy flavourful and interesting beers, the more they want to understand the process, and for some, even attempt the whole undertaking themselves. And while we love talking about everything we do, we the Bellwoods elves are far outnumbered by Bellwoods patrons. So in recognizing a demand for beer-related info, we've put together a simple but comprehensive list of recommended reads. And I know, I know, watching Free Willy is way easier than reading the epic novel, but trust us, most of these books have pictures (even if it's only yeast cells...) to go along with all those pesky words.

Beer 101: Understanding the Breadth and Bread

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1. The Brewmaster's Table by Garrett Oliver Written by the esteemed brewmaster from Brooklyn Brewery, this is the #1 book about beer and beer pairings we advise our serving staff to read. A great entry level book for anyone looking to learn a little more about the history, and variety of international beer styles, specifically as they pair with food. A highly accessible book with a tone closer to a novel than textbook, this is the perfect starting point for those interested in expanding their knowledge of craft beer. Lots of beautiful photographs of rare beers, international breweries, and delicious food.

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2. The Oxford Companion To Beer edited by Garrett Oliver Not to be too Oliver-centric, this mammoth text is an incredibly comprehensive and thorough guide to beer. I probably don't have to explain what an encyclopedia is -- just trust us that this book contains almost everything about this dense topic. A great reference, especially when you need to answer a specific or technical question.

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3. Craft Beer World by Mark Dredge This one is a good balance of technical info and coverage of the most sought-after beers available today. With lots of great images and colourful charts (that flavour wheel is incredible!), Craft Beer World is an excellent introduction to beer appreciation. The risk though, with this sort of publication, is that it quickly becomes outdated -- for the moment, it's a great addition to the ol' bookshelf.

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4. The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook by David Ort There are a lot of beer cookbooks out there, but we feel strongly about this one because of its decidedly Canadian perspective and approach. David Ort goes beyond telling us which food pairs with which beer -- he gives us the recipes. With interesting suggestions like Oak-Aged Old Ale Icecream and Pumpkin Ale Mustard, this book puts into practice everything that Oliver preaches. A convincing reminder that we can't survive on beer alone.

Beer 201: So Now You Wanna Try?

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5. How To Brew by John Palmer In addition to the fact that Palmer is perhaps the most endearing guy on the planet (he describes himself as "a mild mannered metallurgist...who would like to be a contestant on Jeopardy one of these days..."), he is also a brewing wizard. This book is really the holy grail of homebrewing, and the first thing we recommend a new homebrewer buys (even before carboys, yeast, or hops). Palmer's explanations and instructions are easy to follow, and his aim is to make the hobby he loves accessible to any willing participant. An absolute necessity for anyone interested in beginning to brew.

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6. Brewing Up A Business by Sam Calagione Another book written by a craft beer industry celebrity, this time the founder and president of Dogfish Head in Delaware. An inspirational first-person account of what starting a brewery can be like, Calagione does a good job of representing the frequent highs and lows a new business can go through (like exploding a fermenter!). This is perhaps the least technical book on our list, but an important one in that it's directly from a humble success-story brewery, and reminds us that working towards goals require time and hard work. A great book for beer enthusiasts and budding entrepreneurs looking to start in this creative industry.

7. The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz This one is sort of like the perfect cross-training to improve your home-brewing. Though only a small part of this book is devoted to beer, it provides an incredibly dense overview and instructional base to all manners of fermentation. Everything from making yogurt and sauerkraut to meads, wines, ciders, and yes, even alcohol from starchy tubers, this book is both beautiful and ridiculously informative. A great acquisition for the frenzied fermentationist.

Beer 301: Git Yer Lab Coat On

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8. Yeast by Jamil Zainasheff & Chris White/ Hops by Stan Hieronymus/ Water by Palmer and Colin Kaminski This tender trio of "Practical Guides to Beer Fermentation" is comprehensive to say the least. Among the required reading (we really sound like grumpy profs now...) for our brewers, they take a look at the science behind each of these three main ingredients. Less accessible (ie. more like a textbook), and definitely for those who've already passed Beer 101, these books explain the ways in which each ingredient plays a crucial role in the final fermented beverage. Great, in-depth references.

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9. Wild Brews by Jeff Sparrow , Farmhouse Ales by Phil Markowski , Brew Like a Monk by Stan Hieronymus Though the information in these books span quite a range of topics, they are similar in the sense that they are concerned with more specific styles. Moving past the why and how of particular ingredients, these books set out to explain and examine the processes that lead to sour, tart, funky, traditional, and trappist style beers. A great starting ground for those curious about our barrel-aging program and use of Brettanomyces.

10. The Brettanomyces Project by Chad Yakobson Not exactly a book, but rather a public Master's dissertation online, this research was conducted by the owner/brewer of Crooked Stave in Colorado. The Brett Project is an in-depth thesis about primary Brettanomyces fermentation.

Unless you were hoping to find a spicy Harlequin romance thrown into the list, we feel confident that there's something here for everyone. And of course, there are many more books about beer out there, but this selection has our mark of approval. So get reading, or I swear to all that is holy in this world, you will never pass this course.