With cooking you can do whatever the hell you please, and it always works, well almost always. Grain based fermentables offer no limits on experimentation, however their god is a bit stricter. Not unlike the action of the rider on the bicycle, or the delicate movement of a pilot in an aircraft, each action, no matter how subtle yields a change from the god of flow and aerodynamics, or in this case the god of fermentation. A bit more protein, sugar, moisture, time, or heat make sometimes significant changes. Perhaps the god of fermentation is the twin brother of the god of flow.
I learned this through experience. I started out with some rather ignorant meanderings and recipes like this one. My bread was wet, flat, had no oven spring, in fact it fell in the oven. I got some help from those that had seemed to perfect bread. But in the end it was the good books that really helped, helped me to understand what nuances yielded what details in the final product. I recently read Baked - New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis. It's a great book. He partners up with Six Point Brewery using their malt to make blondies. I used some malt extract laying around for mine. They were amazing. Baked is of course - in Brooklyn.
The Brooklyn BrewShop is another Brooklyn based business with a book. This book has meaning to me because I started brewing in Brooklyn, and when I did, there was no Brooklyn Brew Shop. The closest homebrew supply was a hobby store in New Paltz, NY, and it was crap. You'd drive up there to find they had pretty much nothing. Homebrewing wasn't what it is today. My first batch was a kit. Not the award winning partial mash kits of today with refined dry yeasts. No - this kit when followed closely - made alcohol water which seemed a distant cousin to beer, but close enough we got pretty damn excited about it. Well me and my roommate at least. I can't say the rest of the world tripped over their feet to try it.
The beginning of Make Some Beer by Erica Shea & Stephen Valand explains how Brooklyn Brewshop got started - how the idea originated in their heads - when they realized there was nowhere in NYC to to buy homebrewing supplies. I was not the only one back in the late nineties making trips to New Paltz to buy homebrew supplies that were questionable at best. I suppose at the time it never hit me as that strange because NYC is a place, as odd as this may seem, where it's hard to find things. You would think that in a city of over eight million people you'd have everything you desired within walking distance. That is rarely the case. I can recall on one cold January morning when I was home sick and bored out of my mind buying a television (this was before the days of flat screens) on Atlantic avenue and dragging it home to Brooklyn Heights, knuckles bleeding from carrying the damn thing for blocks. Well I guess it was still technically walking distance. Anyhow I could relate to how they might have felt. There is of course far more to the story of Erica Shea and Stephen Valand starting Brooklyn Brewshop, and I assure you it's far better reading that TV's on Atlantic avenue, but you'll need to buy the book for that part.
Labeled 'how to brew refresher' the book gives the most concise guide to all grain brewing I have ever read. It introduces stove top all grain brewing, something that certainly would have come in handy back in my days of brewing out of a my little room in Brooklyn. It provides a hop guide, and many other great resources. I like the fact that their recipes are extra, more, creative. It recommends honey for bottling which I find a bit risky if not just pure insanity. Honey does not ferment at a consistent rate, and it is is a great way to introduce bad things into your beer you don't want. I like this book - it is a reminder that all grain brewing does not have to be an all day production and it pushes the average brewer out of his comfort zone with Dandelion Gruit, and Tapioca Ale. It inspired me to get off my ass an start brewing again.
While we are on the subject of Brooklyn. Last years Black Chocolate Stout from Brooklyn Brewery was a train wreck. After much pestering I finally got some response from the brewery. First a T-shirt and glass, which I couldn't care less about and finally a helpful rep, Michael Maraghy, that refunded my $50.00 for the case and assured me they do their best to maintain quality control. I was upset, I love BCS, and I have for a long, long time. I am however happy to report that this years does not suck. It seems to be pretty close to where it was in 2013. I will be doing a vertical sampling soon and will report back.
So anyhow Make Some Beer was a good book. Read it. It might inspire you too.
Oh yes and I am obligied to state that I received this book from Blogging for books for this review.
Also I am not obliged to state that the inspiration for this book review came from Hoppin' Frog D.O.R.I.S. which is totally amazing. Deep rich, minimal head, with notes of everything barrel aged even though it's not. Rich chocolate, vanilla, sweet, just too damn good to be true. Some people just know how to brew beer.