Most of my issues with this book are really not Papazian’s fault at all. It was included as part of a beginner’s brewing kit by a local store – and it definitely is not a beginner’s brewing book.
That’s not to say it’s difficult to read, or even to understand, but it isn’t organized as a step-by-step process to completing your first brew, and then advancing from there. Though Papzian hits basics at various points in the book, a general understanding of how to brew a batch of beer is probably required unless you want to read the whole book multiple times before you can even get started. Each section covers a different aspect of the brewing process, and does so from the basics to some of the more advanced homebrewing techniques within that category.
Still, some of the organization issues persist even when the reader has a better understanding of the brewing process. Tangents abound, and sometimes there’s an abrupt change of subject that even this now-experienced (this was the first brewing book I read, but that was over a year and 20-some batches ago) finds tedious, or even scatterbrained. And scatterbrained might be an important part of the Cult of Personality that Papazian has built his homebrewing reputation upon. Still, too often “I could continue explaining this to you, but wouldn’t you rather be drinking?” is dropped, when the reader is obviously interested in finding out the details – hence picking up a brewing book, dude.
The final hundred pages or so contain recipes for various brews that Papazian has crafted over the years, often with creative nicknames (“dfhdgh” is one of my favorites). Those recipes are reference points more than anything for advanced brewers, though, continuing with the theme of Papazian not picking out an audience (experienced or beginner) and sticking to it. There are very few all-grain recipes, a source of frustration for those who are branching out a bit.
At the end of the day, this book is a fun read, a relatively easy read, but certainly not an essential one. Don’t pick it up if you’re trying to learn how to brew for the first time – go with one of Papazian’s other offerings. Don’t pick it up if you’re trying to take your brewing to serious new levels (though his breakdown of various all-grain mashing techniques is very good), either. However, as part of a more complete brewing library, or just as a fun read about homebrewing, it’s worthwhile.
If you’re interested in purchasing, do so through this Amazon affiliate link: The Homebrewer’s Companion