For anyone who is interested in homebrewing, How to Brew (Everything you need to know to brew beer right the first time) is a great resource and probably the quintessential primer. It’s laid out simply and logically, and the text is very easy to read and follow, including the parts that dip a little farther into the chemistry of fermentation.
Chapter 1 is the crash course: if you have a batch you want to brew RIGHT NOW, you could get away with reading chapter 1 and getting started. The chapters that follow each offer a more in-depth look into the ingredients that go into the beer, and the steps of the brewing process. Some of these dedicated chapters include sections on the hops, yeast, malt extract, the water you should use, what exactly happens during the boil, bottling, and lager brewing. There are some nice breakdowns, too — regarding fermentation, Palmer has one “conceptual” chapter that explains the chemistry and ideal process behind fermentation, and he also includes an “applied” chapter: What kinds of equipment are available to me as fermenters? How can I improve my fermentation? Uh oh, I need to troubleshoot my fermentation! Etc. Toward the back there are more advanced sections on brewing with specialty grains or all-grain brewing and how that differs from using extract as your malt base.
Finally, the last sections include detailed recipes to follow, as well as tips on how to start creating your own recipes when you feel you are ready. The very last chapter discusses some common brewing problems and “off flavors” in beer, and details where those off flavors may have come from.
I’ve brewed two batches so far using How to Brew as a guide. My first batch turned out all right, but not great, and the troubleshooting guide actually did help me pinpoint where I went wrong. My second batch, on the other hand, is pretty damn tasty, if I may say so myself! I’d highly recommend this book to anyone starting brewing. The only way that it lacks, and this is a very small point, is that as with any textbook, it is slightly out-of-date regarding the newest hop varietals. This isn’t really a big deal though, because such information is easily obtained elsewhere. Otherwise, the ease of reading and thoroughness in explanation of every stage makes How to Brew a winning manual.