Discovering Secrets of the Homebrew World

Brooklyn-based beer writer (Draft Mag, Beer Advocate, New York Times, Imbibe) Joshua Bernstein has a new book out that explores the inner-world of homebrewing and techniques and secrets from the world’s leading homebrewers and it’s called Homebrew World. I recently received a copy of this finely presented hardcover that traces the story of homebrewers and recipes from amateur to world famous trajectories and others on the cutting and experimental edges of the hobby. Homebrew World is a behind-the-scenes look at more than 30 of these great homebrewers from across the world and includes some of their best recipes in a variety of styles. Check out our past Q & A with Bernstein on his previous book Complete IPA.

One of the lines in the description of the book; the Wild Ones who are harvesting ambient yeast, unleashing rowdy microbes, and experimenting with souring bacteria to extend the boundaries of good taste; and the Creative Front, who follow one simple rule—no rules at all. With that in mind I asked Josh Bernstein – what’s the strangest thing you learned while researching the book?

“In America, we take homebrewing for granted, an easy hobby that anyone can pick up. That’s not the case around the world. Folks in, say, Patagonia or South Korea can’t just stroll down to their local shop and buy a packet of liquid yeast. Around the world, brewing is not a level playing field, and folks will do anything to make their hobby happen. In Iceland, a group of homebrewers started a malt-importation company so they could homebrew, while in China there’s a guy who illegally sells homebrew to expats via social media. It’s wild to see what folks will do to brew. Also: Polish brewers have used smoked herring in beer.”
With the kind of adventurous research that goes into a book like this, I imagine you’d also learn more than a few things about the homebrewing world that even an advanced pro didn’t know about. Anything from the ingenious equipment resourceful homebrewers come up with to control things like temperature and flow to simulating high-end hopping equipment. But the most surprising thing that Bernstein said he learned was in how many places homebrewing still isn’t legal,
“In Japan, you can’t brew beer stronger than 1 percent, and homebrewing is still outlawed in Thailand. But that doesn’t stop people from brewing.”

Homebrew World takes you through these homebrewers stories to questions about how they treat yeast, age beers, refine and repeat recipes and even dealing with wild yeast and how they win awards. Along the trip you will learn how the homebrewing renaissance began and about pros successes and failures, what to do and what to avoid and even recipes from the best for: American Red Ale, Belgian Tripel, Berliner Weisse, English Mild, Farmhouse-Style Saison, Hefeweizen, Imperial Stout, New England IPA, Porter, and Raspberry Lambic.

I had one last question for Bernstein, on what was the craziest or most innovative thing he thought was happening in the homebrewing world?

“The folks at Berlin’s Parasite Produktions are doing wild stuff right now. They’re taking finished beers such as Rodenbach or Orval and then doctoring them with additional yeasts, bacteria and fruit, putting flavorful new spins on tradition.”

Samurai Artist
Samurai Artist

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: