The old Classic Beer Styles Series books are a mixed bag: some, like Smoked Beers (by Ray Daniels and Geoff Larson), and I have to say, while Pierre Rajotte’s Belgian Ale entry into the series was probably useful at the time it was published, it’s dated and one is better off checking out the Belgian Brewing series for a more practical and up-to-date look at brewing these beers.
I mentioned reading Jeff Sparrow’s Wild Brews a while back, and noted that I wanted to read about the other Belgian styles of beer, covered in other books in the same series. Well, I wish I’d gotten to them sooner, but I have finally gotten to Stan Hieronymous’ famous Brew Like a Monk: Trappist, Abbey, and Strong Belgian Ales and How to Brew Them, and Phil Markowski’s Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition. Both books are really good, though the latter is slimmer than the former.
Those who know me personally know that my passions tend to kind of take over. When I am interested in something, it begins to occupy a big part of my mind. I think about it a lot. I talk about it a lot.
Those who know me are used to it, I suspect. Hanging out with a homebrewer can be something like hanging out with a writer of the talky kind. I have friends who are writers of the non-talky kind, the sort who seem to feel that talking about their current projects is a way of abandoning the project to oblivion, a way of “losing steam” as they sometimes put it.
Wild Brews is a wonderful little book that deals specifically with the wild-fermented beers in the Belgian tradition — that is, Lambic (and various subtypes and blends like Framboise, Gueuze, Kriek, and so on) and the Flanders Ales.
Anyone who is even a little experienced in homebrewing is going to at least be intimidated by the idea of brewing a lambic. Most of us make beer happily knowing that the fruits of our labours will be drinkable in a month or two, six months at the most in many cases — it’s a rare beer that takes a year to become drinkable. But with lambic beers, a year is the minimum. A year gets you a young lambic, and it’s three or more years before you have something fully developed — so developed, indeed, that it’s dry and (except for connoiseurs) really needs to be blended with younger lambics.