I Tried It: Wild Brews by Jeff Sparrow

It will likely surprise no one that I routinely won the "Most Book Reports" award when I was in elementary school. I regularly cashed in my Book-Its points for personal pan pizzas at Pizza Hut, wearing my giant purple Book-It pin as I chowed down on my pizza.

Pro tip: if you use clear nail polish over the star stickers, they won't peel off

Pro tip: if you use clear nail polish over the star stickers, they won't peel off

With that in mind, this week's I Tried It is basically a book report. 

While while studying for the Advanced Cicerone, I read a lot of books. A. Lot. Of. Books. At least 25 books relating to beer in some form or fashion. I found some of them to be extremely technical or boring or poorly written. I found some of them immensely educational, entertaining, and engaging. Wild Brews: Beer Beyond the Influence of Brewer's Yeast by Jeff Sparrow lands squarely in the latter category and may have been my favorite book I read while preparing for the exam.

Wild Brews walks the reader through the world of beer brewed with organisms other than the traditionally used Saccharomyces yeast strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Saccharomyces pastorianus, better known to most people as ale yeast and lager yeast. The book's organization approaches the complicated topic of wild fermentation in three broad categories: the history of wild beers, the traditional methods, and the application of the traditional methods in non-traditional settings, i.e. American craft breweries.

Having read so many books about beer and brewing, what I appreciated the most about Wild Brews is the entertaining and simple way Jeff Sparrow explained the various aspects of wild fermentation. Most of it was information I had read before, but in Wild Brews, it was presented to me in a new and understandable way.

There were also plenty of interesting sidebars; in fact, one of the sidebars about corks inspired me to learn more about them and post about what I learned on the blog. Other side bars provided extremely helpful charts, such as a chart listing the characteristics of acids and esters found in wild beers. 

Although there is plenty of scientific explanation for the phenomena that occur during wild fermentation, Jeff's writing style makes it seem approachable enough that I felt like I had a greater understanding of the how behind the why. I'm not terribly scientifically minded (or common sense-ly minded, for that matter), so I appreciated the explanations. There was also enough humor infused into the book to make it light-hearted and not a dense, technical read. 

Overall, this is probably one of my favorite - if not favorite - books about beer and brewing I've read yet. Reading it is part of what inspired me to try brewing a 100% Brettanomyces beer. Even if you aren't interested in brewing wild beers, I'm betting you'll still find it entertaining. Plus it's less than $15 on Amazon, so even if you hate it, you won't hate me for making you waste a lot of money.

Next up: seeing if we can get a Book It program going for adults...