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On the Shoulders of Giants

House cleaning is the worst, unless you turn up something long forgotten and unexpected. That happened to me this past weekend.


Homebrewing has been my passionate hobby for the last 30 years. Along the way, I read and collected plenty of books that taught me all the right things to help guarantee beer making success. Great ingredients. The right equipment. Attention to detail. And cleanliness, cleanliness, cleanliness.

But no brewing book captures my attention like this one. This copy of "Lehrbuch der Brauerei" was published in 1950. Written by the highly esteemed Jean De Clerck, my version is translated into German from its original language. No matter. As a student of the German language, reading from this textbook is like diving into a liter of Bavarian Helles and going for the most glorious swim of my life. There is simply something about learning about beer brewing in a foreign language. It transforms my beloved hobby into something deeper and more meaningful.


De Clerck opens with comments about the difference between brewing theory, which is built upon scientific principles, and brewing practice. which relies more upon empirical evidence. A good brewer, he says, must be able to differentiate between these two schools of thought, and know when to employ either or both.


As a homebrewer, I have always favored empirical evidence. Why not? Critiquing a batch of homebrew is both fun, easy, and part of the "Complete Joy of Homebrewing", as Charlie Papazian might remind us. Even so, I feel inspired by De Clerck's greatness and the rediscovery of this book. My desire to improve my German and my commitment to better beer means the time has come to embrace the theory. Wish me luck!

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