Book Review: The Perfect Keg

I am excited to bring you what I hope will become an occasional feature of this blog: a product review.  Specifically, a review of the book The Perfect Keg: Sowing, Scything, Malting, and Brewing My Way to the Best-Ever Pint of Beer, by Ian Coutts.

I was sent this book and asked to provide an honest review*.  So I read the book cover to cover, dutifully jotting down a few notes about what each chapter was about.  It took a few chapters for my brain to re-orient itself from the more scientifically-minded books to which my engineering brain has become accustomed.

The Perfect Keg

Cover artwork by Ingrid Paulson Design

This book was something different, a story, as if told over a pint on your back porch.  Mr. Coutts (may I call you Ian?) brings the reader along on the telling of his journey to become a better brewer by performing each step in the process of brewing a beer.  And I don’t mean going all grain; I’m talking growing barley from a seed sack, hops from rhizomes, water from his well, and yeast cultured up from the wilds of Ontario.  The perfect pint becomes his white whale (Call me Ishmael Ian).

The book follows through the entire processstarting with “what sort of recipe would have been brewed back in the day?” to “what sort of barley makes beer anyways (and did you know there are so many kinds of barley?!)?”towards the perfect pint.  He makes various stops along the way at small commercial and historic breweries, and places more than a few phone calls to various agricultural ministries and experts.

Ian tells the story with plenty of self-deprecating humor and honesty.  The whole truth.  I mean some real face-palm moments.  But I think that is the real value of this book.  At the very least, it will give you some appreciation for all that goes into making our favorite beverage.  And if you decide to follow in Ian’s footsteps, many of the mistakes will have been made for you, so you’ll have a better idea of into what you’re getting yourself.  I don’t think Ian would mind me saying that he did not.

The book itself is written so that a beginner can understand.  Indeed, its a tale of a beginner learning all the things a beginner needs to learn, and then going above, beyond, and a little sideways (if you’re really twisting my arm to continue the painfully belabored Moby Dick reference, he “set sail for beyond the horizon” or something…).  If you consider yourself to be a more advanced brewer, you might think a few sections move a bit slowly with their explanations.

That said, I did find in particular the sections on wild yeast harvesting and home malting to be particularly illuminating.  Don’t expect to be able to apply for a job at White Labs or Briess afterwards, but it does provide a “common-man” no-nonsense, no-special-equipment-required approach.  You know, assuming your significant other has a hair drier they don’t mind donating to the cause.

Don’t expect this book to replace How to Brew and other classic brewing texts for fundamental brewing knowledge.  But, its a very approachable book, and I think would be interesting to a wide audience as some light reading (weighing in at just 10.3 oz/ 293 g), even if you aren’t necessarily interested in growing your own barley.  In fact, I believe it would even appeal to a non-brewer beer-lover looking to gain some insight on beer.

So was the Perfect Pint indeed the best ever pint of beer?  Pick up a copy [Amazon link] today and find out!  You can also stop by Ian’s Perfect Keg Blog, too.

* Before being asked to review this book, I had not given any thought to what my review policy would be.  Because, lets face it, I’m a schmuck with a blog, not a literary critic.  I decided on this:
I will provide my honest opinion of whatever book or product I am asked to review.  But, I didn’t start this blog to be negative.  So, if my review of a product or book is not positive, I will simply not post about it at all.  Its the age olde wisdom of Mom: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  No negativity, and no dishonesty.  Basically, its the opposite of hard-hitting journalism.  Sorry Pulitzer.

If you would like me to review your product, drop me a line on my contact page and I’ll let you know where to send it.  I accept no payment for reviews.

– Dennis,
Life, Fermented

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About Dennis
Home brewer, home chef, garage tinkerer. Author of Life Fermented blog.

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