For today’s Session, Joan Villar-i-Martí -of Blog Birraire– has asked us to reflect on the role of beer books in our lives.

Probably like many homebrewers of a couple of decades ago, I got my introduction to homebrewing not via a club or another brewer, but through a book.

Back in those days -late 1992-, being in Santa Cruz, California -home to a vibrant alternative and DIY culture- it occurred to me that it might be feasible for me to make beer at home. Other people had done it, and had been doing it for ages –I had never met anyone who had, but I knew such people existed– so, just maybe, I could try my hand at it as well…?

The problem, of course, was how to gain the knowledge of how to do it.

In those pre-WWW days, when most mail-order was just that, mail order, from printed catalogs, finding sources was not as intuitive or simple as today.   So, I turned to the University of California’s computerized library catalog system to see if there even were any books on the subject.  Among the results returned was one with a friendly-looking title: The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing.

I placed my interlibrary loan request and waited the several weeks it took for the book to arrive, and when it did, boy was I in for a treat! It was exactly what I needed –clear, simple, instructions; explanations and descriptions; photos; recipes; and best of all, the injunction to “relax, don’t worry”.

Faced with having to return the treasure within the week, I photocopied as much of it as I could afford at the moment (I’ve since made up for that by buying a brand-new copy!)

For the next year I tore through those pages, reading and re-reading them. Pondering recipes with names like “Toad Spit Stout” and “Elbro Nerkte”, and trying to imagine the flavor all those beer styles I’d never heard of, and for which there as yet were no local sources that I knew of.

When I finally started brewing in October of 1993, my well-thumbed photocopy of the Joy was right there beside me, telling me what to do next, and specially, to relax and not worry.