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Designing Great Beers: The Ultimate Guide to Brewing Classic Beer Styles

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  1,375 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Formulas, ingredients, historical and modern day brewing practices are all covered in this book. Drawing on information from old brewing records, books, contemporary beer analysis, and hundreds of recipes, the author provides a wealth of data on the current and historical brewing techniques and ingredients for 14 popular ale and lager styles. It also includes brewing calcu ...more
Paperback, 404 pages
Published January 26th 1998 by Brewers Publications
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 ·  1,375 ratings  ·  63 reviews

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James Foster
Mar 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels is a (very) through guide to the components of beer, current and historical styles of beer, and in-depth investigations of how those styles are made both commercially and at home. If you want to create beers in a few particular styles, this is the reference you need.

However, this is not a “how to”. There is excellent information on how to figure out how much malt you need, or how much yeast, or how to “fix” your water. But the instructions use beer-making ja
Ramon van Dam
Feb 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
Probably a must-read for all homebrewers. I've read lots of similar books and they often become quite dry by simply giving you lots of data and lists, but Ray Daniels has cleverly split this up into two big sections which are both very interesting. Not only did I make a lot of notes about many styles that I'm sure will help me when I design such recipes in the future, I also learned a lot and simply enjoyed reading this. ...more
Sep 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a fine book for beginning to intermediate brewers who want a reference for the characteristics of traditional styles. Part I covers ingredients and Part II tours the styles, including history, characteristics, suggested ingredients, and some words on technique. There are no recipes: this is for those who wish to formulate their own with some guidance. What is covered, is covered very well; the limitations come in the form of some odd omissions. Part I provides 120 pages of background on ...more
Feb 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: brewing
Every since I first read this book I have referred to it as "The Bible" - so has every other brewer I have ever worked with. Not at all a book of recipes, this advanced brewing tome is more of a reference. My only complaint is the binding. I'm pretty sure I am on my 5th copy because the binding falls apart and the pages scatter. Perhaps that's because it gets used most of the time in a humid environment. Invaluable for recipe development, this book has it all - most every recipe formulae and tab ...more
Jon Lefor
May 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
For somebody who wants to really understand brewing science and how to brew classic styles this is an excellent read. It may be easier for me to read since I'm an engineer but I found every page of this book useful. The section on styles is also very great as it gives you a history of the style and then as an added bonus it gives you, albeit from 1994 or 1995, the general makeup of NHC second round beers for those styles which can help you to come up with your own version of classic styles of be ...more
Bill West
Apr 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This brewing book keeps paying dividends. If you concoct your own recipes, it's an indispensable reference. ...more
Geoff Young
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a well-researched, thorough discussion of various beer styles, including histories and cultural context, as well as ingredient considerations based on traditional and contemporary recipes, with a bias toward tried and true vs. hip and trendy. The book was published 20 years ago, so there is no mention of recent crazes such as hazy IPA.

There is also, inexplicably, no mention of Belgian styles. This and the poor presentation of tabular material are my only complaints. Still, there is much
Jun 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, hobby, school
It was great. Lots of thorough discussion of the history behind the styles and the ranges of each one. I have great plans for using this book later on, including a possibly historically inspired wheat.
The only problem is: some styles are mentioned in the discussion of a different one, and then never brought up again. For example, lambics are used as a comparison of Berliner Weisse, but they don't have a discussion for them. It's also 20 years old, so some of the modern styles are missing as they
Oct 15, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm marking this as read after-the-fact, calling it last year. Then weeding it.

This is a pretty good book but it is extremely dated regarding techniques and is especially limited in recipe formulation as the availability of grains and other ingredients is far larger today.
John Hubbard
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Read this continually for several years and tried many recipes and techniques.
Caspar Bøtchiær
May 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, nonfiction, brewing
This is a textbook. Kinda old, but great for reference when making recipes.
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Must have.
Steven K Andrews
A great starting point for recipe generation.
May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: beer-brewing
This is a book of two (combined) halves. There is a very good description of what each ingredient does for a beer and how to combine these ingredients in order to target different types of beer. For each style there are statistics on the ingredients used by commercial brewers so you can get an idea of the normal range of ingredient use for each style. All of these aspects are excellent and worth the purchase price of the book alone.

However, as well as the ingredient statistics for commercial bre
Wes Devauld
Feb 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Homebrewers
Shelves: brewing
This book is an excellent overview of the different styles of beer and what it takes to make them.

The book is separated into two halves, with the first being an overview of brewing ingredients and how changing different parts of the process will change the flavour of your beer. This is not an introduction to the process of brewing, for that read Palmer's book ( The detail of the first section is amazing, and is delivered using an easy to consume style.

Apr 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Ray Daniels presents an analysis of the first and second place winning National Homebrew Contest recipes in over a dozen major beer styles. I use this book as a core reference when designing new beers; it allowed me to make the leap from brewing from other people's recipes to creating my own recipes in order to present my own interpretation of a particular beer style. I now brew almost exclusively from my own recipes, thanks in a large part to this book, and get a larger sense of satisfaction fr ...more
Dan Ryan
Dec 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Probably the best homebrewing book I've ever read - this book does a great job of discussing ingredients and techniques for producing great beers. It also describes many of the major styles attempted by homebrewers, with valuable information on how to make them.

My only criticism of the book is that, in his analytical, scientific way, he presents the factual information on how the style recipes rather than great recipes. He reports what percentage of award-winning recipes use which kinds of malt
Ethan Yankura
Aug 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is a master class in beer styles and technique. The non-brewer will benefit from a definitive guide to some of the most classic profiles in zymurgy. The brewer will finally understand the building blocks of making beer. It can get overwhelming at times, reading like a chemistry textbook, but the science it reveals will make you a better brewer (and better equip you to understand what you are drinking). It does not contain recipes, rather formulas that will let you better understand the ...more
Al Culbertson
May 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a fantastic book for home brewers who want to take it to the next level. The usual timeline is first brewers buy kits that have its own recipe and provide you with the ingredients in a compact convenient box. Next home brewers find recipient and buy the ingredients themselves. The last step I when brewers start making their own recipe. Designing Great Beers show how a brewer can reach that last step.

The only issue I had is when he compared recipes from finalist at home brew competition,
Aug 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a good book to read for both brewers and non-brewers. For the brewers, it is a good overview of all the styles of beer and gives the reader an insight on what characteristics you need to achieve in your beer to label it a particular style. For the non-brewers, it is a good guide to what you should expect from a beer claiming to be of a particular style. After reading, you should be able to go to one of those bars that has 100 odd beers on the menu identify beers that you are likely to en ...more
Mar 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
If you are into brewing beer, this book is for you. However, it's probably best to read some other introductory text first. It can be a rough read at times, full of charts, figures, numbers, and statistics. The first part of the book covers understanding, calculating, and controlling beer gravity, color, hop usage, malt selection, etc. The second part is dedicated to a range of beer styles, their history and development, and formulations based on commercial and NHC examples. I enjoyed reading th ...more
Dec 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Some good info on ingredients in the first part of the book. Nothing revolutionary, but nice to have the information consolidated into one place. Some of the charts and tables (e.g. Breakdown of oil content in different hops) were quite useful and seem to be original.

The second part of the book has historical information as well as common brewing practices for various BJCP styles. The information was generally good, and my only complaint is that some major styles (e.g. Saison) were completely ab
Nov 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I've finally read most of this book. You can't read it cover to cover, though there are portions that are good to read that way. It's definitely a reference book, and it's definitely not for new brewers. It took me a long time to come to appreciate what it offers-- a detailed analysis of modern and historical takes on all the major styles of beer, and a discussion of the roles of various ingredients in accomplishing various representations of those styles. ...more
Jonathan Pistorino
Apr 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Definitely not a beginners book. This book discusses most common styles of beer and helps break down their flavor/aroma profiles so that you can recreate the style with various ingredients.

I really appreciate their statistics of what ingredients were used and which combination of ingredients tend to win competitions.

(Ex. Surprisingly, California Lager yeast does not always produce the best steam style beers.)
Bobby Chastain
Jun 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: brewing
Amazing source of information on the science and craft of brewing. If you want an intimate knowledge of how every element of your beer, from grain varieties to hop varieties and adjuncts effects the end product, this book will give you the most in-depth knowledge that I can find on the subject. Even more than ingredient description/analysis you will find equations for calculating brewhouse efficiency, water quantity needed, IBUs, and so on. Very informative "text book" on brewing. ...more
Jan 07, 2011 rated it liked it
This book provides an interesting mix of analysis of ingredients and methods, history of various styles, and breakdowns of commercial and competitive homebrew beers. It is a good reference for use when creating your own recipes, with various notes for designing beers for sale, competition, or general exploration. The focus is on English and German styles. There is little mention of Belgian beers, but then most Belgian styles are not as neatly defined as those of England and Germany.
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book has given me the confidence to start crafting my own recipes with something more than wild guesswork. I really don't have a reason to give this 4 rather than 5 stars except for the fact that my enjoyment of it is of a practical rather than a literary nature (not that it is not well written). I highly recommend it for any homebrewer who is ready to look into the "why" and "how" of various beer styles. ...more
Jun 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: brewers
The definitive text for recipe design. It is used by both homebrewers and commercial brewers to design the recipes that everyone loves. It gives an historic and technical examination of most beer styles. A must own for the brewer.

note: For an examination of Belgian-inspired beers, check out Brew Like a Monk, Farmhouse Ales and Wild Brews.
Jan 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: brewing
Here the author profiles some common beer styles, and what winning entries have used for ingredients and methods. This is great for learning how to formulate your own recipes.

However, I'm brewing a lot of Belgian and less-common German beers these days, so I find myself referencing this book less and less; there are no profiles for Belgian beers and very little German beers.
Jun 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is super helpful reference for beginning and veteran brewers. Daniels breaks down a ton of style by historical evolution then dissects a bunch of AHA second round finalists in each style to let you know how these beers are most commonly "built" today. It really helped me take my brewing to the next level. ...more
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