July 12, 2013

Book Review: True Brews by Emma Christensen

from Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House
Available from Amazon , (also on Kindle , Barnes and Noble, (also on Nook)

Another homemade soda book has recently hit the shelves.  True Brews from Emma Christensen, recipe editor at The Kitchn, focuses on teaching the basic how to for just about all things fermented.  Although only one of the eight chapters is about soda, it's a helpful starting place for anyone looking for fermented recipes.

True Brews ends up being a bit pricier than some of the other books I've reviewed, but it's solid hardcover book that will hold up as a reference for batch after batch.  One thing that sets True Brews apart from other homebrew books is that Christensen's goal is to make homebrew accessible to everyone, even those in small apartments.  As such, she outlines equipment that is required and what isn't.  Then she starts with a master recipe and the other recipes are detailed variations on the master.  Each chapter starts with a brief interview with an expert to give tips and inspiration to aspiring homebrewers.

With each chapter devoted to a different beverage, there's little space to devote to a lot of variation.  So on first glance it may seem like each page is nearly a copy and paste of the previous.  In total there are 8 different soda recipes, most of them fruit based, which makes it the most recipe-heavy chapter in the book even if it's not the largest by page count (soda recipes are very simple compared to the other beverages).  I had to remind myself that the recipes are meant as a template to get a beginner started, and not really for something fancy and advanced.

Though the recipes are simple, that by no means makes them any less tasty.  I only had the resources to try one so far, and since Christensen recommended the Watermelon Mint, that's where I started.  It ended up much better than one of my earlier blogged recipes, WatermeLemon.  Probably because it used more watermelon for a smaller recipe.  I had never thought of combining watermelon with mint, but they do complement each other quite well.  The recipe ferments quickly in warm weather.  Be careful not to ferment too far because with the sediment it gushes quite easily.

Overall, True Brews is a great introduction to homebrewing.  Other homebrew books are a bit more on the technical side, whereas it's obvious from the full color pictures in this book make it more artisan friendly.  So if a homebrew book has scared you off in the past, this may be your invitation back to the hobby.  With that in mind, however, the book is a little light on advanced troubleshooting tips, so prepare to go back for something more technical once you have a few batches under your belt.  It may not be a must have book for the homemade soda maker's library, but it's a welcome addition for anyone who wants to get well start in on fermenting recipes.

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