Review: Mashmaker: A Citizen-Brewer's Guide To Making Great Beer

Comrades, if you need a good homebrew recipe and a laugh, then look no further than Michael Dawson’s book Mashmaker: A Citizen-Brewer's Guide To Making Great Beer. With over 20 years experience in the beer industry, Dawson’s comical approach to recipe building makes for a fun and educational read for homebrewers of all experience. Dawson has been the resident homebrewer columnist for The Growler magazine since 2012. 

Mashmakers starts with the basics, with an introduction to using malts, hops, yeast, and water. A brew day walkthrough follows, outlining the steps to brewing. These chapters work great for a recap for novice brewer and experienced brewers. If you’re new to homebrewing, or looking to dive deeper, Michael Palmers How To Brew, and the Brewers Association's Brewing Elements series - Yeast, Malt, Hops, and Water will dive deeper into these topics. 

Mashmaker features 62 recipes. All are arranged by style, from hop forward ales to mixed fermentation. Each recipe has a little comical introduction. Keep in mind, many of these these intros were taken from Dawson's columns from The Growler magazine. For his 1997 IPA recipe he writes from an old man’s perspective, complaining how the hipsters stole the idea of the microbrewery and changed it into something complicated and full of dank IBUs. He keeps the rant going through most of the recipe and brewing process. I’d love to tell you all the details, but then I’d be giving it away, and what’s the fun in that. Check out the original recipe from The Growler here.

The recipes in The Growler do have one advantage over the book. Each has an illustration (by David Dewitt or Jeff Nelson).  Only a few illustrations made it into Mashmaker. The Hopbursted Brett Session IPA takes the cake, with Brett Hull, Brett Farve, and Brett Michaels all bursting from a Hop cone. With another classic write up, this recipe is one to remember, even if you don’t like sours. Check it out here. Be sure to click to the second page to the links provided for the brewing instruction portion. 

All in all it’s apparent Dawson likes to have a little fun when making beer. At the end of the day, isn’t that what brewing should be. He keeps it simple and to the point, and gives readers something to laugh about. There is a lesson to be learned from that approach. Homebrewing can be an unpredictable hobby with a lot of ups and down. At times it can even be frustrating. At the end of the day, the best approach to learning and improving is not to take everything too seriously. All comedy aside, there are some solid recipes in Mashmaker. From a kettle sour berliner weisse to czech lagers, Dawson covers many styles, ensuring there is something for everyone. Need anymore convincing, just check out his author photo from Mashmaker below illustrated by David Witt. Legendary!