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Miracle Brew

by Pete Brown

On the face of it, a book about the four basic ingredients that are used to make beer may not sound the most exciting thing you will read all year.

Miracle BrewOkay, plenty of people get a buzz out of talking about hops – just pop into a specialist beer bar and watch those coming and going – but you don’t hear so much enthusiasm when it comes to malted barley, yeast or water.

Discussions of all these ingredients, by necessity, do crop up in most beer books. All beer writers have wrestled with the concept of how to introduce the subject without sounding too dry or technical, and many of us fail.

So it was with some ambivalence that I picked up Pete Brown’s Miracle Brew, a whole 436-page book filled with nothing else.

Actually, I’m being disingenuous here. Ambivalence would have been my reaction if the book had been written by any other writer. But, knowing Pete and the way in which he writes, I knew that this would not be some tedious tome that droned away like a scruffy science teacher in a 1970s comprehensive.

Pete, like Michael Jackson before him, knows how to bring a subject to life and the key to that is to weave stories around it.

He also knows that people are the essence of good stories and so sets out to meet them – the barley farmers, the hop growers and breeders, the water gurus, the yeast propagators and more – to find out what drives their passion.

From the way they talk, from the tales they have to tell, we get a far better understanding of these ingredients than from any technical textbook. Their passion for their areas of expertise is what gives the book energy.

Splendid Ride

Pete also understands the value of travel and not just in the sense that you have to get out and about to really find out the facts. Some people have called him the Bill Bryson of beer because he uses his research trips to the full, turning a fact-gathering mission into a lively, often hilarious travelogue.

All this ensures that Miracle Brew is a splendid ride through the hidden side of beer. There are scientific and technical details, of course – these have to be there to fully convey the message – but they are well explained in layman’s terms that even I understand and they are just slotted in here and there among the more colourful passages that chronicle Pete’s life on the road as he gets to the heart of the matter.

Having knocked around the brewing industry myself for thirty years, I’ve inevitably picked up a fair bit of knowledge about barley, hops, water and yeast, but there were still sections that delivered something new or made me consider things in a new light.

Most importantly, I also found the book extremely enjoyable, particularly the section on yeast – perhaps the most mysterious of beer’s building blocks – which could easily justify a book like this on its own.

First edition (2017)

436-page hardback (Unbound)


Available now from and other retailers

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