This blog doesn’t have a reviews section yet, but the title of this book demands a review. “Brew like a Monk”- the title is at once imperative, promissory, yearning, and sacred. It is the brewing equivalent of “Party like a Rock Star”, or perhaps indeed the more risqué “F**k like a Pornstar”. The awful little self-help ditty (attributed to Mark Twain unfortunately) that you find scrawled on cheap plaques, toilet walls and superstitious circular emails should perhaps be amended to read“Dance like no one is watching, sing like no one is listening, love like you’ve never been hurt, live like it’s heaven on earth, and brew like a monk.”
Anyway, as you’ve gathered, I love this book, and so should anyone who has been awed by the majesty of belgian beer- Stan Hieronymous (could the author have a better name?) gives us everything we could possibly want to know to emulate all these beers. For each of the trappist and abbey beers we get little tables telling us colour, alcohol content, original gravity and attenuation. Hieronymous tells us the history of each brewery, the yeast used, any strange methods (such as Orval’s addition during bottling time of a brettanomyces strain), or perhaps that Westvleteren are the last of the trappists to use open fermenters.
After the visit to each of the 6 belgian trappists (leaving out La Trappe, which is dutch) we visit the abbey beers that are influenced by the monastic tradition, with the likes of Witkap Pater by Slaghmuylder, st Bernardus and Trippel Karmeliet getting the same detailed treatment. There is a chapter on the American “Belgian” breweries such as Allagash and Ommegang. There are specific chapters on mashing techniques, yeast and fermentation, and bottling. This is particularly useful for us homebrewers, giving concrete examples of how the belgian breweries bottle condition, and how much yeast they reseed at bottling. I used this as a guide recently with a Kolsch I had lagered at cold temperatures so all the yeast had settled out. I added yeast with the carbonating sugar and after bottle conditioning I got a really good level of carbonations but with a very compact and small level of sediment. The final chapter offers a bunch of recipes representing different styles, I haven’t tried any of these yet but I took inspiration from their orval attempt when making my belgian stout.
Overall this book is one of my favourite brewing books, and is absolutely indispensable for anyone who wants to brew Belgian style beer.