Category Archives: Books

Brewing Up a Business: Adventures in Entrepreneurship from the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

As I have said several times we recently moved from Texas back to the east coast. When we got to Texas, a year ago, I started reading Brewing Up a Business by Sam Calagione, the owner of Dogfish Head. About two weeks after I got into the book I lost it. I thought I lost it at work and the lost and found was empty so I counted the book in the MIA column. When we were moving I pulled out the dresser, and my book showed up. Awesome.

I just finished the book up this week and I thought I would share my review with you. First off, let me say that I really liked the book. The book tells the tale of how Sam started his brewery from brewpub, to the wonderful “power house” that it is now. I am interested in starting my own brewpub, so I found several parts of the book particularly interesting.

Another thing to know about this book, it isn’t really about beer. I love Dogfish Head as much as the next guy, but this book is more business oriented, which the title should tell you. Sam tells you about this business, why he did things the way he did, problems that they encountered, about the personality of the company, about about being an effective leader.

My favorite two parts of this entire book were when Sam talked about the creation of the moto for Dogfish Head and the leadership aspect of owning a business. Dogfish Head does what it does because they have a focused mission; Off-centered beers for off-centered people. They know that they are not hitting all of the market, and that is OK. Sam takes responsibility for mistakes that were made and offers solutions for business owners so that they do not do the same.

There are parts of the book that gets repetitive, but they are in there for a reason. Sam is showing how important that aspect is to his business. The most important thing to take away from this book is that Sam believes in his idea. As an entrepreneur you need to be willing to take risks and believe in what you are doing 100%. Sam shows that he did and still does in this book. It is an interesting read if you are thinking about starting you own company or want to see how a unique craft brewing came to being.

The Homebrewers’ Recipe Guide

10-23-01When I first started doing 5 gallon batches of homebrew I picked up two books. The first was the Joy of Homebrewing and the second was  The Homebrewers’ Recipe Guide. I figured that the JoH was a great teaching book but didn’t have a lot of recipes, and  I wasn’t totally ready to start formulating my own, so a recipe book was the next best thing.

The Homebrewer’s Recipe Guide was the book I went with after looking though several in the homebrew shop. There were other books out there with 300+ recipes and others that catered to making clones, but this book had a good mix of original recipes and some clone ones. The other thing I really liked was that it offered holiday and seasonal beer recipes.

It comes with “more than 175 original beer recipes” and a lot of helpful hints to help you out along the way. The other thing that I really liked is that the beers are broken up by style. You can easily choose a style that you want, and then go for a specific recipe in that style. Most styles have three or more different recipes to choose from. The book is broken up as follows:

  • Bitters, Pale Ales, and Other Regional Ales
  • Brown Ales, Porters, and Stouts
  • Lagers
  • Bocks, Doppelbocks, Barleywines, and Strong Ales
  • Fruit, Herb, and Smoked Beers,
  • Holiday and Seasonal Beers
  • Brewery Copycats
  • Meads, Lambics, and Ciders
  • Food and Beer, Beer and Food

Clearly there are a ton of options and it even ventures into meads, ciders, and food recipes. All of the beer recipes are extract based but if you are an all grain brewer you could easily convert everything over to make it work for your needs as well. I have probably outgrown the book for recipe purposes right now, but I do refer back to it for the Brewer’s Tips and for some guidance on recipe formulation.

A lot of homebrewers put down recipe books because they don’t think the books really deliver on what they say. They might be right, but this book gave me a lot of guidance and helped me along my brewing experience. The recipes I used from the book always turned out pretty good. I think the biggest thing I learned was how to develop my own recipes. You can see how a beer is put together from a recipe book, and what flavors you should be looking to develop in a particular style of beer. That is where this book was the most help to me. I still pull it out from time to time to help me out. Charlie Papazian does the foreword for the book if that is any indication of the quality of it.

Beer Tasting Notes

Last week I put up a link on the sidebar to the book that I was talking about a month or so ago. I finally got everything setup and running for it. The book is called Beer Tasting Notes and it is more a workbook than anything else. Inside there is space for 75 different beer sample notes. It covers everything from the type of beer to the servicing size and temperature. There is ample room for all of you copious notes.

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I’ve been using the proof copies for awhile now when reviewing beer and it has made my life easier. Everything is in one spot and there is even a Table of Contents that you can fill out so that you beers are easy to find. Without really doing a post about it several books have already sold. So thank you to those of you who did. I have plan for a few other books coming down the line at some point, but that is well down the road. If you have some extra cash and want to better organize you beer notes, this is the book for you. It is only $10 and should really help organize your beer drinking life. Follow this link to Amazon and you can see some other preview shots as well.

Beer School: Bottling Success at the Brooklyn Brewery

This is the first book review we have had on this site. There are sure to be many to follow as I have done a lot of reading on the subject of beer, but this was my most recent accomplishment, so let me share a little bit. First off, this isn’t a new book, it has been out for a few years. I actually found it in my local Borders back in PA. I was a bit surprised becasue beer books at Borders tend be be geared to beginning homebrew or one of those Idiot’s Guide things. They generally seem to have more cocktail and wine books than anything.

The manger of the store is actually a beer nut, and she wanted to see how the book would sell since she loved it so much. During checkout she talked to me for awhile about beer and what I drank and asked if I homebrewed. She also asked for any other beer book suggestions and I shared a few that I thought would be good. Brewing Up a Business (still haven’t read it) seemed like the one that would be most like Beer School (didn’t read it at the time), but I digress.

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Beer School is written by founders of the Brooklyn Brewery, Steve Hindy and Tom Potter. Both were English majors in college and came together to found a very successful brewery. The book hits on a lot of levels, if you are into brewing, starting a brewery, or business in general you should enjoy this book. They take you through their trails and success and are quick to point out where they were just plain lucky. I find that a lot of entrepreneur type books do not give enough credit to people who have helped them or where they have gotten lucky, Tom and Steve acknowledge both.

The beginning of the book covers their pasts and their foundation for starting the company. They then move into the founding of the business and the ground rules they went in under. They highlight the areas where they felt that special attention needed to be paid, like their logo. They also go into their distribution problems and cash flow. I’m not going to tell everything that happened because I want you to read it for yourself. The book is just downright readable. I wasn’t able to put the book down.

Not too many business books go into problems faced by a stolen forklift battery charger, or getting robbed at gunpoint, or dealing with the mob (yeah the mob!). I would of loved to have worked for these guys at the time. They required their sales people to read Micheal Jackson books and held tasting sessions. Perhaps the part I most enjoyed is that they wanted to give back to their community and let their employees shine. They tell a good story and you will not be disappointed by the read. You can get the book on Amazon for about 12 bucks new. Don’t worry I don’t make a dime on the sales (nor do I on any product I mention on this blog) I just really enjoyed the book and think it is a worthy read for anyone.