Foreword Reviews, Starred Review—
"Civilization befell humanity in spurts of luck and cleverness: managing fire, sharing food, affection communicated in the gift of a flower, speech, discovering that a bunch of ripe grapes left in the hollow of a boulder or grain soaked in water would convert into intoxicating alcohol, written language, and so on. If you flinched at seeing wine and beer make the list, ask yourself what trigger might have led to free-ranging fireside chats, feasting, artistic expression, romance, and other aspects of a thriving civilization, and inebriation jumps to the fore. Moreover, scholars have great reason to believe that Neolithic humans cultivated grains for beer before bread, based on archaeological finds in the Eastern Mediterranean, Mexico, and other places. So we’ve been drinking beer for 10,000 years or so, but did you realize that, in spite of its lowbrow reputation, beer is one of the most complex and difficult to make beverages of all? Pete Brown’s Miracle Brew: Hops, Barley, Water, Yeast and the Nature of Beer makes the case that beer is also beautiful, fascinating, and worthy of your full attention—even if you’re a wine drinker. Brown profiles each of beer’s ingredients and explains the precise, not-completely-understood role they play in brewing. An extraordinary storyteller, historian, and drinking companion, he may play a crucial role in establishing beer as the world’s greatest beverage."
“In a spirited, engaging romp through the confines of the Reinheitsgebot, the German Beer Purity Law of 1516, Pete Brown pulls apart and examines the four essential ingredients of late-medieval Bavarian lager beer: barley, water, hops, and yeast, which was first observed in the seventeenth century. Earlier European medieval ales, flavored with gruit herbs such as bog myrtle, yarrow, and meadowsweet, stepped aside to make way for the hop invasion. To the delight of modern craft brewers, Pete then deftly puts these seemingly simple constituents back together again to produce a thirst-quenching finished product.”—Patrick E. McGovern, author of Ancient Brews and Uncorking the Past
“Pete Brown is my favorite kind of person—an intellectual hedonist. In this exceptionally engaging and informative book, he lays bare his gleeful pursuit of knowledge into what makes us humans vigorously pursue our passions for the good things in life. I’ve read a lot of beer books; this one tops them all for the sheer thoroughness in which the art, history, science, and plain old enjoyment of this most complex of beverages is explored.”—Jereme Zimmerman, author of Make Mead Like a Viking
“Entertaining, engaging, and simply fun, Miracle Brew offers a kaleidoscopic portrait of beer through the prisms of hops, barley, water, and yeast. Pete Brown takes us on an experiential romp through the world of beer, full of topsy-turvy adventures. Put down your scientific journals and remind yourself what beer is really all about.”—Charlie Papazian, author of The Complete Joy of Homebrewing; founder, Great American Beer Festival
“Pete has an enthusiasm for his subject matter that is both hugely entertaining and highly infectious, particularly when—true story!—he climbs behind the wheel of a combine to harvest a field of malting barley! You may think that you ‘get’ beer, all its ingredients and processes, but by the end of Miracle Brew he will have you marveling at how little you fully understood.”—Stephen Beaumont, coauthor with Tim Webb of Best Beers and The World Atlas of Beer
“When Pete Brown describes something, you feel you’ve explored it yourself. Whether it is an investigation of Maris Otter barley or a visit to Carnivale Brettanomyces, he conveys the feel, the facts, and the findings in a way that’s concise yet satisfyingly complete. Miracle Brew enlivens the exploration of beer’s foundational ingredients with colorful details drawn from diverse experiences. Brown’s take will certainly nurture fascination among those new to the territory, but veteran beer fans will also find plenty of new information and insights. For both, Brown’s thoughtful writing makes any dip into this work rewarding.”—Ray Daniels, founder and director, Cicerone Certification Program
“We all know the story of how beer is made and what it tastes like once it’s finished, but Pete Brown takes you back a step in that journey, and describes how each of the four main ingredients—water, barley, hops, and yeast—were grown, harvested, and prepared to arrive at the brewery, ready to be used to brew the miracle in your glass.”—Jay R. Brooks, syndicated beer writer and columnist