ABV, Craft Beer, Literary Arts

Recommended Reading: Pittsburgh Brewers Share their Favorite Books

We chatted with a handful of local brewers (and beer enthusiasts) to share what they’ve read and which books helped guide their careers in beer.

ABV is our weekly series that highlights a different beer from a local Pittsburgh brewery every week. Check out our past picks here.


Hey there friends. This week in beer, we’re talking books.

To kick things off, here are a couple of book questions:

  • How many books have you read so far this year?
  • Will social distancing change the number of books you complete in 2020?

We’ve been thinking a lot about books these last few weeks. Which brings us to today.

If you’re into beer – and into books – why not read what the (local) experts are reading? Here’s a look at some of our local breweries and what the folks behind them are reading in their downtime.

These reading recommendations span the literary expanse from nerdy and science-based best practices for brewing beer, to the cultural, comedic and everything in between.

Cheers to staying home and cracking open a (beer) book.

ABV, volume LXII

Andrew Witchey // Dancing Gnome Beer

Andrew Witchey is the founder (and brewer) at Dancing Gnome in Sharpsburg.

Required Reading: Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation, by Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff

Andrew says: I always enjoyed this book, and yeast plays such a huge role in all aspects of beer that it’s good for all levels. It’s definitely more on the educational side of things aimed at those who are interested in actually brewing. But it’s much more enjoyable than the other 3 in the series (hops, malt, and water).

Andrew Witchey in the brew house at Dancing Gnome Beer. Photo: Cory Morton

Dave Hallam // Abjuration Brewing

Dave Hallam is the brewer at Abjuration Brewing in McKees Rocks.

Required Reading: The New IPA, by Scott Janish

Dave says: Hands down, the most recent book that enthralled me.

Scott Janish is a home brewer and beer blogger. The New IPA is his first book that digs into IPAs.

Dave Hallam, on a recent brew day at Abjuration. Photo: Cory Morton

Matt Yurkovich // Allegheny City Brewing

Matt Yurkovich is the co-owner and brewer at Allegheny City Brewing in the Northside.

Required Reading: Joy of Homebrewing, by Charlie Papazian

Matt says: Joy of Homebrewing was the one we probably read and referred to the most. It really got us interested in experimenting with all-grain brewing back when we first started almost 15 years ago.

Another recommendation is McCarthy’s Bar by Pete McCarthy (about adventures in beer, in Ireland). I enjoyed the stories and the humor in the encounters of everyday people that made me laugh and want to own a bar.

Melissa Larrick // Hitchhiker Brewing

Melissa Larrick is the taproom manager at Hitchhiker Brewing in Sharpsburg. Hitchhiker also operates a taproom in Mount Lebanon. You can listen to our interview with Melissa in Ep. 10 of our podcast.

Required Reading: Lager, by Dave Carpenter

Link: Barnes & Noble

Melissa says: Because I am a purist at heart, and because this style goes so far back in the history of beer; Lager by Dave Carpenter is an amazing read for anyone who wants to dive into the history, the variations of lagers & pilsners and which type of glassware is best for enjoyment.

I really enjoy chapters 7 and 8 – they offer an in depth walkthrough of sensory evaluation. This book has helped guide me through blind taste testings, which will be useful when I go for my level 2 Cicerone exam.

Doug Foster // Aurochs Brewing

Doug Foster is the founder of Aurochs Brewing in Emsworth. He is medically required to follow a gluten-free diet and – alongside his team – brews beer that is entirely gluten-free. Learn more about Aurochs from our 2019 visit to their Emsworth digs.

Required Reading: Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink by Randy Mosher

Doug says: A few other recommendations include, Beer School: Bottling Success at the Brooklyn Brewery by Steve Hindy & Tom Potter and Brewing up a Business: Adventures in Entrepreneurship (from the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery) by Sam Calagione.

Additionally, Ryan Bove from the Aurochs team – who regularly reads beer books – chimed in with a couple more recommendations:

Doug Foster, outside Aurochs Brewing in Emsworth. Photo: Pat Hogan

Lauren Hughes // Penn Brewery

Lauren Hughes is the Assistant Head Brewer at Penn Brewery in the Northside. She is also an active member of Pink Boots Society (Pittsburgh Chapter) and a strong advocate for the advancement of women in the beer industry. We sat down to chat with Lauren on Ep. 6 of our podcast, which you can enjoy here.

Required Reading: Brewing Yeast and Fermentation, by Christopher Boulton and David Quain

Lauren says: I actually have a few favorites, categorized by homebrewing versus professional brewing. For homebrewing, I enjoyed How to Brew by John J. Palmer. For professional brewing – I would also recommend the Brewing Elements series by Brewers Publications and Technology of Brewing & Malting by Wolfgang Kunze.

Lauren Hughes explaining how Penn Brewery’s mill operates during the 2020 Pink Boots collaboration brew day. Photo: Nicole Adams

Day Bracey // Drinking Partners Podcast

Day Bracey is co-host of the Drinking Partners Podcast. He is also a co-founder of Fresh Fest, the nation’s first beer festival focused on showcasing people of color in the craft beer industry.

You can read about some of the one-off collaboration beers that were featured at the 2019 edition of Fresh Fest here. Fresh Fest 2020 will be in the Allentown neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Required Reading: Pints and Panels, web series

Day says: Although I haven’t read any brew-specific books, I’m a visual learner and lover of comics. I get a lot from Pints & Panels.

Dyana Sloan // Roundabout Brewery

Dyana Sloan (and her husband Steve Sloan) are co-owners of Roundabout Brewery in Lawrenceville. Dyana is a native of New Zealand.

Required Reading: Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion

Link: Amazon

Dyana says: So, I have a bunch of beer books. However, my favorite is actually one of Steve’s. It’s traveled from Florida, to Fresno, CA to Saint Louis, MO to New Zealand, to Harrisburg, PA to Pittsburgh to Eureka, CA to Paso Robles, CA and back to Pittsburgh. It’s a well-traveled book. I’d describe it as old school. Just great recipes for pairing and cooking. Nothing fancy, just straight forward deliciousness.

Dyana Sloan and her copy of ‘Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion’ – which she says is straight-forward and contains great recipes for pairing & cooking.

Sean Biby // Grist House

Sean Biby is the head brewer at Grist House in Millvale.

Required Reading: Similar to Andrew from Dancing Gnome (above), Sean’s pick is Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation, by Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff

Sean says: The book I would recommend is “Yeast: a practical guide to fermentation”. It was my main resource to develop technically sound fermentation practices and a good quality control program in a brewery. It’s also part of the brewing elements series, which includes malt, water and hops.

Sean Biby examines a sample during the Grist House collaboration brew day for Fresh Fest 2019. Photo: Brian Conway