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Beer Research Guide: Recipes/Ingredients


Beer might be simple to make, it's just fermented grain after all, but making good beer is a bit more difficult.

According to the Brewing article on Wikipedia, brewing is 

"the production of beer by steeping a starch source (commonly cereal grains, the most popular of which is barley) in water and fermenting the resulting sweet liquid with yeast. It may be done in a brewery by a commercial brewer, at home by a homebrewer, or by a variety of traditional methods such as communally by the indigenous peoples in Brazil when making cauim ...

The basic ingredients of beer are water and a fermentable starch source such as malted barley. Most beer is fermented with a brewer's yeast and flavoured with hops. Less widely used starch sources include millet, sorghum and cassava. Secondary sources (adjuncts), such as maize (corn), rice, or sugar, may also be used, sometimes to reduce cost, or to add a feature, such as adding wheat to aid in retaining the foamy head of the beer. The most common starch source is ground cereal or "grist" - the proportion of the starch or cereal ingredients in a beer recipe may be called grist, grain bill, or simply mash ingredients.

Steps in the brewing process include malting, milling, mashing, lautering, boiling, fermenting, conditioning, filtering, and packaging. There are three main fermentation methods, warm, cool and spontaneous. Fermentation may take place in an open or closed fermenting vessel; a secondary fermentation may also occur in the cask or bottle."


The accessibility and availability of historic recipes varies. As the U.S. industry consolidated in the 1950s through 1980s, many records were lost, destroyed, or transferred to corporate archives. Advertisements in local papers often include descriptions of styles or characteristics of the beer, which can be helpful in thinking about what that beer was like. 

There is an abundance of books and websites with historic recipe recreations for commercial and home brewers. Here are a couple of posts by Boak and Bailey about styles. 

But you can get lost in internet searching and reviewing discussion boards, so here's a list of some well-known books to get you started. 

  • Alexander, John. 1986. Brewing lager. London: Argus Books.
  • Buhner, Stephen Harrod. Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers : The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation. Boulder, Colo.: Siris Books, 1998.
  • Hieronymus, Stan. 2005. Brew like a monk: Trappist, abbey, and strong Belgian ales and how to brew them. Boulder, Colo: Brewers Publications.
  • Krennmair, Andreas. 2018. Historic German And Austrian Beers For The Home Brewer. 1st ed. Independently published.
  • McGovern, Patrick E. 2018. Ancient brews: rediscovered and re-created. New York: W. W. Norton.
  • Mosher, Randy, and Michael Jackson. 2004. Radical Brewing: recipes, tales, and world altering meditations in a glass.
  • Noonan, Gregory J. 2003. New brewing lager beer: the most comprehensive book for home- and microbrewers. Boulder, Colo: Brewers Publications.
  • Turczyn, Amahl. 1997. A year of beer: 260 seasonal homebrew recipes. Boulder, Colo: Brewers Publications.
  • Wahl, Robert. American Handy-book of the Brewing, Malting and Auxiliary Trades. 1902.
  • Find all the Style books published by Brewers Publications. 

There are also projects to recreate recipes in academic or cultural heritage settings. 


undefinedMichael Stein and Peter Jones run Lost Lagers, a historic beer recipe research firm in Washington, D.C. Stein and Jones talked to Tiah Edmunson-Morton on April 17, 2020 about the importance of critical thinking and questioning dominant narratives, their "go to" sources, how digitization and online sources has impacted their research, how they think about historic recipes and their ingredients, and how important personal connections or experience can be for research projects.  


undefinedKen Dudley is the owner of owner and brewer at Laxton Hollow Brewing Works in Lexington, Ohio. Dudley talked to Tiah Edmunson-Morton on Zoom on April 28, 2020 about why he opened a cask ale brewery; the dearth of information on early American English brewing records; strategies for learning about traditional styles, recipes, and ingredients; managing expectations for customers and historic styles; the relevance of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) in England; and the importance of people as research resources. 


"Home management manuals" are wonderful sources for recipes. 


The Special Collections and Archives Research Center has rare and otherwise unique books on water in its collections. 

Books in the "Brewing Elements Series" by Brewers Publications

Oregon Brewshed Alliance: Great beer begins with clean water. 

"Here in Oregon we enjoy recreation on pristine wildlands and impeccable craft brews – sometimes both simultaneously. But without protected watersheds and clean water, neither the wild landscapes nor the hoppy, malty beverages we enjoy could thrive.

Beer is over 90% water after all, and that water is a product of the land it flows through, so our Northwest microbrews are intimately connected with our Northwest land. Great beer doesn’t start at the tap…"

Learn more about the Brewshed Alliance. 


Yeast may be small, but its impact is large and its history is important. 

The yeast species Saccharomyces cerevisiae converts carbohydrates to carbon dioxide and alcohols in a process known as fermentation. The products of this reaction have been used in baking and the production of alcoholic beverages for thousands of years.

Learn more about yeast in the Wikipedia article about its history and uses. The SGD Community Wiki is a wiki of another sort, but dedicated just to the yeast genome. Their reference library has Historical Sequence Information, Gene Summary Paragraphs, Yeast Images, and Yeast Movies!

The Special Collections and Archives Research Center has rare and otherwise unique books on yeast in its collections. 

Books in the "Brewing Elements Series" by Brewers Publications

Search for articles on your own through 1Search. 

Here are some examples of the range of articles you'll find through the library or Google Scholar. 

  • B. Gibson, J.-M. A. Geertman, C. T. Hittinger, K. Krogerus, D. Libkind, E. J. Louis, F. Magalhães, J. P. Sampaio. "New yeasts—new brews: modern approaches to brewing yeast design and development,FEMS Yeast Research, Volume 17, Issue 4, June 2017, fox038.
  • Arthur R Gorter de Vries, Jack T Pronk, Jean-Marc G Daran, "Lager-brewing yeasts in the era of modern genetics," FEMS Yeast Research, Volume 19, Issue 7, November 2019, foz063.
  • Bird, RC , Department of Pathobiology, AURIC-Auburn, USA, and Smith, BF. "The Impact of Yeast Genomics on Brewing." Nutrition & Food Sciences, no. 1 (2015): 1-6. 
  • Stewart, G. G., and I. Russell. "ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF YEAST RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT IN THE BREWING INDUSTRY." Journal of the Institute of Brewing 92, no. 6 (1986): 537-58.


Although different styles of beer certainly predate the late 20th century, the term “beer style” and the organizing of beers into defined categories is largely based on work done by writer Michael James Jackson in his 1977 book The World Guide To Beer. Fred Eckhardt furthered Jackson's work, publishing The Essentials of Beer Style in 1989. 

Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter website is archived online and his collection of personal papers are held in the Special Collections at Oxford Brookes University. 

Fred Eckhardt's personal papers are housed in the Special Collections and Archives Research Center at OSU. They cover a broad range of topics related to beer brewing, sake and wine making. Included are historical and contemporary brewing practices; research files and personal notes about Northwest, regional, national, and international breweries; and photographs of brewing operations, brewers, and industry events. Eckhardt’s collection also includes his own publications, as well as files of his original research, correspondence, artwork and photographs, drafts, issue design templates, and final versions of his published work. 


Stan Hieronymus is the author of Brewing Local (2016), For the Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops (2012), Brewing with Wheat (2010) and Brew like a Monk (2005). Hieronymus talked to Tiah Edmunson-Morton on April 3, 2020 via Zoom about how he does his research. Hieronymus is a professional journalist and amateur brewer. In this interview, Hieronymus talks about how topic selection; learning about historical context; conducting research on styles, ingredients, and people; making sense of contradictory evidence in sources; keeping track of research; and visiting the Michael Jackson archive in Oxford, England. 


Scientists began experimenting with planting hops on our campus grounds in Corvallis in 1893, but 78 years later it was OSU’s Dr. Alfred Haunold who made an indelible mark on the industry with the Cascade and other popular modern American hop varieties.

I have written a lot about hops history on the Brewstorian blog

The Hop Growers of America is a trade association focused on grower support through technical, scientific research; trade promotion and harmonization; educational outreach; expansion of industry and USDA statistics, and more. 

There are several important hops-related collections in the Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives. 

Dr. Alfred Haunold released the superstar hop varieties like Cascade, Willamette, Sterling, Liberty, Mt. Hood, and Santiam while he was with the USDA/ARS in Corvallis. During this interview he tells the story of the different hops he worked with, adding interesting details about people's personalities and technological advances. This interview was conducted by Shaun Townsend and Tiah Edmunson-Morton in Corvallis, Oregon on November 18, 2014.

There are two books fundamental to research on the history of hops in America: 

Hoptopia: A World of Agriculture and Beer in Oregon's Willamette Valley by Dr. Peter Kopp

​Through the story of the hop, Hoptopia connects 21st century beer drinkers to lands and histories forgotten in an era of industrial food production. The craft beer revolution of the late 20th century is a remarkable global history that converged in the agricultural landscapes of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The common hop, a plant native to Eurasia, arrived to the Pacific Northwest only in the 19th century, but it thrived in the region’s environmental conditions. By the first half of the 20th century the Willamette Valley claimed the title “Hop Center of the World.” Hoptopia integrates an interdisciplinary history of environment, culture, economy, labor, and science through the story of the most indispensable ingredient in beer.

Tinged with Gold: Hop Culture in the United States by Dr. Michael A. Tomlan

Tomlan studies structures related to rural hop farming, examining them in specific socioeconomic and historical contexts. These structures are used as foundations for creating a national narrative of hop farming, one which explores the cultivation and harvesting of the crop. Tinged with Gold offers excellent background on the hop industry, as well as the incredible technological advances that have changed the way farms operate.

Other important books: 

  • Hieronymus, Stan. For the Love of Hops : The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness, and the Culture of Hops. Brewing Elements Series. Boulder, Colorado: Brewers Publications, a Division of the Brewers Association, 2012.

U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service


The Special Collections and Archives Research Center has rare and otherwise unique books on malt and barley in its collections. 

The OSU Barley project has a team of barley enthusiasts dedicated to generating fundamental knowledge about barley, applying the knowledge to stimulate economic development through the release of novel barley varieties, sharing barley genetic resources, and encouraging barley use and consumption.

Marryn Dineley (ancient malt and ale) has written about historical uses of malt. Find her articles on Academia.  

Books in the "Brewing Elements Series" by Brewers Publications

Mecca Grade Estate Malt's past, present, and future are full of interesting stories (some that overlap with OSU). Mecca Grade is an estate malthouse located on 1,000 irrigated acres in Madras, Oregon. They grow only one variety of spring 2-row barley, Full Pint, which was bred by Oregon State University. 

Founded in 1934, the Great Western Malting Company is the oldest malting company in the western United States. They also operate a malt and brewing supplies warehouse and distribution system known as Country Malt Group.


The term “beer style” is used to categorize beers by various factors such as appearance, flavor, ingredients, method of production, history, and origin. There are Classic Styles such as Altbier or Saison, Hybrid and Specialty Styles like Wild or Honey beer, and types like Lager or Cask. Another approach is to categorize beers by their original country or region, such as Belgian Ale, Czech Lager, or German Wheat Beer.

Here are some fast facts!

  • Pilsner lager from Pilsen, Bohemia (now Czech Republic) was first marketed in 1852 and is now the most common type of beer
  • Chicha from Central and South America is made from fermented maize
  • Opaque beer from Africa is made with sorghum and is cloudy and is still undergoing the fermentation process when consumed
  • Cauim and masato from Central and South America is made from cassava root (called manioc)
  • Sake from Japan is made from mold cultures grown on steamed rice

Ready to research? The Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives has materials related to styles in these archival collections:

​Find more on your own!