The Historical Practical Brewer

​In our May Communicator, we talked about one of the major dedications running through MBAA from its inception 125 years ago: an unwavering commitment to education. In 1888, a recommendation was adopted regarding the training of apprentices. The Brewer’s Digest’s 1987 Salute to MBAA—100 Years states, "After finishing his term satisfactorily, the apprentice was to be given a ‘brewers’ book’ which was to equal a diploma."

Fifty-six years later, in 1944, a “brewer’s book” was deemed necessary by four MBAA master brewers. Edward H. Vogel, Jr., Gries­edieck Bros. Brewery; Frank H. Schwaiger, Anheuser-Busch; Henry G. Leonhardt, assistant master brewer at Anheuser-Busch; and J. Adolph Merten, vice president and general manager of the Columbia Brewing Co., jointly lamented the lack of hands-on, practi­cal information for those employed in the brewing industry. They approached the president of MBAA and volunteered to write such a practical manual…if…MBAA would publish it. Two years of preparation, aided by a 21-member MBAA Editorial Board led to the completion of the first edition of The Practical Brewer. The new book was formally presented to MBAA President B. A. Poelhuis at a St. Louis MBAA business dinner meeting on December 7, 1946.

From the Preface to the 1946 edition:
"The purpose of this book is to outline in a simple and readable manner the essentials of practical brewing. […]We have prepared this practical treatise from the best sources available for the express purpose of […] the training of competent employees." In a nontech­nical, question-and-answer format, Chapter I, question 1 begins: "What is water?" Fourteen chapters, roughly 230 pages, and 360 questions-and-answers later, the book ends with a presentation of “The Brewer’s Code of Practice."
That original 1946 edition has been out of print for many years and is a much sought after collector’s item. In 1977, a revised and up­dated 2nd edition was published. It enjoyed 11 subsequent reprintings. I still remember our resident brew master at Anheuser-Busch, Columbus, presenting me with a copy of the 1977 edition. A 3rd edition was again significantly updated and published in 1999. It included new chapters on pertinent, new topics, such as low calorie/low alcohol beers, environmental issues, brewing control systems, and craft brewing (written in part by MBAA Technical Director Karl Ockert, then of Bridgeport Brewing Co.). Members of our AB Columbus Start-Up Team received copies of that 1999 edition for completing our brewery’s modernization in 2000. We were thrilled to receive it as the volume contained an architect’s rendering of our new Columbus brewhouse control room.
In 2003, it was suggested that an even newer adaptation of The Practical Brewer be written. The new rendition would be useful to all brewers, whether they worked at large brewing companies, smaller microbreweries, or even as home brewing hobbyists. The new work returned to the original question-and-answer format. Karl Ockert became its editor-in-chief. The result was our three-volume MBAA Practical Handbook for the Specialty Brewer. Its Forward reads, in part: “the MBAA Practical Handbook for the Specialty Brewer, … is ready to stand alongside The Practical Brewer as an exceptional resource of practical brewing fundamentals.”
All three editions of The Practical Brewer and our three-volume MBAA Practical Handbook for the Specialty Brewer continue to showcase MBAA’s 125-year commitment to training excellence.