First and foremost this is a book about the process of brewing wild beers. The science in this book can be applied to Flanders Ales, Lambics, American Wild Ales, Saisons, or pretty much anything else with funk. This is my go to tome for questions I have about brewing these kinds of beer.
What you'll find inside is more of the same from brewers publications. Jeff Sparrow writes about his treks across Europe sampling historic sour style ales. The breweries pictured in the centerfold are as beautiful as any centerfold model. Seeing the historic equipment gives you a feel for just how differently things are done in the commercial sour breweries. You get the sense reading this book that Jeff Sparrow really loves Flanders style ales and Lambic beers. The care he takes describing them and discussing them shows a reverence of the source materials that I think would make the traditional brewers happy.
(read on after the break to find out more of what was in this book.)
The book starts with a history lesson and style descriptors. These are accurate to my experiences and understandings.
The next section is a detailing of the micro organisms involved. This section is worth every written word. Understanding what is happening within your wild ale and the visible indications that gives helps relieve several of those 'oh crap, crap, crap' moments.
The next 4 sections talk about professional production and production in general of these types of beers. It outlines how the commercial producers do it, with coolerships, large oak vats, and used barrels. It's not impossible to do at home but several issues outlined in the book will prevent you from just cloning their methods and expecting cloned results.
The section about doing it at home lets you know everything you need to know to do this at home and produce drinkable flavorful results. It starts with the mash to make sure your bugs will have things to eat. Then it goes into fermentation and finally finishing. The appendix has lots of charts and other information to finish out a good book,
The theme of this book is patients. It can take a life time to learn to blend gueuzes. I got this book two years ago when I made my first lambics and now I am headed into my first season of gueuze blending hoping not to embarrass myself. If you have the time and the desire to brew these wild styles of beer get yourself this book and get started. It's not that lightning can't strike and produce the perfect lambic or flanders beer without blending but it's unlikely. The blending allows you to layer complex flavors together. Brewing the base beers to blend together to make a gueuze takes a minimum of two years to do correctly. Patients is the key, it won't happen over night.