Brewing Science, Technology and Print, 1700-1880


My first book was published in 2013 as volume 19 in the Science and Culture in the Nineteenth Century series. It was reissued in paperback in 2018.


In the USA, the new paperback edition can be sourced directly from the publisher, University of Pittsburgh Press, at $37.99. It is also available from major online retailers.

In the UK, the paperback is available from various retailers including:

(Prices last checked in December 2018 and may change).


Unused and second-hand hardback copies appear from time to time on various retailers' websites. is a good resource for searching across many vendors internationally (direct search link for this book).

The hardback was originally published by Pickering and Chatto in August 2013. Pittsburgh acquired the Science and Culture series in 2015.


The electronic edition is available in all major formats through the usual vendors. As of December 2018, options include

What it's about

How did the brewing of beer become a scientific process? I try to answer this question by charting the theory and practice of the trade in Britain and Ireland during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. From an oral culture derived from home-based skills, brewing industrialized rapidly and developed an extensive trade literature, based increasingly on the authority of chemical experiment.

The book consists of eight themed chapters in loosely chronological order:

Ray Anderson has helpfully given a more detailed synopsis in his review for Brewery History.

Preview content

There's a searchable preview at Google Books.

The introduction is available on Scribd.

The index is also available.

Comments and reviews

"Beer has always been a staple of life in Britain; this book puts it at the centre of the history of science too. In this wide-ranging and authoritative account, Sumner reveals the complex processes that led to the creation of 'brewing science' from books, vats, instruments and philosophies. His lively survey opens up new avenues for understanding the circulation of knowledge and the emergence of new scientific disciplines."
Jim Secord, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge

"Fantastic scholarship has produced a book that is essential reading for anyone interested in a vital and fascinating slice of British brewing history."
Martyn Cornell, author of Beer: The Story of the Pint and Amber, Gold and Black: the History of Britain's Great Beers

"This book is groundbreaking both in its quality and scope in addressing the history of the application of science in brewing. Sumner succeeds in putting brewing practice into the commercial, political, fiscal, social and scientific/technological context of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain... a beautifully-written book with a lucid, well structured presentation...scholarly and entertaining. This book is to brewhouse what the revered book by Peter Mathias, The Brewing Industry in England, 1700-1830, is to the counting house. There can be no higher praise."
Ray Anderson, author of Brewers and Distillers by Profession, writing in Brewery History (read full review)

"An important addition to the expanding literature of material culture in the history of science, exploring new topics such as the industrial appropriation of scientific instruments. Sumner’s narrative also provides an exemplary account of the rise of experts... essential reading for anyone interested in the joint development of chemistry and brewing."
Joel Vargas-Domínguez, writing in Ambix, journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry


The usual disclaimer | Last modified at 14:48, Saturday 29 December 2018