There is not a better introduction to the universe of homebrewing than the Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charles Papazian. It covers history, equipment, ingredients, chemistry, beer styles, and methods, while appendices cover various topics from recipe formulation to meadmaking. I’ve used this guide quite extensively in my first batches of home brew beer and I still consult it on occasion, especially as inspiration for experimentation. It also contains enough on advanced topics to lead in the right directions when I want to learn more.
Other introductory books to brewing are published but this one is the ideal integration of simplicity and thoroughness. Experienced brewers may find the book rather “incomplete” on advanced issues, but online resources and brewclubs are better sources of advance information than most books.
Papazian’s passion for beer brewing will pique the interest of any brewer, regardless of expertise and experience. His enthusiasm has even pushed commercial brewers to experiment with new procedures and ingredients. For instance in a passing comment in the 2nd edition Papazian mentioned maple beers and now maple beers are brewed at several brewpubs.
What is perhaps most important about the book is the philosophy behind it. Papazian’s recurrent admonition is to “Relax, Don’t Worry, Have a Homebrew.” We can’t control everything in home brewing. It represents a whole perspective on beer, the universe, and everything.