Brewing Software Reviews

Posted to rec.crafts.brewing, 11/1/96, by Michael Gerholdt,

A few weeks ago I announced intentions of reviewing available brewing software available for PC users. I looked at SUDS, Brewer's Workshop, BrewWizard and HomeBrewers Recipe Calculator (HBRCP).

I must retract my intentions to perform this project, simply because though I've made an effort, I don't have the time to do the writing.

However, since I have looked at these four programs in varying levels of depth, I will make some comments so the time I invested will not be of no value.

Disclaimer: I don't have any connection with any of the authors of the programs nor the companies that own/market them.

SUDS is a nice program for beginner/intermediate brewers. It is very much a Windows progam, is intuitive and easy to navigate. I found some of the menu items confusing; "templates" and "recipes" are similar but different and I never figured out the reason they both exist or why I should use one and not the other. The calculator for figuring water amounts and temps is straightforward and nice, but not as nice as that which accompanies Brewer's Workshop.

SUDS is shareware; cost $20; but it is not crippled in any way.

Brewer's Workshop is another worthy Windows program, and as I mentioned, I really like the boil calculator in this program. Point and click your way through this program ... use the water calculator to adjust the mineral content of your water, once you've had it tested and entered the pertinent info ... I consider Brewer's Workshop a bit nicer than SUDS in that it packs a bit more power in the calculators. Oh, it also prints labels, though they are rather utilitarian, not very pretty. A nice feature is that when you are picking ingredients for a recipe, you can have the program present a pick list from its entire database, or from your own home inventory.

Brewer's Workshop is shareware; cost (I believe) is about $34.50. BrewWizard is another good Windows formulator, and like SUDS and Brewer's Workshop, is marketed as shareware. One weakness I'll mention immediately is that instead of saving recipes with descriptive names in the program, you save them as files in a file browser. This means you have to remember that "losrdrys.rec" is Loser Dry Stout. The hop utilization can be switched from within the program, unlike SUDS, which requires a drop to DOS and running one of three batch files. Most Windows users will be very happy with BrewWizard.

Cost of the program itself is $25. For a total of $59 you can get the BrewWizard formulator and an encyclopedia of brewing. There isn't much hint as to just what the encyclopedia is.

And finally, HBRCP (HomeBrew Recipe Calculator). In some ways, this is the least pleasing of the programs. It's written in Foxpro, and has some noticeable limitations in terms of Windows useability. Not only that, but the program isn't an integrated whole, but a patched together collection of subroutines. You can't exit the program before you exit whatever part of the program you are in. Things like that can put one off ... but take a deeper look at HBRCP and you'll see the program that, of the four, has the most information available. The author is a database compiler in his day job, and his skills were employed here. Indeed, while using the other programs, I would consult HBRCP for the information that only it provided. It doesn't only thumbnail sketch the AHA guidelines, but provides complete profiles of grains, adjuncts, hops and yeasts. All can be user edited, if desired. Once you spend the time to become inured to the fact that this ain't the prettiest face on the block, and find that it is as easily navigated, finally, as any of the programs, the power that is there becomes apparent. And the labels are way nicer than those created by Brewer's Workshop (though I'd like to see some user configurability added ... I don't want OG and SG on my labels, maybe ....).

Give yourself a couple hours with this program, and I expect you'll be very impressed.

Interestingly enough, HBRCP is totally uncrippled no-nag shareware/freeware. The author would like you to pay the registration, but you won't get any more than is already there. If you decide to pay, the asking price is a mere $10.

One problem with HBRCP: It's darned hard to get hold of. The author has to attach it to email because the server just don't serve. I read that a new version was recently released, but I havne't been able to ftp it yet. :(

NOTE: HBRCP has gone through some version improvements since I originally wrote this review; some of the things I didn't like (the multiple exit thing) have changed for the better. *****************************

My conclusion: All four of these programs are helpful and worthy. Each has strong and weak points. HBRCP packs way more in for way less money. I'd like to see a boil calculator like Brewer's Workshop added ..

These comments are intended to be a service to homebrewers, and neither a service nor a disservice to authors or pervayers of software programs. Your opinion of the programs may be quite different from mine, and you may find that I'm simply wrong about some things. If so, your corrections will also be of benefit to homebrewers.