There’s no getting away from it, beer is expensive. And with minimum pricing for alcohol being set, it’s only going to get more so.
Therefore, I would encourage anyone and everyone to brew their own.
I’ve been doing this since I was a student. It’s the sort of thing students do, isn’t it. Especially those who study microbiology and share a flat with a medical student. It’s almost unavoidable.
What do you need?
A 5-gallon bucket with a lid is a good start. 40 Magners bottles. A brew kit. Water. Sugar. A long spoon. Syphoning pipes (couple of meters). Crown caps and a capper to go with them. If you’re lucky enough to have a local brew shop, they’ll do you a starter set for a very reasonable price. Everything needs sterilising. You can go with Chempro from the brew shop or, if that’s not an option, Milton sterilising tablets work just as well. With 5 kids, we naturally had a stock of these so that’s what I’ve been using for the last few years. If you don’t have a local brew shop, there are plenty online (and on eBay, naturally). Be warned, though, postage on the kits can be pricey as they weigh a bit – rather than putting blind faith in the online ordering system, pick up the phone and order in person. You’ll then have someone you can ask for advice.
How long does it take?
Couple of months, start to finish, and you’ll have a very drinkable beer at the end of it (or cider, or lager, whatever you’ve brewed). I set a St Peter’s Ruby Red kit off on Sunday morning, took about half an hour to get it up and running and that’s including the 15 minutes sterilising time everything needed. I’ll be bottling it this Sunday, about another half hour’s work. Then it sits in the bottles for a month or so. You can drink it sooner, it just won’t taste as nice. The longer it stays in the bottles, the better it gets.
What’s so good about it?
First off, the price. The St Peter’s kit came in at under £20. All the barrels, bottles, pipes, spoons, etc. have been used time and again over the last 20 years, so you’ve only got to buy them once. 40 pints for £20 plus an hour or so’s work. 50p a pint. Can’t be bad.
Secondly, the variation. Your local pubs may only serve 3 beers – and here I use the word beer in it’s broadest possible sense as my locals have a Yellow Tin, a Red Tin and Stella. Needless to say, I don’t drink in them – so you can have a wheatbeer in the fridge whenever, a few pints of Nelson’s Revenge sat in the cupboard.
Thirdly, the experimentation. Ah, this is where it gets really fun. Once you’ve done a couple of kits you can start adding things. Herbs and spices at the bottling stage. A few ounces of dried elderflowers (available from your friendly local brew shop) added to the bucket right at the start of proceedings add a wonderful floral touch to the beer – I was that close to the Badger Brewery’s Golden Champion with that IPA. And then there’s something even more wonderful about which I shall blog once I get to G in this list – Gingermead.