If, like me your early experiences of home brewed beer involved the limited range of homebrew kits in the 70s and 80s, you can probably still recall that slightly nauseous ‘homebrew’ taste that they all seemed to have. Being offered a bottle of homebrew usually meant a quick exit to the pub.
Well today that’s all gone. In tandem with the explosion of independent craft brewers, there has been a revolution in home brewing over the last 20 years, and the choice and quality of brews is vastly improved.
So why brew? There are many pleasures to be had from brewing. It will add a new dimension to your knowledge of beers, allow you to delve into history of brews or simply be creative.
The choice of beers that can be brewed at home is mind boggling, but where to start? If you have never brewed before the easiest and quickest way to get going is with a starter kit, available from many suppliers for around £60/ €80.  It will comprise:
• All the kit you will need to get going such as a fermenting bin, barrel, CO2 cylinder, siphon, thermometer, hydrometer and steriliser.
• An ingredient kit of canned, pre-hopped, malt extract, yeast and instructions. Follow on premium kits cost about £20 to produce 36 or 40 pints.
To make beer the malt extract is added to water to make a wort (pre-fermented beer). Yeast is then added which ferments over a few days, turning the sugar to alcohol. The fermented liquid is then stored in a barrel or bottles and allowed to clear before drinking. Kits usually take about 2 – 3 weeks from start to drinking, although most brews will improve with age.
If you want to move on from kits you can buy the components separately, still using malt extract, but adding hops of your choice. There is a huge range of hops, which all have their own unique flavour. This will add a stove-top boiling step, during which hops are added and your kitchen is perfumed. The wort is then cooled and fermented as above.
Most people either find kits that they like or buy components separately. For those that really get hooked there’s the possibility of getting into all grain brewing. This is the approach breweries take. It involves more equipment and steps but opens up a whole world of beers that can be created.
Happy brewing!