Beer is ace. I interviewed my best mate and all round good egg, Andy, who has mastered the knack of making tasty ales of all descriptions.
- How long have you been brewing?
About three years, I started out with kits.
- How long, or how many attempts, did it take til you made something drinkable?
I wasn’t really happy with the results from kits, mostly due to buying cheap kits and using table sugar. As soon as I started brewing all grain there was a massive improvement, it tasted like real beer.
- How much were the initial set up costs?
For kit brewing you only need a fermenter (a large vessel that cultivates the yeast), large spoon, syphon (to move liquid upwards), hydrometer (an instrument which measures the density of liquids) and a crown capper for bottling (a tool which fits beer tops to bottles and costs about £35).
For extract brewing, you just need to add a large pan and a thermometer.
All grain brewing requires more equipment and costs more but can be done fairly cheaply if you get creative. You can buy a mash tun (a vessel used to heat and mix milled grain and water to a pulp), boiler and chiller for less than £150. I used a secondhand Burco boiler, a £6 cooler box with a filter made from braided steel hose with a syphon tube and a copper immersion chiller. It cost me less than £50 to step up from kits.
- How much does each brew cost?
I can make 40 bottles for less than £15 (after the initial set up costs).
- What are the highlights of your brewing career? What’s the biggest batch you’ve made?
One of the beers I brewed with a friend came 3rd in a homebrew competition at Brewdog in Manchester, another came 4th. I’ve now got a 70 litre pan so that can do 50 litre batches. I did 90 odd litres in a day for a friend’s wedding.
- Are there any downsides to making your own beer? Do you have any advice for a would-be brewer?
It can be pretty messy and doesn’t always make you popular at home, you can spend a lot of time mopping up. Make sure everything is cleaned and sanitised. Fermentation temperature can make a big difference. Give the finished beer time to condition.
Want to know more? Here’s a great guide to home brewing.