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Home Brewed Beer

Thirty years ago, while I was at university, I used to brew my own beer. The reason for doing so was, of course, financial. It provided me with far more beer than I could afford to purchase. I have to say that the quality of what I produced at that time was, to say the least, indifferent. But it was drinkable, and as a student I used to drink it!

I carried on with the home brew for a couple of years after leaving university. Although in work, I was not well paid, and in fact for that first couple of years I probably had less disposable cash than I had had at university.

But as my salary increased, the incentive to brew my own beer diminished and I stopped doing it. For years I retained the equipment in the loft until (irritatingly) in a clearout about 7 years ago I threw it all out (2 pressure barrels, a fermenting bin, hydrometer and siphon tubing). I was confident that I would never again be making any home brewed beer. How wrong I was…

Starting Again

There has been a lot of inflation recently, particularly in food and drink. I remember very well that in 1982 a pint of beer could be bought in the pub for about 50 pence. The figure today is more likely to be £3.50. But a large part of that increase has happened very recently. So the financial incentive has returned. However, what really persuaded me to try again was a chance conversation with a colleague at work. He has been making his own beer recently and convinced me that the beer kits available these days are significantly better than those that were available in the past, and that it was worth giving it a go.

So I decided to try it, and after dropping sufficient not so subtle hints, lo and behold there was all the equipment needed (which I so foolishly threw away a few years ago) sitting underneath the Christmas tree.

Unsurprisingly, not much has changed in the last 30 years in the basic process for making beer. First the malt, sugar and yeast are placed into the fermenting bin with 40 pints of water. The initial fermentation takes about a week and then the beer is siphoned off into the pressure barrel, a few teaspoons of sugar are added for the secondary fermentation and then it is left for about 3 weeks to clear. All equipment has to be thoroughly cleaned with a sterilising solution before use. Having said that, there are a few minor changes • The kit consists these days of 2 cans of malt with sugar already mixed in. So there is no need to add sugar separately for the primary fermentation • The fermenting barrel is sealed and has an airlock • The siphon tubing has a filter to catch any sediment that is sucked up when transferring to the pressure barrel So I happily followed the process to create my first batch. It really does not take all that long. Probably about an hour to get the primary fermentation started and another hour for the transfer to the pressure barrel.

Results

The proof of the pudding is in the eating as my Grandmother used to like saying. I was determined to give this particular pudding every chance by leaving it the requisite 3 weeks before starting to drink. I remember well my impatience with having to wait for the beer to clear in my university days, and all too often I started drinking it too early. How many times did I have a batch of beer in those days where the last 5 pints were the best?

No such problems now (I do have a supply of bottled beer in the house) and I did indeed wait for recommended time before pouring that first pint. Well, I say that, I waited 2 weeks and 6 days. Then I discovered that I was out of bottled beer, and the keg was sitting there grinning at me.

I am sitting here right now drinking that very first pint and I have to say that the results are surprisingly good. The particular kit I was given for Christmas produces a dark beer with choclatey almost coffee flavours. This is not my favourite style of beer although an occasional pint of this type of beer is very nice. My preferred beers are lighter and more hoppy in style.

However, even though this beer is not of the type I would normally drink, I can tell that the quality of what I have produced is really very good and far, far better than anything I managed to brew during my university days. It seems that the quality of the beer kits available today really have improved significantly because as I mentioned, the brewing techniques have really not changed.

Needless to say I will be following up this keg with another in more the style that I am accustomed to drinking.

Cheers!

Recreation | Drinks


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