THE first thing I did when I moved out of my parents’ house was buy a beer-making kit.
It seemed blindingly obvious. Beer is mainly water and tax. So a home brewing kit is a magic porridge pot, an endless supply of cut-price lager.
But my attempt left a foul taste in my mouth and an incredibly sore head the next day.
Dare I give it another bash?
With the price of a pub pint having risen by 6.9 per cent with inflation this month, of course I would.
You can brew your own lager for as little as 60p a pint . . . the last time you got a beer in your local that cheap was in the eighties.
I used the LoveBrewing.co.uk lager kit, which costs £66.51 for 40 pints.
Here is my home brew diary . . .
STEP ONE: Order the necessaries. Beginners’ kits really do make everything as simple as possible and supply absolutely everything you need to make more beer than you can lift for around £35 online.
Subsequent batches will cost much less, as you can re-use all the tackle. The ingredients cost next to nothing.
STEP 2: Set up and sterilise. “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” I said to my kids as I eagerly unwrapped all the satisfyingly large parcels of beer-making essentials.
“Er, giving you all your friends food poisoning with a dodgy brew and they all die?” said the youngest.
She had a point. You do have to make sure everything is spotlessly clean before you start.
You get quite a lot of kit for your money and it all has to be scrupulously scrubbed, the most challenging part of the enterprise.
It’s a bit tedious. The good news is, if you can wash up, you can make beer.
You’ll need to allow an afternoon to read instructions, wash and sterilise everything to kill off all those deadly bacteria, then you’re ready to start your brew.
ER. . . STILL DAY 1
STEP 3: Mix ingredients together. Be warned, like barbecues and bonfires, beer making is evidently one of those things guaranteed to draw a crowd and one at which all men are apparently world-leading experts.
“Ah,” says the milkman: “Really, you should boil your hops.”
“Mmm,” says a delivery driver: “You should add extra sugar.”
“Phhh,” says the postman: “You need to ferment your mash first.”
Don’t listen. Simply warm up the supplied silver pouch of malted barley, add it to the clean dustbin and top up with water.
The stuff in the silver pouch smells divine and tastes somewhere between cinder toffee and burnt Coca-Cola.
There must be lots of amazing natural sugars in there.
Mix, mix, mix together then add the premium lager yeast, stand back and let the fermentation begin while you call all your friends and boast.
STEP 4: Hop sprinkling. Kits come with a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity (SG) of the beer.
I don’t know what specific gravity is, but that doesn’t matter. When the SG hits the target on the hydrometer you can sprinkle on your hops.
They are for flavouring. There are many different varieties of hops but, fun fact – they are all members of the same aromatic plant family as cannabis.
By this point, every time I went in the room where the beer was brewing I was filled with a sense of expectation and pride. It smelled absolutely delicious.
I think this was the problem last time I tried home brewing.
I got home from the pub and really fancied another drink and it smelled ready, so I cracked into it. Didn’t feel great the next day.
STEP FIVE: Siphoning off. The hardest thing about the final step is trying not to drink it all at once, before you’ve got it in the bottles.
Ah, the rich aroma of a fresh brew, the satisfaction of a job well done, the magnificence of ice-cold beer in the sun. The whole process took about three weeks. Happy days.
FAR from being a chore, I found the whole process to be an absolute delight.
It was remarkably satisfying and enjoyable and it gives you something to talk about in the pub. Actually, it gives you your own pub.
A brewery might have up to 26 stages in the process but beginners’ kits are designed to be as simple as possible and foolproof. As long as you keep everything spotlessly clean, you really can’t go wrong.
The beer is certainly cheap and it tastes pretty good, too.
Good, but maybe not quite as good as my favourite lager. And maybe that’s why I haven’t bothered making it since I was a teenager.
It’s just not quite as nice, and that’s hardly surprising for a first attempt.
I think to make something even more delicious than anything you can buy would definitely be an achievable goal, but just as it is with baking your own bread, it would just take time and dedication.
Beer contains more flavour components than wine and, let’s face it, it is pretty good value – even at twice the price. I’m really pleased I tried it again, though, and learned a bit more about one of the things I love the most. Cheers!