Posted: 27 April '11 by Niall
Eamann and I had decided some time ago that the fizzy, tasteless, mass-produced lagers weren’t for us, and we’ve been trawling the internet for small English breweries and some weird and wonderful ales.
As good as these ales are, buying online from micro-breweries isn’t cheap (the postage costs for Northern Ireland are scandalous), and we thought that there had to be a better way.
Home-brewing has been a bit of a dirty word for some time. It conjures up images of “The Good Life”, bath-tubs full of inspid brown gunk, and terrible, virtually undrinkable beer. Times have changed though, and there have been a lot of improvements in the products and knowledge available to the home-brewer.
Full of inspiration and dreams of foamy, biermeister fame, we decided to give it a go!
Here’s part one of our tentative steps into the world of home-brewing.
Home-brewing can be a simple or as complicated as you want to make it – from out-of-the-box starter kits right up to making your own equipment and the dark science of creating your own wort (see “other information” below).
We didn’t want to bite off more than we could chew the first time out though, so Eamann and I did a little research and found Woodforde’s Wherry Micro-brewery, a good starter kit available from The Online Homebrew Company’s website.
Woodforde’s Wherry is an award-winning ale from Norfolk, with zesty, floral flavours and lingering malty notes – sounds delicious, doesn’t it? Now, we’re not expecting to match the quality of their cask conditioned ale, but from what other customers have said, the home-brew kit does come quite close.
The kit, which is re-useable, comes with everything you need to make a whopping 40 pints of ale – including:
- The fermentation bin
- A mixing paddle
- A syphon
- Sterilising powder
- A hydrometer
- Woodfordes Wherry beer kit
- A 40 pint barrel
- Extra brewing instructions from The Online Brewing Company
We also took some advice and bought some spray malt (which comes up in part two of this post) which makes the flavour more rich and complex, a thermometer, and some bottles to hold the finished brew.
Our order was:
|Woodforde’s Wherry Micro-brewery||£59.95|
|Munton’s SprayMalt (500g)||£4.54|
|45 Plastic Bottles||£16.42|
Making your home-brew from a kit isn’t as difficult as I thought it was going to be – as long as you follow the guide and prepare properly, it’s plain sailing!
We’d great fun seeing the ale slowly but surely coming together – it’s more than a little like playing with a chemistry set when you were a kid.
- After sterilising the bin, the thermometer and the hydrometer, we warmed the two tins of wort in a sinkful of warm water. It’s as thick as treacle, and the heat makes them a lot easier to pour.
- After pouring both tins into the bin, we added 23 litres of water, stirring the liquid so the wort was thoroughly mixed.
- The temperature is important at this stage – we had to wait a while for it to drop down to the suggested 18°C to 23°C range, before sprinkling the sachet of yeast into the mixture.
- Last of all, came the Hydrometer which tells you how much alcohol your final brew will have. At this stage you’re looking for 1040g/litre – this should drop to 1005g/litre or 1010g/litre – which we hit exactly.
With all of this done, and the air full of mouth-watering malty aromas, all that remained was for us to place the lid on the fermentation bin and leave the mixture for one week..
So far so good!
You can see the photos here:
Coming up – Part 2
In the next post we’ll be syphoning the fermenting liquid to our barrel, adding sugars and malt, and doing some more waiting!
You can visit The Online Brewing Company at: www.the-online-homebrew-company.co.uk. Unfortunately, buying anything from mainland UK means that there’s a hefty charge to pay for delivery to Northern Ireland. In this case it was £9.95.
There are a lot of great sites out there, full of information about home-brewing. The best we’ve come across is Jim’s Beer Kit – Practical Home-brewing.
I’ve used the term “wort” a couple of times in this post. Pronounced “wert”, the literal definition of wort is the liquid extracted from the mashing process. However, it’s usually used to refer to the end product of your mash, malt extracts, and hops after completing a sanitising boil. The starter kits provide this mixture for you, without the need to make it all yourself – but making your own is what real brewing is all about, as you decide what flavours your brew will have.
Categories: The Pint & Pitcher