My New Hobby, plus Home Brew #8

As mentioned in my post about 2017 goals, I’d got it into my head that I didn’t want to wait until I was retired before doing something I’ve always fancied doing – that of learning to play a musical instrument!

With my mind made up, I struggled to think of what instrument that someone like me (ie non-musical) could easily learn, which didn’t require formal/expensive lessons. Fortunately, I mentioned my dilemma to my sister who announced that coincidentally, she had just started to learn to play an instrument….

So, that’s how I came to buy a ukulele!

Yes, it’s like a little guitar!

TFS wasn’t too far off when he suggested a banjo in the comments, in that it is a stringed instrument!

For those who don’t know (which included me, before I bought it), a ukulele does resemble a small guitar, except it’s got just 4 strings, not 6 like a guitar. The version I bought is a Concert ukulele.

How Will I Learn?

YouTube will be my teacher – there are loads of free ukulele lessons online. Thus far, I’ve just been learning a few chords and how to strum – I’m just sooooo happy that something sounding vaguely like a tune is being produced! Wow, who knew I had it in me – I certainly didn’t! 🙂

Now, I’m not aiming to be an expert or to be able to perform in public. I’m finding it both fun and relaxing just picking it up and practising for a few minutes at a time. My fingers hurt a little but callouses are already starting to develop.

The total cost of this new hobby was around £60, including case and tuner – I’m very glad I decided to go for it!

Another Home Brew Success

Home Brewing was a new hobby which I took up back in September 2014 – like any good hobby, it’s still going strong and I still get a kick out of brewing my own beer!

However, my last home brew update was back in April as my brewing timetable was interrupted due to having family staying for most of the summer.  I was able to resume at the end of October, although the brew wasn’t really ready until last month.

So the kit I made this time was Milestone’s Black Pearl Stout – yes, I’m partial to a bit of Guinness and wondered if I could do a fair imitation of a decent stout!

The kit produced 42 bottles (21 litres/36 pints) and was free – it was a birthday present.  As I spent £5 on a new tin opener (to open the big cans of malt), the cost of these beers work out at £0.12 per bottle or £0.14 a pint! Not just happy hour, happy days! 🙂

Alcohol strength just under 4%, obviously it’s not a patch on Guinness’s got a good ‘stouty’ flavour and the most important thing of all, it pours with a decent frothy head! I’d notch that as a success, plus my friends and ex-colleagues like it too!

I’ve now done 7 different beer kits and one cider kit. I had originally been planning to brew (and document) 10 different kits and then just reverting to brewing my favourites.

However, there are so many different kits out there, I may just keep going and trying new ones that catch my eye and picking up old favourites when I see them on offer.

Alcohol Budget

Whilst not a specific goal of mine, but as mentioned in a comment I posted on FireinLondon’s post about his spending on alcohol, I’m going to try to reduce my ‘Alcohol At Home’ budget to zero this year…

No, I’m not turning teetotal – this is just to stop me spending money on alcohol for home consumption. This should encourage me to continue brewing my own and it helps that I received 3 homebrew kits for Christmas!

I should also drink the stuff that’s in the house already, which at the last count included 3 large bottles of gin (leaving gifts), plus various other (unopened) bottles of both spirits and wine.

Barring an outrageous alcohol problem, this should all last me a while (not just til end of Feb, FiL haha) – even though I’m not working, I’m still keeping to my not drinking on ‘school nights’, as I don’t want to descend into bad habits!

Anyway, have a great weekend all!

24 thoughts on “My New Hobby, plus Home Brew #8

  1. Hi Weenie,

    Great to see the challenge to take up the musical instrument – its amazing just how fast time goes when you are having fun with them – and the ukulele is always a great one (I don’t play it!). The fingers will toughen up over time, just keep short, regular practice runs and you will be grand!

    I have to say that homebrew looks fantastic – I am very impressed! You should do a series on it and how to get a good brew! Maybe this will last through to mid-march? 😉

    I will follow the zero alcohol budget with interest – he says with a glass of wine in hand 🙂


    • Hi FiL
      Due to painful fingers, I’ve been practising just a few minutes a day. Still struggle with some of the chords but getting better all the time.

      I’m impressed with that brew myself! 🙂 Aside from documenting the different kits I do, there’s not really a lot else to say about home brewing except to follow the instructions, ensure everything is sterilised and be patient! Yes, I need to put another brew on very soon or I’ll run out!

      By the way, I’m not sure why I need to moderate all your comments – you should be able to reply freely but your comments are still getting stopped each time. My software must think you’re dodgy… 😉

      • Hi Weenie,

        I can imagine – its a slow but steady progress as your fingers harden up and get used to it – like so many things it just takes time to get used to!

        As you said to Jim, maybe things have moved on a lot since I last tried homebrew, maybe one day when I have a suitable space!

        Heh – no idea why it requires moderation – does on a few of them for some reason – clearly your software knows me 😉


  2. Hi Weenie, my experience of Home Brewing was spoiled during my student years where I can still remember the taste of some vile concoctions we brewed which we’d have to mix with cider to get down. You can imagine the effects of that. These days, the UK craft beer explosion means I’m happy to leave it to the experts and sample their wares when I’m out and about – at home, I stick to wine if I’m going to drink at all. I’m lucky in that I don’t have to worry too much about what I spend on booze these days, I’d hate such a simple pleasure was curtailed because I would rather save for a rainy day. Life’s too short for that!

    • Hi Jim
      Like you, I’ve been enjoying the UK craft beer explosion, there’s a lot more choice to have when I go out these days.

      That said, the home brewing industry is very different from your (and mine) student years and kits available use quality ingredients and produce decent drinks. My wine-drinking friends want me to try making some wine but I’m not a big wine-drinker, so not a lot of incentive there.

      Hear what you’re saying about curtailing on simple pleasures – however, it’s not such a big cutback for me, as long as there’s still drink in the house! 🙂

  3. Haha I was close then! 🙂

    I have an acoustic guitar sat in the spare room, I really must get it out and have another crack at learning to play properly. Maybe we can do a duet or even form a band! 😉

    I remember the sore fingers from trying to learn years ago!

    Home brew sounds good, I’ve just got into my stout so might give this one a crack when I get my brewing boots on again!


    • Haha, you were close, TFS! Think a banjo is harder to learn so I guess I chose the right one!

      Yes, sore fingers – I think I might get some finger protectors to see if they’re of any help.

      The Black Pearl Stout kit was simple to do, nothing special. Next time, I may brew with slightly less water to up the alcohol %.

  4. Hi Weenie

    Hope things are going well on finding a new source of income and that you can continue to save for your freedom.

    Interesting to see that you are learning an instrument, as I will be finishing work soon, so will have lots of time to do more things that I currently don’t have the time to be able to take seriously.

    Best Wishes
    FI UK

    • Hi FI UK

      Good to see you back and to hear that you’ll be finishing work soon!

      Probably now is the time for you to be thinking about new hobbies (or to take up old hobbies again). If you were to learn an instrument, what would it be?

  5. We used to make our own wine – going out in to pick hedgerow fruit or flowers was all part of the fun. Highly recommended.

    As for the Uke – something to aspire to.

    • Hi dearime

      At some point, I’d like to incorporate fresh ingredients (eg fruit) into my homebrews too, but as a relative novice, I’m just sticking strictly to the kits and their instructions for now.

      Thanks for those links – very entertaining, didn’t know there were ukulele orchestras!

      I’d definitely be more of a solo ‘artist’ though so my aspiration would be something like this guy, who plays Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody (as part of a TED talk):

  6. We tried gin for the first time last year – and the bottle is still sitting in the fridge. Certainly an acquired taste for drinking . It did stand in well as a substitute for Chinese rice wine in a recipe, though.

    Congratulations on starting your new hobby. A few people at my old workplace were learning to play, so they would sit together some lunchtimes to practice. It is a very portable instrument. Maybe you and your sister could do some Skype jammin’!

    • Hi Mrs ETT
      I hear gin’s not that easy to make so I’ll not be attempting it just yet – at least you found some use for the batch you made!

      Haha, great idea re the skype jammin’ – wait til I’m a bit better, don’t want her showing me up!

  7. The home brew looks awesome!

    Despite already playing a couple of instruments, I’ve tried to learn guitar more times than I can remember without success. Hope the ukelele works out better for you!

  8. Hi Weenie,

    Good idea, I have thought about learning to play an instrument but I don’t think I have it in me. It sounds like you just need to practice and it is quite surprising what you can learn off YouTube. I’m better off knitting and creating my own jumpers, scarves and gloves for the cold weather. I have quite a stash now. Glad it is working out and a useful distraction from monster thoughts.

    I did brew some alcohol once, it tasted great but didn’t have the time or patience to make any more and gave away the equipment. At the end of last year I made some blackberry whiskey (basically adding free hedgerow picked blackberries to cheap whiskey and left to ‘mature’.)

    I have not tasted it yet, but it does look and smell good. I have just started to use the jams and chutneys I made the other year while on my ‘break’. They taste really good so I will make some more this year if I can get hold of free apples and blackberries.

    Happy tunes,

    • Hey Sparklebee

      I really didn’t think I had it in me but I can now play a couple of tunes now – not perfect of course but to coin a phrase, ‘music to my ears’ to me, who has always been non-musical! Good to hear that you derive joy from knitting – I did consider taking that up (it was a hobby in my early teens) and doing crochet but perhaps another time.

      Home brewing does require a lot of patience as you say – I’m thinking of putting another batch on soon.

      Good luck with your blackberry whiskey and great to hear that you make the most of free fruit to make jams and chutneys!

  9. Hi OR

    1. It’s not an easy one to learn (lots of chords) but it’s on my list to for the future!
    2. No – the tunes I’m playing at the moment are music to my ears, but unlikely to sound like music to anyone else’s ears haha! 🙂

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