Home Brew Beer #2

Following the success of my first ever attempt at brewing my own beer, I brewed and bottled my second batch in November!

I had believed that I had purchased all the equipment that I needed for my home brewing but as with any hobby, you end up buying more gear, which has ultimately added to the end cost of the beer.
My kitchen is pretty cold (when there’s no cooking going on) – I think I just about got away with it with my first home brew batch as I was brewing at the tail end of summer but I knew that if I wanted to brew in the winter, I needed to either brew in a warmer room or buy equipment to ensure optimum temperature for the brew.
I opted for the latter and bought a brew belt for £24, which is just a plastic heating element that goes round the outside of the fermenting bucket that heats the brew and keeps it at a constant temperature for optimum fermentation. I found that it was very simple to use and worked well.

Which Beer Kit?

My first kit was a basic Coopers Aussie Lager kit. For my second attempt, I’ve gone for a premium kit, St Peter’s Golden Ale which cost £26. The main difference that I saw in the two kits (aside from the price) was that the premium kit contained two tins of malt extract (compared to one tin of extract and a bag of brewing sugar) and also a packet of hop extract. Everything else, including how the ingredients were mixed etc was exactly the same.
As before, I didn’t follow the very brief instructions that came with the kit but instead followed the notes that I’d made for my first batch, which I knew worked for me.
I was able to get 35 bottles from this brew (just over 17 litres/31 pints), which works out as £1.43 per bottle or £1.61 per pint.
A couple of my friends who sampled my first brew said they would pay for future bottles but well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, this is all just strictly fun (and good drinking I hope!).
Anyway, this beer took a while to be even drinkable, 2 months in fact:

This pint had a decent head but it’s hit and miss with this batch

Whilst this brew is slightly cloudier than my first one, it tastes a lot better, is quite strong (4.5% ABV) with lots of flavour, although I don’t think I primed the bottles with enough sugar as some of the bottles lack a full foamy ale head when the beer is poured out. Still, apparently it continues to mature so future bottles I open may get better. In any case, I will definitely buy this kit again to make.

I’m giving away around 10 bottles to friends so I’d best get my next batch on soon!

Home Brew Project Update – the Tasting!

Around 5 weeks ago, I embarked on a home brew project – brewing my own beer because it was something that interested me but also, because potentially, I could save money by not buying alcohol in my weekly shop!

I had all the equipment I needed but a couple of weeks ago, ended up buying a bottle drainer (£20) as I needed to wash, sterilise and dry all my bottles easily before I bottled the beer.

Bottles drying on the drainer
So, from my initial batch of beer, I was able to bottle 43 bottles (500ml).  Cost now works out @ £1.80 per pint or around £1.60 per bottle, still not a bad price.

Tasting the Brew!

My beer has been bottled for over 20 days and I thought it was time that I cracked one open to try.

My Own Brew!

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised – the beer was quite clear, with only a tiny amount of yeast sediment at the bottom (barely noticeable) and was easily drinkable! Whilst the beer kit that I used was a lager kit (Coopers Australian Lager), my beer tasted rather more bitter than a lager and had an ale kind of golden/amber hue to it. Alcohol-wise, I don’t think it’s that strong, less than 4% ABV.

I’m really pleased with the initial results and have heard that brews get better the longer you leave them so I’ve got something to look forward to over the coming weeks/months!

Home Brew Lessons To Take Away

I’m glad that rather than just go off the instructions in the box, I decided to do my own research and sought out home brew forums and websites to find out what was what.
All you parents out there will recall how your newborn baby’s bottles etc were meticulously sterilised? In home brewing, the brew is the ‘baby’, so anything that touches the brew needs to be sterilised first to get rid of any potential nasties. The worse thing you can do is to spoil your batch just because you were too lazy to sterilise properly.
A lot of patience is required – I didn’t quite realise how long it would take for a homebrew to be at its “best”. Whilst the instructions on the beer kits talk in terms of your beer being ‘ready’ in 2 weeks, those “in the know” recommended at least a month, although I was really tempted to try before then!
Finally, there are tons of YouTube videos on ‘how to’ homebrew – watching these gave me confidence that I was doing things the right way!

So, I’ve learned a new ‘skill’ this year and embarked on a new hobby.  Am looking forward to making my next brew!

My Home Brew Project

About 3 years ago, I made the decision to not drink alcohol during the week (except when on holiday!).  The reason for this was twofold:

1.  Health – there are a lot of calories in alcohol, particularly beer, which is my favourite tipple at home.  As I upped my exercising and started to eat more healthily, cutting down on drinking during the week just formed part of the plan. I don’t miss it, but admit it’s not always easy.  However, there’s nothing better than finishing work on a Friday knowing there’s a nice cold beer in the fridge waiting for me!

2. Money – Only drinking on Friday and/or Saturday meant less spent on alcohol in my weekly shop.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like I drank loads or had weekly binges at home but alcohol isn’t cheap and often made up to a third of my overall shop.  These days, what I spend is more acceptable.

But could I spend even less? (Sorry, becoming tee-total is not an option, before anyone suggests this!)

Home Brewing

In the past, I’d always had the impression that home brewing was something difficult that involved lots of fiddly equipment and complicated brewing recipes and ingredients, a remote hobby that was enjoyed by middle-aged, bearded men who liked their drink strong and potent – why ‘bearded’? I don’t know – that’s just the impression I had of home brewers!

However, after doing some research, I found that home brewing is a big business, enjoyed by all kinds of people of all ages, male and female (some might even have beards…the men that is!). There also seemed to be a great choice of quality beginners’ kits available.

So, since I already make my own bread (albeit with a bread machine…), I’ve decided that I’m going to try my hand at brewing my own beer!

DIY Beer Kit

There are lots of different types of home brew beer kits but I needed one that included all the necessary equipment in one kit.  In the end, I went for the Coopers DIY Beer Kit, which includes the ingredients, fermenting keg with tap and bottles to store the finished beer. All I need to add is water, although there was nothing to sterilise the equipment, so I picked up a few packets of Milton sterilising tablets (good enough for baby, good enough for beer!).

The kit has some good reviews, plus there was an online offer at Tesco and I had a £5 voucher.  It will make 40 pints of beer….well, that’s going to last me a wee while, haha!
Yes, all that kit fits into the box – it was very well packed!

The good thing about the Coopers kit is that it seems to be popular so there are lots of videos on YouTube on how to use the kit, including the official one posted by Coopers themselves.

So What Savings?

The kit cost £47 with my voucher (although I also got 68p cashback on it from TopCashback*), steriliser cost £3, so £50 in total.

40 pints works out @ £1.25 per pint or £1.11 per bottle (500ml). Ok, a good saving compared to a pint in the pub, but no great saving compared to the stuff I buy in the supermarket.

The bigger savings are made when you brew your next batch (and subsequent batches), because the equipment I’ve purchased is all reusable (including the bottles) so I’ll just need another beer kit (I don’t have the time/expertise to gather all the separate ingredients…yet!) which cost around £12 for a standard pack or around £25 for a premium kit.

So if I picked up a £12 kit, that works out @ 30p a pint or 26p a bottle!

Of course, any saving is dependent on how drinkable the final brew is…Wonder if my friends would be brave enough to sample?!

Will I end up Drinking More?

No – unlike with food, (snacks in particular) whereby if it’s in the house I’ll eat it, I’m not the same with alcohol. Just because I have a fridge full of beer or several bottles of wine doesn’t mean I drink any more than I usually do.

Plus, this will hopefully turn into a new hobby to enjoy – just from reading the various brewing forums and websites, I’ve already learned lots of new stuff, so this isn’t just an excuse to fill my boots, as it were – it’s educational too as well as a money-saver!

Patience 

Anyway, I’ve followed the instructions which were pretty straight forward and since Saturday, my brew has been fermenting in the kitchen:

Starting to smell a bit like a brewery!

I was a little afraid that my kitchen might be a bit too cold but I think it’s been ok – I guess I won’t be able to brew in the winter though, unless I had some sort of heating apparatus.

Now I have to wait…

I’ll report back in a few weeks’ time on the outcome – fingers crossed it’s a good brew!

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