Making your own beer has a long history around the world and as the current economic recession deepens it is likely to become even more popular. Not least in the United Kingdom, for is a flourishing hobby in the USA, New Zealand and Australia. Coopers, of South Australia, is the largest home brewkit maker in the world, and sells around three million cans of liquid malt kits a year, with about one-third being exported.
In many countries there are national organisations that cater for the home brewer. In the UK there is the Craft Brewing Association (www.craftbrewing.co.uk) , but if you live outside the UK then a quick search on Google will soon tell you if you have the equivalent. If you’re going to start homebrewing, my advice is to join an association as soon as possible.
You do not need much space to brew good beer, nor do you need a great amount of equipment, or for that matter spend a considerable sum of money. Instead there are several reasons why making your own beer is a great idea…
A GREAT HOBBY
The first is that it is an absorbing hobby, especially if you adopt full mash brewing, and the remainder of these articles will concentrate on this method. It is only when you have had some practical experience in making your own beer that you will begin to realise how complex beer is and the huge variety of styles and flavours it is possible to produce.
There is considerable satisfaction to be gained from producing and drinking your own beer and finding that even a relatively inexperienced brewer can produce beer that is often superior to a lot of commercial offerings.
Even in countries where there is a flourishing microbrewery sector, the craft brewer, working at home with relatively simple equipment, can produce beer comparable to the products from these professionals.
In most countries you do not need to buy a licence to brew at home nor do you need to pay excise duty on the finished product, as long as it is not for sale.
In countries where alcohol is highly taxed, such as Sweden, the UK and Australia, this gives an immediate and significant advantage. Even in countries where the tax on beer is relatively low, such as in France and Germany, there are savings to be made.
The extent of the savings will vary according to where in the world you live, the cost of the raw materials, the strength of the beer you brew, how often you brew and the amount of money you spend on equipment. A later instalment will deal with equipment in more detail but ignoring this for the time being, a half litre of beer, using the very best of materials, can be brewed at home for around one fifth of, or even less than, the price in a shop. Sadly, the saving is even more when you compare home brewed beer with typical pub prices.
If you join a craft brewing association, you will almost certainly meet some very likeable fellow enthusiasts who will freely share their expertise and offer constructive criticism and advice. Obviously, it is easier to meet up with fellow craft brewers if you live in relatively densely populated areas or countries. If there are few or no meetings, or you live a long way from other brewers, you can still participate in forums and/or by email.
An important function of the meetings that I attend in the UK is the agenda item: ‘tasting and feedback on beers brought along by members.’ There is no doubt in my mind that the overall standard of the brewers in the two groups I belong to has reached its present high level because of this informed feedback.
Feedback then is important and if you can’t get this from a group of fellow-minded people then a second best substitute is letting friends and relatives taste your beer and tell you what they think.