9:47am Friday 4th July 2014 in Menu
With home brewing on the rise, EMMA DUNN meets the man who can supply everything you need to get started
WITH beer costing as little as 41p a pint, it’s no wonder Arkwrights Homebrew has seen a surge in people having a go at making their own alcoholic beverages.
The homebrewing shop in Highworth, which also sells more than 1,000 different whiskies, specialises in kits and equipment for making beer, cider, wine and spirits.
Sixty-year-old Ken Thomas, who runs the store with his wife, Fran, said it is a hobby that anyone can do.
“You can make better beer than you can buy. Absolutely anyone can do it, it’s really very easy,” he said.
“We get all sorts of people coming in from youngsters to the old boys who have been making the same beer for years and years.
“We’re constantly seeing new faces and we’re happy to give them advice. Sometimes they have a go and it’s a disaster – they come back in here with vinegar.
“They ask what they can do but they have to bin it and start again. It’s usually down to hygiene – people try to take shortcuts but you really need to follow the instructions.
“If people find they have made vinegar, we give them advice and we tell them how to avoid the same problems next time.
“When they get it right though, they really enjoy it. They just like to sit down at night and have a pint of their own beer – that’s the fun of making it.”
Arkwrights Homebrew, in The Dormers in Highworth, was originally just a corner shop.
Ken and Fran started running the store 23 years ago and they have gradually reduced the number of corner shop products and expanded the range of homebrew kits and alcohol available.
They now sell wine making and homebrew beer kits, plus a large stock of raw ingredients including malt, hops, yeast, fruit juice, dried flowers and berries.
They also stock homebrewing and winemaking equipment, barrels, demijohns, fermenters, presses, books and recipes.
Their beer making kits range from £11.50 to £25, wine making kits range from £23 to £45, and the shop also sells spirit kits and flavourings.
The shop has about 100 different beer making kits and Ken said it can work out a lot cheaper than buying ready-made beer.
“If, for example, you buy a beer making kit for £16.49, which makes 40 pints, you’re talking 41 pence a pint,” said Ken.
“It’s very rewarding. The beer is really satisfactory and you can get all sorts of different types.
“When people get really into it they make their own recipes up and make their own microbreweries. Some go on to become professional brewers.
“We get some professional brewers in here and they are really worth listening to. The kits are a good place to start.”
To avoid the vinegar substance that Ken warned of earlier, he says hygiene is one of the most important things to remember.
“If you get contamination it can turn to vinegar or different flavours,” he said.
“You have got to watch your temperatures and keep it clean.”
Most kits take several weeks before they are ready to drink, but once they are set up, very little needs to be done to them.
Ken recommended starting with kits, but the shop also sell grains for people who want to do the whole process themselves.
“If you’re starting your beer making with mashing it’s really a morning’s work. With a kit you can get it started in 20 minutes. You then leave it for about a week to ferment and then siphon it off and put it into a barrel or a bottle to mature probably for another month,” he said.
Wine can take as long as six months before it is ready to drink.
Brewing and making patterns change with the seasons, with elderflower wine being popular to make in the early summer.
The shop is also home to more than 1,000 whiskies from all over the world.
“We enjoy whisky and there weren’t many whisky specialists around,” said Ken.
Arkwrights Homebrew is open from 8am until 7pm Monday to Friday, and 8am to 6pm on Saturday.
For more information visit http://www.arkwrightshomebrew.com/