Making beer at home is no longer the preserve of bearded retirees. A new wave of hip young urbanites are getting in on the act and often lead Britain’s craft beer movement too writes Aurelia Seidlhofer
Home brewing has seen a revival with more and more men creating home designed beers, stouts, ciders and anything else liquid that can be turned into booze. The motivation behind brewing your own craft beer is not necessarily just about saving a buck. Many passionate home-brewers create high-quality drinks that are often superior to mainstream brands and invest a lot of time and money into their hobby.
Luke Knight is two years into his home-brewing career and about to guest-brew on a new Youtube UK Craft Beer Channel in association with Jamie Oliver. He first got interested in brewing when he moved to London. “Learning about the tasting notes of beer is what really got me thinking about making my first brew. So many hidden flavours and depths of the beer to explore, I wanted to create this same excitement for friends and family.“ Like many other home-brewers he is harbouring the dream of opening his own brewery one day.
For the North London based home-brewer, Tim Searles-Barnes, it is the fun of making something yourself and the side effect of the “sudden rise in popularity among your friends” that makes brewing a great hobby. He also says that brewing is relatively easy to pick up: „There is a lot of science to brewing and some people get very geeky about it but you don’t need to understand everything to get a few bottles of decent cider“, he explains. “With a bit of research online and asking a few questions in forums you can learn how to brew in a few hours.”
Youtube is a good place for brewing novices to begin where the brewing community’s own tutorial sensation Ewan Small instructs around 1,400 subscribers on the craft. Apart from access to the Internet, all you need is a brewing kit, which doesn’t exactly break the bank at £60 for a semi-professional fermentation-bin. Given that one pint of cider costs about 50p to make, the investment already pays itself off after one batch, as Tim enthuses.
Although brewing is not as complicated as making wine, it requires patience and practice and the taste tends to significantly improve with the number of batches. Stirring the cider fermentation bin is the first thing Tim Searles Barnes does every morning. The fermentation barrel takes up quite a bit of space, which doesn’t make tiny London flats ideal mini-breweries. Tim, who brewed his first two batches of cider in his bedroom, admits that there are certain impracticalities about this: “You have to really like the smell of cider. It’s not stinky but it’s also not exactly what you would expect a bedroom to smell like.”
The waft hasn’t diminished the growth of home-brewing and micro-breweries popping up in Britain. The Campaign for Real Ale, which supports home brewers and craft beer, ale and cider has more than 150, 000 members and almost 400 home-brewers participated in the UK National Home Brewing Competition. Neil Walker from the Campaign for Real Ale says that home-brewing has seen a renaissance in recent years, which has also boosted the craft brewery scene. He says: “These ‘nano-brewery’ setups can produce great quality beer and many home-brewers go on to found commercial breweries of their own.” Many of them are very successful like the Kernel Brewery in Bermondsey, which was founded and by home-brewer Evin O’Riordain and produces stouts and porters that are considered to be among London’s best beers.
The interest in home-brewing also fuels an entire industry, selling brewing kits and ready-made mixes. They range from an affordable £30 to up to several thousand pounds depending on how professional you want your setup to be. The ingredients for beer are: malt extract, hops, grain, which need to be cooked before and yeast, which is added to start fermentation in the airtight container. The process is slightly easier with cider, which can be brewed from bought apple juice and turned into cider by adding a catalyst that turns the sugar in the juice into alcohol and a different chemical to make the cider settle. After one to three months you should be able to bottle your own booze.
For many the fun about home-brewing is that it allows you to experiment with flavours or like Tim Searles-Barnes puts it “it’s not just about making cider, it’s about designing cider” but if you want to play it safe you can also buy ready-made cider mixes or you can clone-brew your favourite commercial beer.
And if beer is not your thing online seller offer an abundance of choice for brewing equipment making it possible to turn virtually any liquid into alcohol. The brewing-kit manufacturer Drinks Lab sells 24- hour fermentation kits that turn fruit juice into sparkling wine and had a turnover of £50,000 this year. CEO and founder Chirag Amin says: “The response has been fantastic and we are taking orders from around the world, people love the idea. We have recently been selling at some of London’s funky food and crafts markets and everyone has been very complimentary.”
Home brewing is certainly one of the more intoxicating branches of the home-made food revolution. A lot more fun and perhaps tastier than the British Bake Off and a lot less embarrassing than storing your home-pickled gherkins on the kitchen shelf, brewing is -as Luke Knights puts it “very much a young man’s hobby in this day and age – and I can assure you, it can taste as good as any pub bought ale.“
It sounds like a home-brewed beer could soon become a staple for the sophisticated gent’s pantry.