Wednesday, August 27, 2014

First adventures in brewing

So after drinking a lot of craft beer, attending a demonstration and generally thinking to ourselves 'this could be fun', we finally took the plunge and braved our first brew over the weekend.

There are many things that attract both of us to homebrewing. We both really enjoy good quality beer, and we like the people that we meet when seeking out craft beer bars and shops, visiting breweries and generally sharing this small pleasure. It's a very friendly, welcoming community - people want to share their love of brewing and drinking good beer, and encourage you to have a go. It very much fits in with our general philosophy of prioritising quantity over quality, and it supports our frugal living efforts because it's a fair bit cheaper to brew beer than buy it. Plus it of course appeals to me as another traditional craft to learn, a part of the traditional farmhouse's ordinary routine, and a very local activity and product.

I found a local supplier of homebrew kits and we went along to explore. To our delight we found the shopowner is a keen brewer, and spent a fair bit of time talking us through different options and advising us on where to start (which was essentially start with the simplest option and then add new steps gradually.) He also does demonstration days. It makes such a difference when starting out on a new challenge to know that we can call him up if we have any questions or if things go wrong.

We came home weighted down with some basic equipment and our first kit beer. There are three kinds of brewing - brewing from kits, brewing with malt extracts and brewing with whole grains. The most authentic and the most difficult is the last, in which you boil or 'mash' malted grains to extract the sugars and flavourings, then boil this with hops and other flavourings, then allow to ferment. Malt extract allows you to skip the mashing process - you get a powder or syrup which you dissolve in water, then you boil with hops and flavourings and ferment. We are starting with the simplest brewing method - kit brewing - in which you get a syrup containing all the sugars and flavourings which you dissolve in water and then ferment with yeast.

Sounds simple, but there's a lot of sterilising and temperature measuring involved already, so it is definitely worth starting simple to familiarise yourself with the equipment, and with things like reading the 'original gravity' (a measure of the sugar content before brewing which can be compared with a measure of sugar content after brewing to calculate alcohol content).

This has the potential to be a very frugal hobby. We have invested in some basic equipment, but we have calculated that (provided the beer comes out ok and drinkable) it would be substantially cheaper to brew our own beer than to buy it - about €0.70 per 33cl bottle for beer made with a kit, potentially much lower with grain brewing. Ideally - fingers crossed - we will soon be able to produce as much beer as we want to drink, with enough to offer guests and give as gifts. This will either get us invited to all the local parties - or none!


  1. Sounds like fun! How long do you have to wait until you can try it? xx

    1. About six to eight weeks... Patience seems to be a key skill in brewing!



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