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Make us a brew

19 April 2013

If you can knock out a half-decent soup or stew, you will have little trouble making a good beer from scratch, says Thomas Wintle

WHAT could you make using a bin, some old net curtains, and a stewing pot? If you have just imagined cobbling together a scene from a Dalek wedding, then read no further. Throw some malt, hops, and yeast into the mix, however, and it could be a recipe for something that's a little more up your street.

If you can knock out a half-decent soup or stew, you will have little trouble making a good beer from scratch. Many people begin by using a home-brew kit that includes everything you need to get going. Kits can be bought for about £50 to £60 from any home-brew shop, and from online dealers such as www.brewuk.co.uk. Lakeland also sells home-brew essentials.

Kits, which use concentrates and extracts, can be a good option for getting used to one or two of the tools and techniques that are unique to brewing. As with cooking, starter kits are not nearly as involving, your options will be greatly limited - and, more important, you are not going to produce the nicest beer.

Though trickier, brewing with whole malt and hops is more fun, and the range of beers that you can produce is limitless - from brown ale to IPA, and imperial stout to barley wine.

Brewing with the raw ingredients also means that you can tweak and develop your recipes to suit your taste. While kits generally produce about 40 pints, working from scratch also allows you a little more room for manoeuvre on how much beer you produce in one go.

You can spend as much on your home "brewery" as you like. A few of the more committed types have put together semi-permanent kits, with costs running into thousands of pounds, but it need not be so. You will probably have most of the basics already.

When I first brewed, I used bits and bobs from the kitchen, an old net curtain as a sieve, and a dustbin I found in the garage for fermenting a thoroughly drinkable brown ale. It is important, however, that you use food-safe plastic for your brewing; anything you buy from a home-brew supplier will be up to the job.

If you want to find out more, get hold of any book by Ken Shales or C. J. J. Berry. Some of these are now out of print, but can still be sourced online; and, of course, there are many more recent books as well as websites. It may also be useful to get in touch with local home-brewers, and you will find out about clubs and societies from a dedicated shop, or from a national club such as the Craft Brewing Association (www.craftbrewing.org.uk).

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