A nice idea on surface, but what were the practical difficulties?
1. Don’t know shit about homebrewing.
2. Where would I get the ingredients and tools?
3. Our incoming housemate is female so will moan and nag us about how silly this idea is.
So I did my homework through forums, YouTube, and generally making good friends with Google. The general principle is making a sugary mixture (wort) and adding yeast to convert this sugar into ethanol (i.e. the alcohol), and carbon dioxide gas in a process called fermentation. Fermentation is variable but usually takes over a week. You’ll have an alcoholic beverage by then that reminds you of beer, but the flat, awful beer you find at the end of your bottle or glass. To get something more drinkable you either keg or bottle and carbonate the beer. I chose to bottle, and you carbonate by adding sugar in the bottles then capping them so the remaining yeast will ferment with that sugar and the carbon dioxide gas produced is the gas that makes it fizzy when you crack it open. But for carbonation to finish, you’ll have to give the bottles two weeks or so to prime (the current stage I’m in).
Then was the matter of getting what I needed. Getting the individual ingredients and preparing them would be long and more likely to fail, so I got a pre-made kit from Wilkinson (Cooper’s Lager). It contains the ingredients (barely-malt and hops) in the right ratio and with a packet of yeast. It’s about £13 and makes forty pints. The rest of the shopping list was as follows:
1. Cooper’s kit ~ £13
2. Brewing sugar, 1kg ~ £2
3. Fermenting vessel ~ £12
4. Thermometer ~ £2.50
5. Hydrometer (it checks how much is fermented) ~ £3.50
6. Steriliser, 100g ~ £1.50
7. Siphon ~ £2.50
8. Trial jar ~ £2.50
7. Big spoon ~ £1.50
This racks up to about £40, approximate values due to rounding, price changes over time and place, etc. After you’ve made your first batch, you’ll only need the kit, sugar and I guess more steriliser. £16.50 for forty pints is not bad. That is, if you have forty pint bottles, a capper, forty caps and probably a lot more steriliser. The capper is about £12, and is just another start up cost. Caps are around fifty for £1. Bottles are tricky. New pint bottles made for homebrewers are about 70p each, annoying considering how much empty glass you and the bartender throw away. However, thankfully old glass bottles are fine as long as they’re washed with a pretty aggressive agent (something with ‘Oxi’ in the title will do, and this will remove the label) and sterilised. Brown bottles are a lot more preferable than green or clear.
Although you ferment forty pints of wort, you won’t really get forty pints because gunky dead yeast sinks to the bottom of the vessel (and if you’re clumsy like I was you spill as much as you bottle). Whatever downsides I’ve found, it’s something I’d heavily recommend, that is, until I crack open my first bottle in the next few days and taste something akin to feet sweat at best and at worst spend my night in Hotel NHS. I’ll keep ye updated.
Oh, problem 3? Ignored her and did it anyway.