‘Home-brew’ isn’t a word that inspires much confidence in me, I expect to be handed some light brown coloured drink which could just as likely be someone’s attempt at wine as beer. My preferred version of Home Brew is Tony Conigliaro with his goggles on concocting something in his Drinks Factory. Though I believe this prejudice may have a little to do with my own botched attempt. Back a good few years ago we at The Holborn were at University, swanning about philosophising on this and that, spending long afternoons in the pub and returning home to sit up all night and write. So ok, not a large amount has changed, other than a job, and an increased intolerance for bad booze. It got so bad at one point with being cash strapped students we bought boxed wine from Iceland, grabbed a few glasses and headed to the park. It was so bad I’m not sure we even got through half of it. So a decision was made that we could do this cheap booze stuff better ourselves, the result not only smelt terrible it was so bad we could even keep down one gulp of the weird brown mixture we had created.
Though I’ve been told Home-Brew is undergoing a massive revival. It’s still cheap but standards have risen. Experts and enthusiasts claim anyone can make quaffable booze. Beshlie Grimes, author of Making Wines, Liqueurs & Cordials, says: “It will work out far cheaper than the bland, over-marketed beers and price-orientated wines from the supermarket. In fact, you’ve probably got most of the ingredients you need for wine in your kitchen cupboards.”
Homebrewing has undergone a revolution in recent years as a younger, more open-minded generation of brewers and drinkers has emerged. It’s not all men in sandals with beards. The days when it meant kits from Boots are long gone; the easy availability of high-quality ingredients and useful information on the internet means some truly stunning beers are being brewed in increasing numbers of amateur kitchens. Phil Lowry, who writes a column on homebrewing for Camra’s Beer magazine, reckons there are at least 15,000 homebrewers in the UK. That figure seems conservative given homebrew manufacturers Muntons sold more than half a million kits in 2012, almost twice as many as in 2007.
Significantly, this growth has helped fuel the boom in microbreweries. In this respect, Britain is following America, where the homebrew scene is larger and more sophisticated. The American Homebrewers’ Association estimates that as many as a million Americans make their own at least once a year.
Oatmeal stout, rosemary and yarrow ale, fig and rosehip wine, lavender liqueur, damson gin, blackberry whiskey, their are so many options, so much opportunity to experiment and have fun. Approaching Home Brewing for a second time I see the attraction is in the fun, not just in the economics. Last time I purely wanted to make something just about drinkable, now I want something different, strange and delicious. A good excuse to get friends round to taste my latest concoction.
So maybe we’ll even start brewing up some Holborn Ales for you all to taste. From Home Brewing to Micro Brewers to Gypsy Brewing, Alcohol is becoming a cottage industry. There are so many types of beer, cider and spirits out there. So if you want to add to that pile John Palmer’s How to Brew (howtobrew.com) may be the best place to start for Beer, or for wine Beshlie Grimes’ Making Wines, Liqueurs & Cordials.