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Mr hovis mentioned homebrew on the fermenting thread... Which has inspired me to give it a go.

Any tips? Good ways to start?

My last experience was selling the kits in boots when I worked there 20 yrs ago. Have things moved on a bit?

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I've made ginger beer before without a kit. It was basically just sugar fermented with champagne yeast, with a load of grated ginger and a few lemons to give it some flavour.

Very easy to do, and lovely stuff. I didn't have the gear to measure the ABV, but I'd say it was at around 4 to 5 percent. (I didn't stop the fermentation when I bottled it, so it got progressively stronger as I worked my way through it)

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Conversely to what's been said above, I'd argue the quality of the kits has improved immeasurably since the days when Boots sold them. Can make very drinkable ale, stout, wheat beer or cider using a basic set up. Lagers are a little trickier, as ideally you need to keep the brew cold during fermentation as the yeast don't like higher temperatures. Can also mess around with fresh hops and different yeasts to amend the flavours.

Have never quite got round to doing all-grain brews yet, as it seems like a lot of effort just to get similar results as if you were to use a malt extract, but some swear by it.

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Give Wurzel's Orange Wine a go. Very easy.

If you don't have any demijohns, just buy a couple 5 litre bottles of water from Lidl, drill holes in the lids and use some of the water to make the wine.

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I've got one of those overly simple kits sitting around waiting to get started, really must use it some time. Ultimately I'd like to do more but I reasoned that starting simple was the best approach to get a bit of an idea. I've no idea how I'm supposed to keep it at the temperature it says though, or keep the beer when it's ready (I'm too unsociable to have anyone to invite around to help drink it).

The other thing I can't figure out is all the steralisation. It makes sense I suppose but beer's been brewed long before the means to do that have existed. Perhaps people just brewed a lot of really awful beer in the past.

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I started from cold last year hiace with only online forums to guide me and I have made several decent and several okay brews.

I have some stuff I don't use so stripping it down to what I do use:

Kit needed (you may have some already)

Big plastic drum with lid for the brew, I do 40 pint brews. It's heavy to move about.

Long plastic stirring spoon

Two pint plastic jug for the water

Heater - I bought an aquarium heater. You need to keep your brew at 20 degrees and this does it

Bottling:

Forty beer bottles (good excuse to buy some decent beer first!)

Crown caps

Crown cap fitter (like a two handed bottle opener)

I fill with the afore mentioned jug, a syphon seems unnecessary to me

I think that's all.

Consumables:

Sterilising tablets

Beer kit can

Brewing sugar (if buying a cheaper beer kit)

And start saving those thin packet sugars you get with coffee, ideal for priming your bottles without getting sugar on the rim.

That's it really. Off you go!

There are many ways to improve on this, going all the way up to brewing from grain, but I haven't felt the urge yet.

One thing, where the beer has tasted a bit rubbish if I leave it for another two weeks in the bottle it sorts itself out.

And counter intuitively I find bitter works better in the summer and lager on the winter.

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Mr hovis mentioned homebrew on the fermenting thread... Which has inspired me to give it a go.

Any tips? Good ways to start?

My last experience was selling the kits in boots when I worked there 20 yrs ago. Have things moved on a bit?

The only tip I can give is keep everything scrupulously clean....sterilise everything you use. ;)

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If you can spare a few quid at it, all grain brewing is seriously satisfying, and it's very easy to create some very drinkable beers, especially if you hunt around a bit for clones of your favourites. I brewed a copy of Fursty Ferret once which just got better and better over the 6 weeks it took me to drink it all, to the point I reckoned it was better than what I'd set out to copy.

In terms of cost, you'll find a lot of home brewers are soul mates of HPC - they get all their stuff of Freecycle and ebay. I was too lazy and impatient, so bought all of mine.

Jim's Beer Kit site and forum is a great resource.

I sold all my kit eventually because I just don't drink enough to justify it, but I've frequently tried to persuade friends to get involved just so I can go and help out on a brew day.

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Read this:

http://www.howtobrew.com/

Would second the all grain approach. I used something called "Batch sparging" for simplicity.

Try a couple using the extract + speciality grains method first to see if it's for you (you can do this in a big pan on the hob if needed).

You can make a lot of the kit yourself - a mash tun can be built in a cooler box, a boiler can be made from a (heat resistant) polypropylene bucket and kettle elements.

If you do it properly, the beer you make is often better than anything you can buy. You may end up making more beer than you can drink.

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Mr hovis mentioned homebrew on the fermenting thread... Which has inspired me to give it a go.

Any tips? Good ways to start?

My last experience was selling the kits in boots when I worked there 20 yrs ago. Have things moved on a bit?

Blackberry wine is the best home brew I have ever made. It was like drinking innocuous fruit juice, but we were totally p1ssed after half a bottle each, in fact I have never staggered so much. And no spinning ceiling or hangover. It was so good it became a special occasion wine. Hedgerows will be full of blackberries in a couple of weeks.

My other favourite is elderflower champagne, but you'll have to wait until next year.

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Blackberry wine is the best home brew I have ever made. It was like drinking innocuous fruit juice, but we were totally p1ssed after half a bottle each, in fact I have never staggered so much. And no spinning ceiling or hangover. It was so good it became a special occasion wine. Hedgerows will be full of blackberries in a couple of weeks.

My other favourite is elderflower champagne, but you'll have to wait until next year.

Elderflower champagne is EXTRAORDINARY.

It tastes amazing and, when my mum used to make it, bottles had to be opened in the garden. The champagne cork record was 20 ft; we were hunting for the cork in the field behind some 60ft plus away.

Blackberry wine may be my first wine, I have several demijohns that came with the house which I have not used; and will be doing a lot of blackberrying soon.

So if you have a recipe?.....

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Elderflower champagne is EXTRAORDINARY.

It tastes amazing and, when my mum used to make it, bottles had to be opened in the garden. The champagne cork record was 20 ft; we were hunting for the cork in the field behind some 60ft plus away.

Blackberry wine may be my first wine, I have several demijohns that came with the house which I have not used; and will be doing a lot of blackberrying soon.

So if you have a recipe?.....

I can also recommend the champagne style yeasts and using something with a lot of sugar as the base. I used to make wine at the age 14, and confess some did get sold on at school. My apple champagne (cider??) was very popular.

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Elderflower champagne is EXTRAORDINARY.

It tastes amazing and, when my mum used to make it, bottles had to be opened in the garden. The champagne cork record was 20 ft; we were hunting for the cork in the field behind some 60ft plus away.

Blackberry wine may be my first wine, I have several demijohns that came with the house which I have not used; and will be doing a lot of blackberrying soon.

So if you have a recipe?.....

4lbs dry blackberries picked on a sunny day (the sunny bit could be tricky)

3lb granulated sugar

1 gallon boiling water

yeast

yeast nutrient

Crush fruit in a crock with a wooden spoon. Pour over boiling water. Stir well and allow to cool to luke warm (70F), then add yeast. Cover and leave for 4-5 days stirring daily. Strain though 2 layers of muslin onto 3lbs sugar and add yeast nutrient. Stir until all is dissolved. Pour into dark fermenting jar (to keep colour) filling just to the shoulder and fit trap. Keep remaining juice in a small bottle also with a trap or cotton wool plug. After about a week when ferment quietens for no risk of foaming through trap, top up with remaining juice to the base of the neck and refit trap. Leave until it clears and then rack.

From: First Steps in Winemaking by C.J.J. Berry

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4lbs dry blackberries picked on a sunny day (the sunny bit could be tricky)

3lb granulated sugar

1 gallon boiling water

yeast

yeast nutrient

Crush fruit in a crock with a wooden spoon. Pour over boiling water. Stir well and allow to cool to luke warm (70F), then add yeast. Cover and leave for 4-5 days stirring daily. Strain though 2 layers of muslin onto 3lbs sugar and add yeast nutrient. Stir until all is dissolved. Pour into dark fermenting jar (to keep colour) filling just to the shoulder and fit trap. Keep remaining juice in a small bottle also with a trap or cotton wool plug. After about a week when ferment quietens for no risk of foaming through trap, top up with remaining juice to the base of the neck and refit trap. Leave until it clears and then rack.

From: First Steps in Winemaking by C.J.J. Berry

Thank you. I can picture CJJ Berry now. The book I had of his fell apart but I was delighted to see a brand new copy of his on an old episode of On The Buses.

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Thank you. I can picture CJJ Berry now. The book I had of his fell apart but I was delighted to see a brand new copy of his on an old episode of On The Buses

Yes, my copy is falling to bits. Took quite a while to find page 127. It was next to page 88.

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Yes, my copy is falling to bits. Took quite a while to find page 127. It was next to page 88.

I have it, bit tatty around the edges, lots of adds in the back, fascinating and proper photographs inside....the great thing about the book is it gives recipes made from ingredients you can easily find according to the months of the year.....

Tea wine is another good all rounder. ;)

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I have it, bit tatty around the edges, lots of adds in the back, fascinating and proper photographs inside....the great thing about the book is it gives recipes made from ingredients you can easily find according to the months of the year.....

Tea wine is another good all rounder. ;)

Not so long ago, just a couple of generations, the information in these books was common knowledge and practice. Now, your lucky to know it.

Often, in fact usually, a good meal costs me virtually nothing other than time. I'm lucky.

Just as well, as the cost of living is otherwise too high for a good life.

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Not so long ago, just a couple of generations, the information in these books was common knowledge and practice. Now, your lucky to know it.

Often, in fact usually, a good meal costs me virtually nothing other than time. I'm lucky.

Just as well, as the cost of living is otherwise too high for a good life.

I think there are many people that if they have the time and knowledge can gain great pleasure in making things from good quality ingredients things others may throw away or are unaware of.....so much out there for the taking that costs very little....what you make yourself is unique.

I made a cake the other day and someone said in a rather surprised way " this is as good as you can buy in the shop" it probably cost a fraction of the cost with far superior ingredients.

Nowadays people tend to have more money and less time, so do not need to do things themselves, so the skills become lost over time, TPTB do not want people to do things for themselves, they want them to pay others to do it for them, good for the economy and job creation.....everything is becoming monetised.....learning these housekeeping skills can be very valuable, you never know when you might need them. ;)

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You can't go wrong with anything from Wilkos. The Mexican cerveza is our favourite. I've just bottled another 40 pints of it last weekend. 25p a pint. Even cheaper if you use granulated and not the Wilkos beer sugar.

It's all easy once you've got a good method worked out. The main time savers for me where:

Getting 40+ bottles with grolsh style pop tops (aldi where selling crates of German wheat beer a few yrs ago so I bought the lot, they've never had them since unfortunately).

Start the brew on a raised platform next to the edge. I use an ikea lack coffee table in the back room. This way the bucket never has to be moved and you can syphon straight into bottles without disturbing the sediment.

Sterilising bottles is the only tedious part. I got two milk bottle crates (hold 20 bottles each) from a skip, a squirt of Wilkos Milton fluid in each then fill with water. When you drain them out the crates let you put them all upside down to drain fully. Also makes carrying all the full bottles around so much easier.

Top tip if you ever make one of the kits with the extra hops packet. They usually turn out way too hoppy for our tastes so we just have a slice of lime in each glass, balances it perfectly.

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Turbo Cider's another favourite of mine. So called because of the speed it ferments at, and probably the speed it gets you drunk with! Tastes like a nice scrumpy...

All you need is:

15 cartons of Aldi apple juice (avoid anything with preservatives in it, will bugger up your fermentation)

1-3 jars of honey (depending on how pissed you want to get, 3 jars will give you about 8-9%!)

A pot of cold, stewed tea (gives it tannins and mouthfeel)

A sachet of cider/Champagne yeast (Champagne yeast makes it dryer but stronger)

Bung it all into a fermenter for a week, then decant into primed bottles. Wonderful!

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You can't go wrong with anything from Wilkos. The Mexican cerveza is our favourite. I've just bottled another 40 pints of it last weekend. 25p a pint. Even cheaper if you use granulated and not the Wilkos beer sugar.

It's all easy once you've got a good method worked out. The main time savers for me where:

Getting 40+ bottles with grolsh style pop tops (aldi where selling crates of German wheat beer a few yrs ago so I bought the lot, they've never had them since unfortunately).

Start the brew on a raised platform next to the edge. I use an ikea lack coffee table in the back room. This way the bucket never has to be moved and you can syphon straight into bottles without disturbing the sediment.

Sterilising bottles is the only tedious part. I got two milk bottle crates (hold 20 bottles each) from a skip, a squirt of Wilkos Milton fluid in each then fill with water. When you drain them out the crates let you put them all upside down to drain fully. Also makes carrying all the full bottles around so much easier.

Top tip if you ever make one of the kits with the extra hops packet. They usually turn out way too hoppy for our tastes so we just have a slice of lime in each glass, balances it perfectly.

Excellent tips FBM, you have already decided me to keep the fermenter in one place. I've not tried their Mexican cerveza but one for the next visit.

I have a small number of Grolsch top bottles and have been slowly replacing the crownies with these. I hadn't thought about crates but think I have a couple in the workshop so will try for size.

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