Why brew your own?
There are many reasons homebrewers take up the pastime.
Some brew to make cheap beer. These brewers use the cheapest ingredients possible (typically a can of concentrate and a kilo of sugar) and are in it for the alcohol, not the quality of the beer.
While Oliver and Geoff like the fact that the more homebrew you drink the more you save (in Latin, multi bibus, multi conservatus) we're glad that there are many other reasons people choose to brew their own beer.
Another reason people begin homebrewing is that they're bored with the mainstream beer from most breweries and realise that they can brew some fantastic beers at home, but without the hefty price tag.
Others turn to homebrewing to make styles of beers that aren't readily available in their part of the world.
Still others brew because it's an interesting and enjoyable pastime and like the challenge of designing new recipes to brew.
Or for the cameraderie with mates, or to get out of the house and spend some time in the shed, or myriad other reasons.
It's really not that difficult to brew beer at home that tastes better than most commercial brews. In fact, as long as you stick to a few simple rules that we'll cover later in this section, there's not much that can go drastically wrong. It really is quite difficult to brew bad beer,
Most of what you may have heard about the pitfalls of homebrewing and the quality of homebrewed beer is probably just plain wrong. Homebrewers do at home what commercial brewers do on a massive scale. There's no reason why the beer can't taste as good or better than you can buy.
There are many untruths and half-truths about homebrew. Here are some:
Myth: Homebrew is stronger than commercial beer
This is may be true, depending on the recipe you use. You can make homebrew as strong or as weak as you like; it all depends how much sugar or malt you add. Oliver's and Geoff's strongest, Russian Imperial Stout, was about 8.2%, but most are in the 4% to 5% range. You can make light beer, too. Using a hydrometer, which comes with most homebrew kits and is available at homebrew shops, and a simple calculation give a fairly accurate measure of the alcohol content.
Myth: Homebrew bottles explode
One of the most common questions that non-homebrewers ask is, “How often do your bottles explode?” It seems everyone has a story about exploding bottles of homebrew (although it is always about dad, an uncle or a friend and almost always involves bottles "under the house" or in the shed).
The fact is that bottles won't explode unless you bottle when the beer hasn't finished fermenting or you add too much sugar to “prime” each bottle to add carbonation. It's as simple as that.
Oliver has bottled more than 2000 bottles and has only had one explode, which he puts down to double-priming a bottle by accident, probably caused by inibriation at the time of bottling!
Myth: Homebrew means killer hangovers
This defies science. Dehydration and vitamin B deficiency are the main causes of hangovers. Yeast contains vitamin B and alcohol draws vitamin B out of the body. Most homebrew is bottle-conditioned and contains yeast sediment, so as you drink homebrew you replenish vitamin B.
Most commercial beer is filtered, so don't get any vitamin B. You follow?
As well, there are no preservatives in homebrew, unlike many commercial brews. This means that even if the homebrew is filtered to remove all the yeast, nothing has been added to improve its shelf life, and increase your hangover.
Myth: Homebrew doesn't taste any good
This is simply not true! It's pretty hard to make a bad homebrew if you follow a few simple rules such as using quality ingredients, making sure you sanitise all your equipment well and controlling the fermentation temperature.
Sure, in the old days when your dad or Uncle Tom was brewing with confectionery malt extract, cane sugar, hops that hadn't been stored properly and baker's yeast, the result wouldn't have been crash hot.
But times have changed and there's absolutely no reason that, with the right techniques and ingredients, you can't brew a beer to match it with anything you can buy.
So, read on, learn how to make beer, and give homebrew a chance.