The home brewing trend has hit hard, from people who are turning out all of their beer to those who just make a batch from time to time. But whether you're an amateur brewer or a beer-making fiend, there are a few important tips to bear in mind to make sure that your beer is the best it can be!
Until you've started making several batches a week, there's no real reason to buy any fancy brewing equipment. You can complete all of your brewing steps with recycled items: a pot to boil the water, sugar and malt, a large plastic container for fermenting, leftover lemonade bottles... The only thing you will need to invest in is a siphon system and a bottle capper with caps. For the beginning brewer, the investment in equipment is far from a necessity, and even advanced brewers may find that they can use items found around the house as opposed to buying fancy (and expensive!) brewing kits.
Where you do want to invest is in the quality of your ingredients. For as many different kinds of beer there are, the recipe itself is fairly simple: water, hops, malt and yeast. You therefore want to use the very best you can. Use bottled water, unless your tap water is of excellent quality: water that isn't tasty will make for ho-hum beer. Organic beer is on the rise, from Oregon to New Zealand, so it's easy to choose organic hops and organic malt. One particular benefit of home brewing is the ability to choose organic yeast, as many organic products are not made with organic yeast. While organic yeast is still hard to find, organic-minded brewers are starting to make it, and it should become more and more available as home brewing continues gaining in popularity.
With four simple ingredients, you can create an astounding variety of beer. So practice! Start by following our DIY guide to home brewing, and then change things up from there. Try mixing different kinds of malt and hops, adding more or less bottling sugar, and fermenting more or less time. The more you practice, the more you'll discover what characteristics of beer you like and what you don't.
Image: Jenny Downing