Beer: The guide to a good homebrew

By Rob Virtue on May 24, 2014 12:26 PM |

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With specialist ales increasingly catching the British public's imagination, it makes sense that aficionados are getting involved with production as well as consumption.

The growth of homebrewing has inspired one company to start its own classes on the subject six months ago.

Pete Vick, home brew class and shop manager at London Fields Brewery, said every session had been full.

"You'll find nine out of 10 brewers are enthusiastic home brewers who turned professional," said Pete.

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"That's why we're seeing beers that are idiosyncratic and eccentric. You carry on the experimental style of the home brew through to commercial. And that's what separates us from the mainstream."

The process can be simplified into three stages. First, the mash. A porridge is made out of barley mixed with wheat that breaks down the complex starches in the grains into simple sugars that are more readily converted to alcohol.

Stage two is boiling the extracted solution from the porridge, known as the "wort" and adding hops. Yeast is added as the wort cools, an "under appreciated, but critical part of the process," said Pete, as "it contributes 90% of the flavour".

Fermenting at home follows before the class return two weeks later to taste the results.

"They say brewing is 50% art and 50% science," said Pete. "It's a lie - it's 95% cleaning."

James Yeomans agrees with the sentiment. He began Hop Stuff Brewery last year after raising capital through a crowdfunding venture after making his home brewing a success.

"Hygiene and cleanliness is absolutely number one," he said.

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"You've got to be careful as a lot of home brewers find yeast getting infected which can make the beer go wrong.

"You're always cleaning. While you get used to it, when you have a brewery, in your kitchen it's more difficult."

James said it was also a time-consuming process, taking the same time to brew as it does in a brewery - around six or seven hours.

"It's perhaps an all-day Sunday thing," he said. "It can also be hard work, especially for me when I was making recipes. I made the recipe for our Renegade IPA while home brewing.

"But if you've got mates round and you're having a few beers at the same time then it can be a lot of fun."

■ For more on London Fields Brewery classes, which cost £95 for the day, go to londonfieldsbrewery.co.uk. It also has the only home brew shop in the capital.

■ For more on Hop Stuff Brewery go to hopstuffbrewery.com.

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