with the occasional rant about tin openers...


Kit, Website, Books and Stuff Reviews

Kit Review:

Brewferm Pilsner: This was great! Frankly, being the first brew, I was just glad it was potable. All those horror stories about spoilt brews and bacterial infections and exploding bottles...

Tom Caxton 'Real Ale': Not so sure about this one. I'd say leave it alone for a good while, and give it the benefit of the doubt. Of course it didn't last long enough to tell, though!

John Bull I.P.A.: Everybody loved this, and after a conversation with the quizmaster in our local (not as anal as it sounds), JB are all round good'uns. The second batch was just as good, if not better.

Bards Bitter: Again, OK, but vastly improved with time. I've finished all mine, but I gave one to a friend, and he's kept it, so we'll see just how good it gets*. On a scale of 1 to Hangover, its about a 7.

Geordie Bitter: In the words of the voiceover from '60 Minute Makeover' - Wow! After only four weeks in the bottle it already tastes amazing. Full body, not too hoppy, and good head. A great value tin, which I think was the cheapest so far. I only had one bottle, and only really needed the one to send me off to sleep rightly. A cure for insomnia? Probably not. A darned good pint? Oh, aye! If I'd bothered with a star rating from the start, it would have a 5.

Brewferm Triple: This beer is strong! Brewed from a 1.5kg tin and 500g of special sugar to only 12 litres I think it was, the beer is strong in both alcohol and flavour. A little offputting to some who tried it, it went down well with myself, though I think better left to homebrewers who already know they like the likes of Leffe etc. Big Richard's getting a bottle, he'll review it properly.

Cooper's Pilsner: Coming soon (well, after a two-week holiday, one week ferment and 8 weeks condition) a review of the Cooper's Pilsner homebrew kit. Can't wait!
* - Read Big Richard's Review

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Places from where you can get home brew stuff:

http://www.whyteshomewineequipment.co.uk/ is from where the original bucket came from, off'f my lady-friend, for christmas. As it was a surprise I don't know the ins and outs, but I got it in time, so I presume all was in order. Anyone looking for a home brew kit for a present, this is a good place to start: Beginners' Home Brew Starter Kit. It comes with the Brewferm Pilsner, but I gather you can opt for something different, though the Pils is well worth making.

http://www.the-home-brew-shop.co.uk/: I used this company for my first lot of tins about 6 months ago, and I seem to remember being happy enough with the website and delivery.

http://www.thehomebrewcompany.ie/: These boys keep changing their offers, but €5 postage to 32 counties ain't bad when you order enough stuff to break the poor man's back! Very swift delivery, and very helpful with my random (but pertinent) questions. Thanks, Shane.
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The Big Book of Brewing, Dave Line (Special Interest Model Books - Sep 2004)
Cracking book. Goes into a lot of detail about making your own beer from scratch, but it's got loads of tips for the beginner using tinned kits, and is a fun read.

Brewing Beers like those you buy, Dave Line (Special Interest Model Books - 2002)
Essentially a recipe book for brewing beers like those you buy. It contains a detailed introduction to brewing from scratch, followed by a large and pretty comprehensive set of recipes for, mainly British beers and ales, but some world beers too, like Urquell, Bud, Zywiec, Stella etc. Like Morland Mild Ale and got a lot of time on your hands? Then this is the book for you. Originally published in the 70s, I think, so some of the beers are... out of date?

Home Brewing - Self Sufficiency, John Parkes (New Holland - 2009)
An interesting book. Plenty of detail without being bogged down in it. Lots of tips, and reams of information on hop characteristics etc, which would help if you were brewing from scratch. Some recipes at the end.

Hops and Glory: One man's search for the beer that built the British Empire, Pete Brown (Pan - 2010)
A really enjoyable book by a man who spends as much time talking/reading/thinking/drinking beer as I would like! It's not a home brew book, as such, but instead goes into great detail about the history of British and Indian beer, especially I.P.A., and is also an account of his journey, taking a batch of specially brewed I.P.A. to India for the first time in 180 years. Hilarity ensues. Reads like a travelogue.

The Complete Joy of Homebrewing (3rd ed.), Charlie Papazian (HarperCollins - 2003)
This book really gets into the nitty gritty of Homebrewing. It describes everything, often including several methods to give you as many options as you feel you'd need. It's ideally suited to every level homebrewer; the more advanced you want to get, the further into the book you go. Appendices on mead, hangovers etc, it doesn't leave much out. Entertaining as well as informative, I'll definately be looking out for his follow on, The Homebrewer's Companion.

The Microbrewers' Handbook (2nd ed.), Ted Bruning (Paragraph Publishing - 2009)
Halfway through this one, too. No good if you're looking for a story arc, but great if you're thinking about taking the next step (after the first two or three), or are just interested, in microbrewery. Details on planning permission, equipment estimates, and things you wouldn't even think of when setting up your own. Doesn't mention tin openers anywhere.

Man Walks Into A Pub: A Sociable History of Beer (Fully Updated Second Edition), Pete Brown (Pan - 2010)
Another good book from Pete Brown. About the rise of brewing and pubs/taverns/inns etc through history, and the occasional sarky comment about the government. A fun book to read, though I don't think I remember quite how many million barrels were produced in 1894, and what it dropped to the following year. But if I wanted to know, I know where I'd look.

Everything Homebrewing Book, Drew Beechum (Adams Media - 2009)
Just when I though I knew it all about homebrew, I get my hands on a copy of this. It yields so much information that it's almost a reference book. Plenty of interesting recipes and tips etc (similar format to the Dummies series).

Designing Great Beers, Ray Daniels (Brewers Publications - 1998)
I knew that Maths AS level (not quite smart enough for an A level) would come in handy one day! This book is well researched, and provides lots of information for compiling beers typical of the typical styles. Worth reading for the advice about formulating decent recipes, and if you're serious about mash schedules and temperatures etc. However, if you're interested in brewing some experimental beers, this will merely be a stepping stone, but one worth... ah, stupid metaphors!... stepping on.

Advanced Home Brewing, Ken Shales (Amateur Winemaker - 1983 ed.)
I love scouring old bookshops and charity shops for little gems like this. Not much in the way of new information having read many others, but a Dr Who look into the past, even remembering the days when homebrewing was outlawed, with ingredients and methods not necessarily found nowadays. Thankfully, though, many things Shales couldn't get hold of, we probably take for granted. Nevertheless, for £1, which is what I paid, I got much more than a quids worth out of it. I see they're more expensive on Amazon, so you'll need to go treasure-hunting yourselves if you want a copy of this for a reasonable price.
I'm currently brewing a Shales recipe, see here! (not yet)

Home Brewed Beers & Stouts, C.J.J.Berry (Amateur Winemaker - 1984 ed.)
This book was first written in the years when Homebrewing was only just legalised. It’s a funny thought: a lot of men in sheds, regularly breaking the law in their slippers. Of course, this book is full of useful information, but if you’ve already read another book on homebrewing, not much will come as a surprise. It’s always interesting to read a relaxed non-fiction book, with pictures and attitudes directly from the past. However, another nice book for the shelf, and you’ll finish it in an evening… unless you’re a lady reader, in which case you’ll probably only manage a half.
Having said that, despite all the books from the 70s & 80s containing pretty much the same thing, they do each impart several tidbits of info that you can't get anywhere else. Worth spending the £1 or so in a second hand shop for the chance of a tip you don't get in any of the newer books!

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Young's 5gallon plastic Barrel: Ok, this is tricky! First, it's just amazing to have beer on tap right next to the sofa. It gets 5 glorious stars for that alone. There are, unfortunately, drawbacks. Leaving aside the problems caused by having beer on tap right next to the sofa, the pressure dispensing system has not worked brilliantly for me so far. On its own, with some CO2 bulbs, it's hard to pull a pint, but easy to pour a Mr Whippy beer. The problem might also be the bulbs. They're puncture release, so all the pressure goes from the bulb into the barrel in one swift, uncontrollable movement. If the CO2 bulbs had those ball-bearing type valves, I think we'd be on to a winner. So, I'll give Young's the benefit of the doubt, there. However, when the condition runs out, it GLUGS in air. Shortly after that, the beer starts to taste right funny, though by then, to be fair, there wasn't much left to sour.

In short, a good first buy, but it could do with some modification. The tap opens counterintuitively, for a start, which led to a soaked carpet. Twice. You can't teach an old sot new tricks.

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