Jonathan Alomoto meets Will Ascott, Ben Artis and Matt Harrold – who brew their own beer.
Photo: Jonathan Alomoto
First of all, why?
Well, why not? You can get drunk on the cheap, it’s an easy process, you can create your own flavours of beer, and did we say it’s cheap?
Yes you did. How cheap exactly?
Initially picking up all the equipment can cost you up to around £40. You need a bucket, a keg, a siphon tube and a wooden spoon – they all come together in a box from Wilkinsons. Once you have all the accoutrements, you just need a beer kit which contains all the ingredients. Each beer kit costs around £12-£20 and you get around 40 pints out of each one.
That works out at around 40p per pint! Isn’t an endless supply of extremely cheap alcohol somewhat of a health risk to yourselves?
Yeah… we’ve had to learn a little self-control…
And aside from the self-inflicted, what other health hazards are there?
Nothing you can’t avoid by keeping your equipment sterile – if you don’t, you can end up with a pretty bad stomach afterwards. Oh, and there is the risk of explosion….
If your bottles are under filled, the air pressure can build until they blow up, painting the walls with beer and distributing glass splinters in all directions. Tank explosions are worse. In some circumstances the fumes from aging beer can ignite and explode in flames! But you have to be fairly careless for any of this to occur.
I wouldn’t want to live next door! But back to how it’s made… How, exactly, is it made?
First, pour the wort you get in the beer kit into the bucket with some sugar, stirring as you fill the bucket with the right combination of hot and cold water to control the temperature. Once you’re done stirring, add the yeast from the beer kit and put the lid on. The bucket must have an airlock lid so that the air pressure doesn’t reach explosive levels.
It has to be left to ferment for 2 weeks or more – depending on the individual beer kit – but after that it’s ready to drink. However, the taste is improved significantly if you are prepared to bottle it up while adding sugar and wait for a further 2 weeks for the bottles to mature. It’s a shame we rarely have the patience…
Do you have any favourite brews?
We particularly enjoyed our ‘Dark Cider The Moon’ but then we were going through a Pink Floyd phase at the time. Another favourite was our ASDA apple juice cider, which we called ‘ASDA La Vista’.
It all sounds perfect for the student market…
Unfortunately, due to hygiene requirements you need a license to legally sell homemade alcohol – although the owner of the home brew shop told us about some students who used to make homemade vodka and sell it on campus.
That sounds dangerous.
Well yeah, poorly made alcohol at high percentages can cause blindness! But apparently the vodka producers paid off their student loans within a year. Students can be pretty carefree when it comes to cheap alcohol.
Do you have a brewmaster?
Yeah, that’s Matt, but he’s allergic to beer.
Ironic, we know. He tends to stick with cider.
Finally, in case you’ve inspired any would-be brewers, what would be your top tip?
Don’t use the cider kits on sale, they’re way too sweet. We used bottles of ASDA apple juice instead and it came out much better, although we got some pretty weird looks in the supermarket buying 3 huge crates of apple juice. Alternatively you can pick your own apples but unless you enjoy the process, picking or buying apples and then pressing them can be pretty time consuming.