Brewing alcohol has been going on for thousands of years!
At the time amateur brewing become legal in 1962 there was very little choice of products available for brewing, let alone the ‘all in one’ kits that we have today. So most people started making wine, beer and cider from scratch, using fruit and vegetables for wines and ciders from the hedgerows or from friends that had an excess. Most where fermented using a common brewers yeast (used more for bread making) which worked in the fact that it could produce OK results but mostly tasted pretty vile.
Beer making involved sourcing barley grain and hops which were boiled up into a mash for fermenting. An extremely time consuming process involving hours of stinking out the kitchen thus alienating the rest of the family.
There were very few books about home brewing (because it had been illegal for so long) so a lot of it was trial and error. Now the error bit is the one I seem to hear mostly from people I speak to at the many canal festivals we attend. The stories of how “Grandad’s wine all exploded in the airing cupboard” or how “Uncle Charlie’s beer was so strong everyone got so drunk they couldn’t feel their legs”.
In the 1970’s and 80’s home brewing became the thing to do with countless clubs forming round the country teaching members how to brew and holding regular competitions to compare results. Sadly, like with most things some of us are better than others, so while about 20% were producing extremely good wines, ciders and beers the other 80% were getting appalling results, and this unfortunately is the legacy home brewing is living with today.
It did though became a good learning process for the very keen and helped spawn a large number of innovative home brewers who went on to establish a new wave of micro-breweries throughout the country which we’re enjoying today. When the breweries saw what was happening they jumped on the band wagon and started producing their own ranges of brewing kits, thus making it easier for the average person to produce a drinkable product, though they did tend to be made from the more inferior ingredients to start with …
… certainly things have changed for the better
More and more younger people have become attracted to the craft beer and cider market that’s the current trend sweeping the globe. Made with unusual ingredients and using specialty yeasts and hops as well as having funky brand names they are starting to tempt even the most hardened lager and real ale drinkers.
The more proactive homebrew kit makers have noticed this and are now creating new products that will stand beside some of the best craft beers and ciders that are available commercially. (The ‘Bulldog Brews’ range is a good example)
Wine from fruit or cheap kits has had a very chequered past, leading to some dreadful tales of woe!
Nowadays you can forget all you’ve heard as the full juice wine kits on the market are turning out commercial quality wines for as little as £1.00 a bottle. The high standard of the grape juices and fast acting yeasts produce amazing wines in as little as five days.
So now what’s to stop you having a go ….