Brew Ha-Ha: A student guide to homebrewing

Alcohol greases the wheels of student life, but it can be a bit on the pricey side. So why not make your own? We pulled out the buckets and clingfilm to find out just what it takes to brew your own booze.

Feature by Peter Simpson | 18 Sep 2012
  • Brew Ha-Ha

The allure of the crowded bar, the clink of glasses and the chatter of the young and beautiful. None of these things are present as we begin our Tuesday night in a bathroom, washing out a plastic bucket with a shower nozzle. Malcolm, today's intrepid brewer, is informing us of the lack of glamour involved in homebrew. No kidding.

Our guide for the evening, Malcolm has been homebrewing for two years with plenty of sucess, apart from the time when he got his teaspoons and tablespoons mixed up, resulting in a batch of beer that had more flight than a bald eagle on steroids. 

On the menu today is pear cider, one of the myriad beverages you can make at home if you're willing to put in the time and effort. Most homebrew comes from kits or pre-mixed solutions, which takes a lot of the danger out of the equation whilst still giving you a massive chemistry set to play with.

Alba Homebrew in Edinburgh and Inn House Brewery in Glasgow can hook you up with all the kit you'll need, and once you've dug into the student loan to buy your mixing bucket and other essentials the savings come thick and fast. Today's cider kit came in at £14, and it makes 40 pints. £14, for 40 pints. 

Once the ingredient mix and water have been bunged in the 25-litre bucket, it's time to add the yeast. All of a sudden, the room fills with the unmistakable odour of a loaf of mouldy bread that's been soaked in pear cider. If you don't think you'd recognise that smell, then just you wait and see.

From here, it's just a case of stirring it all up and placing a layer of cling film between lid and liquid. This simple task leads to the greatest problem of the evening, prompting our brewer to warn our readers against buying their cling film from a well-known supermarket chain. The one which rhymes with 'crow-flop'.

With the lid safely on, a brief test is carried out with a hydrometer which “probably isn't that accurate, because I've smashed the end off of it,” and the brew is ready to be shut in a cupboard and wrapped in a duvet to keep the temperature up. In a week's time it'll be ready to bottle, and then in another week's time it'll be ready to sup on at the tasty price of 35p a pint. 

So it's far from glamourous, and it irequires a certain level of commitment. As Malcolm says: "It can take two weeks of investment before you know what's happened and if it's going to be any good... but then students do have plenty of time." Plenty of time, hardly any money, and a healthy thirst. Time to clear some room in the cupboard.

Alba Homebrew, 6 Viewforth, Edinburgh; Inn House Brewery, 736 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow