Money may be tight for many of us this year, but we’ll still want to toast the holiday season by enjoying a refreshing beer or a glass of wine in the summer sun. Beyond the cut price deals in the supermarkets and off-licences, one solution is to make your own.
A friend of ours used to work for a wine company and very kindly got us some fantastic deals via the staff sales – around £1 a bottle for a while. It was great while it lasted, but now he has moved jobs and our wine cellar is looking pretty thin. So this weekend DJ, a keen homebrew enthusiast, decided to get stuck into bottling some wine he made a couple of years ago, brewing some beer and planning to get some more vino on the go for the coming years.
Brewing your own beer and wine may sound a bit too much like hard work but, believe me, it’s great fun and the thought of all the money you’ll save will soon put a smile on your face. You can make decent beer in the comfort of your own home for 30p a pint or less. And, what’s more, the quality of many homemade beer and wine kits have improved considerably over the past few years and they don’t have to taste like Chateau Neuf du Paint Stripper. Actually, DJ’s apricot wine is just as good, if not better, than some white wines I have tasted from the off-licence.
Beer can generally be made much quicker than wine and will be ready in a few weeks. Wine made from items such as freshly picked or tinned fruit can take much longer to be ready – a year or more. However, rice and raisin wine is a popular beginner’s wine which takes six to eight weeks to make and some modern wine kits can be ready in a couple of weeks, although the longer you leave them to mature, the better they will taste.
To make beer you’ll need a brewing barrel, beer bottles or keg, beer kit, paddle, hydrometer yeast, siphon, sugar, bottle caps and sterilisation powder. A beginner’s kit will set you back about £20, but all of the items you will reuse. For wine you’ll also need some demijohns – large glass containers which hold around five bottles’ worth of wine – and some bottles, airlocks and corks too. Obviously there’s an initial outlay for the equipment, although you will of course be able to use it again and again. To get his demijohns, DJ contacted some local charity shops. They often get demijohns but tend to recycle them because they take up so much room. When they got some in they gave DJ a call and we came and collected them. I think he paid about 50p each. Alternatively, you could put out a request for them on your local freecycle group.
Make sure you take care to sterilise your brewing barrel and bottles etc. carefully. It’s a bit of a drag, but you don’t want your beer or wine to be contaminated. Earlier this year we put some beer on but didn’t take enough care over cleaning the barrel and ended up having to throw the whole lot away.
Have you made your own beer and wine? Got any good tips or recipes to recommend? Leave a message and let me know.
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