You may have noticed that things are getting more expensive. Inflation is driving up the cost of pretty much everything, including the beer that you buy.

A recent article by Nikki Mandow on Newsroom tells the story of a perfect storm of inflation, excise duties, inflated costs and shortages of raw materials resulting in a price hike for your favourite brew.

We, as beer drinkers, can do a couple of things about this. We can drink less beer, we can drink more inexpensive (less good?) beer or we can get creative (literally).

And creative for a beer lover means making your own.

It is not as difficult as you may have thought, at least it doesn’t have to be, at the beginning anyway, and the results can be better, much better, than you may have thought possible. On top of that, it’s an addictive hobby and once you start there is a rabbit hole of knowledge, methods and techniques, science and alchemy to learn should you wish. And as you do, your beers will get better and better and your styles more diverse.

Yes, there will be some initial set-up costs but over time this will be more than made up for, not least in the enjoyment of brew day and, a few weeks later, the satisfaction of sitting down of an evening and cracking one of your very own creations, and one that cost you a fraction of the price of a purchased craft beer.

And, yes, there may be the odd failure (some still drinkable, others not) but invaluable lessons will be learnt from these — not least the importance of sanitation.

More likely, however, there will successes, many of them, to the point where you would be happier drinking one of your own beers than some commercial offerings. Down the track, you may even end up entering some of them into a homebrew competition like this month’s Aotearoa Home Brew Classic.

In the forthcoming issues of Pursuit of Hoppiness, we will look at the different aspects of home brewing, how to get started and what to expect. Whether you are using a beer kit, malt extract or all grain; and whether your method is a simple beer kit, brewing in a bag or mashing malted grain in a mash tun you made yourself from a converted chilly bin.

Underlying all of these methods are a few fundamentals such as timing, temperatures and cleanliness — core principles you will employ wherever your brewing takes you.

There are also four standard ingredients making a beer with which you will become more than acquainted: malt, water, hops and yeast (see sidebar) — aspects that combine in a wondrous chemistry to produce the beers we love.

You could even start with a beer kit, such as those on offer from Black Rock or Mangrove Jacks. These are easy-to-use all-in-one kits made to make making beer at home simple … just follow the instructions on the packet. You’ll need a couple of bits of equipment to get you started including a fermenting bucket, an airlock, a siphon and some caps and bottles (you can repurpose bottles from beers you have bought), a means by which to sanitise your equipment plus some items that you will likely already have in your kitchen at home.

Speak to the staff at a home brew shop and they will happily steer you in the right direction. Or send your questions to us and we will answer them for you.

The home brewing community is friendly and welcoming, full of people willing to share tips and expertise (indeed, it’s sometimes difficult to get them to shut up) and even favourite recipes. 

Home brewing is a wonderful and enlightening side to the beer-drinking experience.

The four ingredients

Malt is (usually) made from barley (other cereals can also be used). The grain is used to generate the sugars that will be fermented into alcohol. In the brewing process, malt can be used as crushed grain or as an extract (in dry or liquid form). Grains are modified by maltsters and kilned to create different flavour profiles that will be the backbone of your beer.

Water sounds simple enough but different chemical properties in water go a long way to producing the quintessential styles of beer (water in Burton-on-Trent, the birthplace of IPA, has a high sulphate content; pilsner originated in a region with soft water in the Czech Republic) but it’s not overly of concern to the beginner.

Hops are fragrant bright green cones responsible for much of the flavour and aroma of beer. They can be subtle, earthy and herbal, or punchy with zesty citrus and stone fruit notes and anywhere in between. Added at the start of the boiling process and they will add bitterness, later additions give flavour and aroma. They come as dried cones or, more often, pellets.

Yeast will ferment the sugars created by the malt into alcohol. Different strains of yeast will also add to the beer’s flavour profile. There are lager yeasts and there are ale yeasts, American-style yeasts and yeasts that produce hazy beer. Some are in liquid form, others are dried.

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