Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Homebrew Diversions: U-Brew

Like many beerthusiasts, I have romantic ideas about brewing my own beer. I am deluded enough to consider myself a brewmaster of unique genius, trapped in the body of a man with no talent.

SO, as well as the usual guff, this blog will now also report on my forays into homebrewing. In the coming weeks I will publish: some reports on my attempts to brew; homebrewing advice I've gathered from Canadian brewmasters; information about the Victoria homebrew scene, and anything else I can find to stuff the column inches.

I'm not brewing yet. I intend to start in a few weeks. So far I have managed to gather some of the essential equipment:
i. A free 20l carboy that looks in decent condition
ii. A small room with a drain where I can hide things from my family
iii. Unwarranted optimism

Until then, my homebrew life is lived vicariously through the achievements of others. With perfect timing, my friend Jacqueline unexpectedly gave me three bottles of her own homebrew for my birthday last week — an IPA, a marzen and a brown ale (left).

Jacqueline brewed them at a "U-Brew" place. Purists might argue this is not strictly homebrew. U-Brews are places that house all the equipment and ingredients you need to brew beer. You turn up, choose one of their recommended recipes (or invent your own), and pay depending on how much you intend to make. You do the labour, with some supervision if you're a newbie, then you come back and collect your bottles when they're ready. I've heard it works out to about $2-3 a bomber (650ml) depending on the recipe. It sounds like a great way to become accustomed to the brewing process without having to do all the difficult stuff like cultivating yeast and sanitizing.

Jacqueline brewed hers at Bedford Brewing in Victoria. They have twenty or so recipes to choose from, and all three of the beers she kindly gave me were delicious. The IPA (right) was accidentally brewed with double the hops in the boil (I think that's what Jacqueline said). This gave what would have otherwise been a very restrained, light IPA an extra kick of mineral bitterness. It ended a tad astringent, but I'd love to drink some more of it. The marzen was very clean tasting, with only a hint of the coppery caramel flavour you expect. But again, very refreshing. My favourite was the brown. Once more, a simple version, and light, but massively drinkable and lively.

All three beers looked and smelled fantastic. A U-Brew might be a good place for a newb brewer to find their feet, and the results seem massively encouraging. Of course, I firmly believe that brewing is in my blood. Supervision and safeguards are completely unnecessary for someone as attuned to the natural rhythms of grains, herbs, and fermentation as I am. Just you wait and see...


  1. Homebrewing is a lot of fun, a few tips would be use rinse-free sanitizer (it makes life easier) follow a recipe to start with, (it is more likely that you'll end up with a drinkable first brew) make a wort chiller - it's easy to make, and speeds up the process - and less likely to get an infection while you try to cool the brew before pitching yeast.

    Once you get the gist of it it's great to start experimenting!

    (I used "Dummies guide to homebrewing" to get me going- it was easy to follow and understand)

  2. The U-Brew concept is a great idea for folks without the equipment or space. Bedford looks to be set up with a fantastic system! A place like that would kill here in Alberta, but unfortunately provincial law prevents us from brewing beer and selling it. Silly stone age laws.

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