Home brew beer kits are ideal for beginners, because all the hard work has been done for you. All the ingredients have been mixed together in the can, so all you need to do is mix the thing up with hot water, add the yeast sachet, and let nature take its course. Then bottle, leave for a couple of weeks… and hey presto, you’re a home brewer! Kit brews are the easiest way to get started in home brewing. Once you gain in confidence, you can decide if you want to take things further and branch out into more creative recipes.
In the UK, the choice of home brew beer kits is impressive – even bewildering. Don’t panic! Your choice of kit comes down to three basic choices.
Some manufacturers produce kits featuring ‘dry’ ingredients, such as this York Brewery Terrier Bitter. Although they can give excellent results, they are a step up in difficulty from ‘wet’ kits (as you can see in our introduction to home beer making). If you’re just starting out, wet kits are far easier and will give you more reliable results.
One-can kits contain 1.5kg of malt extract, and you add sugar to them to bring the ABV (alcohol by volume) up to ordinary beer levels. Incidentally, this is exactly the same trick used to make budget beers commercially. If you’re brewing to save money first and foremost, these kits are definitely the way to go. They may not impress real ale buffs, but they’re still far better than supermarket budget beers. One-can (budget) kits are an excellent way to get started and develop your basic brewing skills.
Two-can kits typically contain 3.0kg of malt extract, so there’s no need to add sugar (except to prime the bottles). Unsurprisingly, two-can kits cost twice as much as one-can kits, but the extra malt makes a huge difference to the flavour and body of the brew.
The UK home brew market is lively and competitive so, depending on the type of beer you drink, you may find that you’re spoilt for choice. Bitter drinkers, for example, will find more than fifty different kits at Home Brew Online, our partnered supplier. So what to do? Over the years I’ve brewed all sorts. Wet kits, dry kits, budget kits, premium kits – and even from scratch – my advice is this:
Buy your basic equipment and a budget (one-can) beer kit to start with. Brewing kit beer is easy, but if you’ve not brewed before you’re learning a few new skills; sterilising, fermentation, and bottling. So keep the stakes low!
Once your first successful brew is under your belt, try a few different brands or styles of beer to get a feel for what works for you, and what doesn’t. You may feel that this is as far as you need to go. After all, a repertoire of a few home brewed beers that taste better than the stuff the supermarkets sell is quite an achievement!
But if you’d like to take things further, invest in a couple of premium two-can kits and taste the difference. You might go on to try dry kits or brewing from scratch, or you might not; it’s an individual thing. Personally I’ll climb in and out of hedges and turn the kitchen into a battleground for my country wines, but when it comes to beer making I’m a sucker for the convenience of wet kits.
If you’re an absolute novice, Home Brew Online provides starter kits which contain everything you need to knock out a successful first brew. If you’d prefer to do a bit more homework and customize your kit, our home brewing equipment article will help. Try not to go mad to start with – there’s plenty of scope for gadgets later!
After bottling, try to leave your beer in the bottles for at least a month, despite what it might say in the kit instructions. Remember that home brewed beers have a relatively short shelf life – usually no more than six months. If you detect that your beer is passing its best, don’t hang about – invite some friends round for a BBQ and finish it up.
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