We met up with Dan Newman who made his first ever homebrew beer last month. We asked him some questions to try and understand a first time brewer’s perspective on home brewing, and why people start brewing.
What got you interested in home brewing?
It was a combination of a few things really, I think over the past year or so I’ve started trying different beer styles and my interest has grown; when I was in Uni there was maybe 5 beers to choose from in the supermarket and we’d generally plump for the cheapest. The culture has changed where by there’s more flavours becoming the mainstream and beer is drunk to be appreciated rather than just to get you smashed. So I guess it’s having better beers on the market that’s sparked my interest.
There’s also the ‘Breaking Bad’ element to it where it’s quite cool to be involved in science and making different elixirs and stuff at home – it’s quite an interesting thing to throw out on facebook and twitter that I’m brewing a beer and it got a few people asking me questions about what beer I was making and when they could try some, which is nice. I suppose being a brewer is a cool thing to do again and I’ve bought into that.
Plus I like that it’s still really niche, none of my mates have done it and I like to be a bit different. I’d been talking about it for probably a few months then found out someone in work brewed at home and he advised me of some places I could source the equipment from and recommended a good kit to start with.
Why do you think more people don’t homebrew?
I suppose because it is still so niche it’s just not in the general public’s day to day thinking, you don’t see advertisements and I think I’d only ever seen some in Tesco’s before, but that stuff didn’t look particularly appealing. Until I started researching it I didn’t know where you could buy it from or where to start. Plus I guess I buy beer as I go, so to decide on a beer you want then have to wait a month to try it, knowing there’s a risk you mightn’t like it, and that there’s work involved to make it – rather than just going the shop and buying your beers is a tough sell.
What did people say when you told them you’d started brewing beer?
Mixed reaction really, got the usual ‘You’re going to go blind’ and ‘I hope your drains are thirsty’ shouts – but when I asked if they wanted me to save them a bottle everyone said yes! I think it’s a little bit of fear of the unknown, people think making alcohol at home has got to be super dangerous or complicated and have been surprised when I explain to them how it all works. Most people are positive, although my girlfriend complained constantly about having the fermenter in the kitchen.
What was your favourite part?
Surprisingly although the beer I made was really good and I love drinking it, the best bit for me was the making process and sharing it with mates. I liked talking about the process online, learning different techniques people use and how your skill in controlling the temperature and getting your timings right has an effect on the beer, it was good to taste the beer at different stages too and seeing the impact of adding hops was really interesting. To then share what you’ve been working on with people and get praise about how good it tastes surprisingly felt really good, I didn’t think I’d care what people thought of it but that moment of suspense when you share your beer and they taste it is really exciting.
What bits didn’t you like?
Bottling 40 bottles was really not much fun, I spilt some on the floor when syphoning and my girlfriend still maintains the house smells of beer, I personally don’t see why that’s a problem! Also it took longer than I’d hoped to be ready, you need patience, I cracked and started trying the beers a week after bottling.
Would you do it again?
Yes I think I would, I’ve been speaking about it with friends and we’ve seen a Belgian beer kit that we’re going to have a go at together but looking to tinker about with the hops and maybe try adding some fruit flavour into it.
I’m researching into how we can have a few smaller ones on the go at the same time so rather than getting 40 pints of the same beer, we have a few different variations to try. I’m going to do the next one with mates so we can split the cost and we’re looking at chipping in together on getting a stainless fermenter – no idea if it’s any better for beer, but purely because it looks cooler than a bucket.
For a homebrew newcomer what type of products would you like to see on the market?
A lot of the packaging is fairly dire and doesn’t really appeal to anyone under the age of 40 so I think that could be improved. Also smaller batch sizes would be good, 5L of beer would be plenty for me and if something could be made where the equipment was either single use or no permanent equipment was required that would be ace.
I think the kit and ingredients quality is important too, people had put me off brewing before saying they’d tried it in the past and it tasted awful so wouldn’t bother again – but the beer I made tasted good so when I shared it people were saying they might have a go at brewing themselves.
What made you start brewing, and what do you think would get more people homebrewing? Add your thoughts into the comments below.