Earlier this year we made a beer from an all grain kit that impressed us so much that we featured it in one of our prestigious ‘Beer of the Week‘ slots. The kit’s maker, HomeBrewtique, is a new business managed by two friends, Claire (left) and Posy. To find out what inspired them to enter the home brew market, and unearth some secrets behind their brewing success, we quizzed Posy for some answers…
How and when did you first start get into home brewing?
We are recent converts into brewing our own. Both of us have been huge fans of quality beer since before we were legally allowed! We both like cooking and making things from scratch. In addition we really love a good party and thought why stop with the food when we could offer our own home-made beer too.
We discovered that there are so many ways to influence the flavours in a beer – from the way the grains are roasted, what types of grains you include, and the many different hop varieties and hundreds of combinations possible, not to mention all the different yeast strains you can use. They all impart a unique flavour profile to the beers they make, so if you like to dabble and play with flavour, beer is such a great way to have fun.
Why did you decide to launch Home Brewtique?
We started HomeBrewtique because we realised that we had found a better and easier way to make beer from scratch than anything out there and we wanted to share the fun and simplicity of it with other beer lovers who may have never considered brewing their own before.
What makes your home brew kits special?
Many, many things!
First of all, we provide the EASIEST way to make beer from scratch (all-grain). We use what is called a ‘full volume mash’ and the brew-in-a-bag method, which means you can make it all on your stove-top in one large pot – no transferring heavy and hot liquid between three different pans! The brewing bag is similar to a large tea-bag and means you don’t need to do any sparging.*
We use the finest quality ingredients and freshly crush and vacuum seal the grains just before shipping them. We also pre-measure and pack each hop addition and vacuum seal it all for freshness. We have a special arrangement with a craft beer yeast developer to provide us with the perfectly apportioned yeast sachets for our small-batch sizing – no over-pitching yeast and risking off-flavours here!
Our fermenter blocks out light so doesn’t need to be hidden away, or awkwardly covered up. It is about the size of a small food processor so is able to fit easily in any kitchen. It has a wide top for easy yeast pitching, dry hopping and cleaning. There is an integrated bottling spout on the fermenter which means one less messy siphoning step and our convenient bottling wand fits right into the spout.
Even our bottles have been specially sourced to provide ultimate ease and come in the perfect size – our kits make 12 x 330ml bottles of beer. Yet, as your readers probably know, sunlight is beer’s ultimate enemy, so we have found small 330ml amber glass bottles that come with a swing-top so that you don’t have to deal with cappers. In fact, these bottles are so great you can put them in a hot dishwasher cycle without soap and then seal the swing-top until you are ready to bottle, making sanitizing them even unnecessary. EASY!
Most importantly, however, is that our recipes taste great. We try and test our recipes for the best results and then write step-by-step instructions that a novice brewer can re-create time and again. We have a wide range of recipes, spanning from an Australian Pale Ale to a Milk Stout and loads of IPAs and others in-between. We plan to keep rolling out new recipes every few months to give our customers plenty of choice.
Lastly, we have tried to package it all to look nice in your house – so your partner is happy to have you brewing!
You advocate small batch brewing in the kitchen, as opposed to the usual 40 pint plus kits and recipes available elsewhere. What are the main advantages of small batch brewing?
I love small-batch brewing! What’s not to love?
The set-up equipment costs £50 versus £300. It is so much quicker to heat and cool five litres of water rather than 20, so you don’t spend the whole day brewing, just a few hours. You can do it right in your kitchen alongside watching a game or taking care of other things around the house. You can also afford to buy the best hops and grains because you’re using smaller quantities.
You can freely experiment with recipes and have a range of handcrafted beer on offer for your friends rather than 40 pints of the same kind. This means that you can enjoy hoppy beers nice and fresh without worrying about storing all those bottles and have them collect dust if each batch produced 40 large bottles.
And all of it fits in the dishwasher at the end of the day!
Full grain brewing can look quite complicated, with so many precise timings and temperatures involved. How vital is it to follow these instructions with precision?
Our philosophy is that if you are starting with fresh and high quality ingredients, the beer will usually taste good no matter what you do. Each recipe’s timings are important if you want to have the exact same beer each time, however, a few minutes difference between each timing and a couple degrees in temperature will only slightly alter the taste of a beer – and you may find you like it better that way!
Experimentation and playing around are what we find so much fun. Our kits include a special brewer’s notes section so you can track what you did during the batch and re-create it if you liked it.
You’ve got some great beer recipes in your kits – we were particularly impressed with your Hoppilicious IPA. How do you come up with the recipes?
Thank you! Well, we drink a lot to get inspiration. There are so many great craft beers out there now, and the offering in the UK has increased dramatically in just the last couple of years. We talk about what we like in a beer style and then use a recipe creation software program where we can play around with the results we want and the inputs to use. Claire then usually makes 3 or 4 slightly different batches of beer which I taste and critique. I am a pretty harsh judge and keep her working hard! She usually then refines the recipe and we have another go until we are both completely happy with the end result. Sometimes we even keep tinkering a bit with the recipe even after we have launched the beer…. just always trying to perfect things.
What plans do you have for the business? Are you working on any new recipes?
Claire is always working on new recipes – we have one we are about to roll out any day now – just waiting for me to take some pictures! And we are also working on a rye style which we expect to have out in another month or so.
We hope to keep increasing the complexity of the recipe packs we are offering, eventually delving into stepped-mash timings, wood chips and other ways of impacting upon the flavour outcome.
In addition to new recipes we have started to offer small-batch sizes of separate ingredients so that our customers can start to play around and develop their own recipes and have a place where they can buy just the ingredients they need in the quantities they want.
We are working toward a website tool which will help guide our customers in their own recipe creation and then we will pre-measure, package and vacuum seal everything up for them.
What is the one piece of advice you would offer to someone contemplating making their first home brewed beer?
Just give it a go. All-grain brewing (especially small-batch) is not as difficult as you may think. Don’t be too intimidated by the sanitising or precise timings and temps – it is all about the fun of creation and then proudly enjoying the fruits of your labours!
And, finally, if there’s one beer you could replicate at home, what would it be?
Gosh that’s a hard one. There are so many lovely beers out there. Some of our favourites include: FourPure’s Session IPA, Einstock’s White Ale, and Beavertown’s Black Betty. Gorgeous beers.
Whenever we are drinking nice beers we can’t help but think how we might re-create them. That’s part of what is so nice about brewing yourself – you can start to understand how the different flavours have been created and they can inspire you in your own brewing.
For more information or to order a kit, visit www.homebrewtique.com
*Sparging is a process of rinsing off the boiled grains to extract extra sugar and flavour. In most instances it’s an unnecessary faff.