There was a time, once, when home-brewing was all about providing easy access to cheap beer. Back when I was growing up, we used to head round to a friend’s house specifically because his father had a cellar full of grimy, sweating bottles of varying levels of lethality. It was making alcohol for alcohol’s sake – real Lancashire moonshine.
Of course, not every kitchen brewer went through the motions solely to get loaded – many had a genuine interest in the science of producing beer, and in learning the processes involved. A significant number would eventually go on to open full-scale breweries, having taught themselves the principles of the art over the years.
Today, home-brewing is still advertised as the way to get the same beer for less (witness the hoardings outside equipment shops promising ‘brew your own at 20p a pint!!!’) – but, to me, it seems as if it has moved away from the days of exploding bottles and damp cellars, and gained respectability as a genuine stepping stone towards a career in brewing.
Last night, at the Holyrood 9A, it was demonstrated what spending the weekend staring at foaming buckets in your garage can lead to. The Institute of Brewing and Distilling’s Scottish Home Brew competition happens every year, and it results in the two winning entries being reproduced by commercial breweries, then sold to the thirsty public.
The beers on offer were Impale IPA, designed by Ed Young (brewed by Williams Brothers) and Zombier, created by Jake Griffin and Chris Lewis (brewed by Fyne Ales). How great must it be to think of a recipe at your kitchen table (or wherever) and then eventually get all your mates to turn up at a pub and buy you a pint of it?
Both beers were really well received – Impale was soft and sweet, with that classic Williams Brothers peachy floral element. Pineapple and pine, it was really drinkable. The Zombier too, a dark, roasty porter that started off slightly woody and ended with chocolate, damsons and plums. The Holyrood was absolutely packed, too, which was great to see.
Hopefully Ed, Jake and Chris will use the experience gained to go on with their brewing careers – I know the IBD competition was more than just a CV-buffering exercise, but it should really help them if they have a desire to brew professionally. And if they don’t, then they always have the promise of 20p pints to fall back on…