Brew your own beer

Most of us like a tipple now and again but if an evening in the pub is proving too expensive, why not try making your own alcoholic beverages?

Home-brewing isn't as difficult or expensive as you might imagine and before long, you may find yourself perfecting your own recipe. Until then, here are a few simple tips for beginners.

Brew your own beer
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The equipment

Many of the items needed for home-brewing are common utensils you'll have in your kitchen. But of course there are some pieces of specialised equipment that you will need to invest in initially: a 25 litre fermenting bin with lid, a syphon (or plastic hose), a paddle for stirring, steriliser to keep your equipment contaminate-free and bottles or a barrel for the finished product.

These days it is possible to buy beer-brewing starter kits which include all the equipment you will need, as well as the necessary ingredients, for around £60.

The process
Though the starter kits will come with very clear and easy-to-follow instructions, it is worth knowing some of the basic techniques used in brewing beer.

Most importantly, sterilise all the equipment thoroughly (bleach is best avoided as it can taint the final result no matter how much rinsing you do). With this done, the malt extract (usually supplied in cans), sugar, spraymalt (if required) and any additional extras such as hops should be added to 6 pints of boiling water and stirred until it is dissolved.

Once all the ingredients have mixed, a further 23 litres of cold water should be added and the mixture should be at room temperature before the yeast is stirred in. With the lid securely in place, put your fermenting bin in a warm, dark place and let the magic happen.

This should take anywhere from five to 10 days - if the bubbles from the ferment have stopped and the beer is clear, you are ready to bottle. A little added priming sugar will slightly carbonate your beer at this stage.

Enjoy the results
You'll have to wait a little while to enjoy your home-brew at its best - when bottling, be careful to leave roughly an inch of empty space at the top to help the process. After two to three weeks, your brew should be entirely clear and is ready to drink at this point. But it's worth remembering that the average home-brewed beer will improve with age and may be at its best after eight weeks or more.

As your confidence grows, you can try adding different ingredients or branch out and make wine or cider.