Brewing beer at home is easy — and no, you don't need pineapples

With her wine stocks running low and a ban on buying alcohol in place, our food editor investigates other options

14 January 2021 - 09:16
You'll need just four ingredients to brew your own beer at home: malt, hops, water and yeast.
You'll need just four ingredients to brew your own beer at home: malt, hops, water and yeast.
Image: 123RF/janevershinin

The prospect of homemade pineapple beer was a great idea when the sale of alcohol was first banned as part of the nationwide lockdown in March 2020.

We rolled with the tropical fruits again for take two of the booze ban in July, but with the recent extension of the third ban, which initially kicked off in December, it’s time to find another solution.

With this in mind, I met with a purveyor of home beer and wine making kits and the good news is that brewing your own alcohol at home is easy, it just takes time.

JUST FOUR INGREDIENTS

Dave Wood never thought his passion for making his own beer would one day become his vocation. That was until the accountant, who was facing retirement, had the opportunity to buy a small business that specialises in home brewing.

“It’s a 68-year-old business,” says Wood of the small shop, National Food Products, in Emmarentia, Johannesburg. The growing interest in home brewing — and the ban on the sale of alcohol — means the business has “grown dramatically” in recent times.

“Home beer brewing is easy,” he says, “it takes just four ingredients: malt, hops, water and yeast.” He adds that there’s a plethora of information for doing so out there, as well as beer-making kits like the ones you can buy in his shop.

Hops give beer its characteristic bitterness.
Hops give beer its characteristic bitterness.
Image: 123RF/Andrey Radchenko

Wood himself is a wealth of expertise on the subject. I learn that hops are the small green flowers of a vine-like plant which, once dried, are essential in beer making for that characteristic bittering, adding both flavour and aroma.

A starter beer-making kit, which includes all the equipment and ingredients you’ll need to make your own brew, sells from National Food Products for R1,350.

“That will give you 20 litres of beer,” explains Wood. And once you have the equipment, he adds, the ingredients for the next 20 litres will cost R230 — half the cost of commercial beer.

The only downside in light of the government-enforced alcohol drought is that beer making takes time. It will take two weeks for your beer to ferment, after which it is bottled, and you’ll then need to wait another two weeks until it’s ready for drinking.

The process can be speeded up, but for a novice, it’s best to stick to the four-week formula.

What could go wrong? “You need to guard against over-carbonating the beer which could happen if you bottle it too early; it could then develop into a ‘beer bomb’ which can be destructive — very destructive,” says Wood.

And is it safe? There are “no pathogens known to man that exist in beer that can kill you,” Wood says. However, he stresses the importance of sterilising the equipment before use.

WINE NOT GIVE IT A TRY

It’s grape season and I’m keen to make my own wine — especially as my wine stocks are running low.

Though beer is Wood’s tipple of choice, he does make wine “for his wife”. He’s done so using pure commercial grape juice (free from additives and preservatives) as well as plums for a plum wine, saying the riper the fruit, the better.

Natural Food Products sells winemaking kits with all the information and recipes you’ll need to make 17 different fruit wines including the traditional grape variety. It costs R135 for a kit to make 4-8 litres of wine, and R215 for one to make 22 litres.

I’ll keep you posted on my winemaking forays.

Find Natural Food Products at 93 Komatie Road in Emmarentia, Johannesburg. Call 011-646-9022 or e-mail info@thehomebrewshop.co.za  

Whenever making alcohol at home, remember that hygiene is of the utmost importance; all utensils and containers used must be sterilised beforehand. If at any stage the mixture tastes or smells unpleasant, discard it as it may not be safe to drink.

• Making your own home brew might go against the spirit of the law, but it isn't expressly prohibited by the adjusted alert level 3 lockdown regulations. Drink responsibly.