Friday 17 April 2015

It was 20 years ago today...

I made my first brew! Proper one that is, not syrup from a tin.

It was something I'd discussed with my dad and he's got hold of some pale malt. Then an uncle brought down a ten gallon burco boiler that I still use to this day, though it is showing its age. I went to The Home Brew Shop, back when it was in Northcamp and the old generation of the family were running it, for more supplies and equipment.

I started out using an insulated cool box as a mash tun, and Graham Wheeler was my guru. As I'm sure is the case for most people the first brew did not go brilliantly well. The malt was so old it took ages for starch conversion to occur. I seem to recall in the end I actually went out somewhere for a few hours and it was only when got back that the iodine finally stopped turning blue-black.

Not having much idea about extract the original gravity was way lower that what I wanted, but the addition of a kilo of sugar soon sorted that out. The beer turned out totally opaque but tasted good. I was clearly an early craft brewer (in fact I joined the Craft Brewing Association as soon as I heard about it).

Making my own beer taught far more about beer than the reading I'd managed to do had, though in those pre-internet days information was a lot harder to find. I went to a couple of day courses in London run by Brewlab, and in the end after seeing an advert in the CAMRA newspaper I got a scholarship to study Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University. Since then apart from a slight hiccup* I've worked as a professional brewer. If I wasn't so congenitally unfashionable I might have made more of this, as home brewer turned pro is quite the in thing nowadays. In fact I know of a prominent craft brewer that bullshits gratuitously about his home brewing credentials.

That first brew only fuelled my already obsessive interest in beer, something which still shows no sign of abating. I still brew at home, sometime just for something to drink, and sometimes because there's something I'm keen to try out. I've also brewed professionally more times than I'll ever home brew, and I think it's fair to say I've got better at it, but I'm still learning after all these years.

*In my first brewing job one of my bosses was one of the biggest cunts I've ever met, and after I'd had enough of the bullying I quit and briefly returned to lab work. "Beer people are good people" my arse.


  1. Replies
    1. Hmm...come to think of it that might have had something to do with why the first brew was opaque.

  2. An Anonymous Boozer17 April 2015 at 15:34

    Iodine test for your first mash? La de da

    1. One of the advantages of working in a lab was I had easy access to iodine.

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