Home-brewing up a storm

As the recession still manages to tickle our back pockets, Gavan Reilly takes it upon himself to find a cheap alternative for thirsty students Hello, Freshers (and everyone else). You’ve probably already heard that college is going to be amazing a few hundred times now, but it’s true. For the majority of you, for better or worse, alcohol is likely to play a significant part of your UCD experience.This can be a damn expensive habit. You may well already be sick of various societies offering you the Best Fresher’s Night Out Of Your Life This Week™, but overdoing it can leave your head pretty sore, and your wallet pretty empty.Sure, it’s all well and good going a bit wild after you get your latest grant instalment – what else would you be using the government’s money for? Bailing out some bank or other? – but realistically at some point you’re going to find yourself a little short on cash and you’ll have to skimp on a couple of meals. Which is, most distinctly, un-fun.This is why it’s worth investigating the alternatives to your traditional beers. And the alternatives, surprisingly enough, aren’t all that diabolical.It might not have crossed your mind, but it’s worth considering investing in a home-brewing kit. There are a few reasons why: it’s cheap, not at all complicated, a bit fun, and (best of all) because it’s all naturally manufactured, you don’t get hangovers.Let me repeat. You don’t. Get. Hangovers.The price of home-brewing kits might not make the first batch of drinks a whole lot cheaper than your average stack of pints – this writer’s preferred kit of choice, the quite popular and nicely-packaged iBrew, costs about €80 for the first forty pints, working out at about €4 per pint. That said, once you own the kit – as in, the actual hardware – it’s cheap enough to buy the ingredients for the drinks again afterwards, so at the very least it’s an experiment that’ll pay for itself.Of course, there will always be a few things to be wary of when you’re trying to knock together your own beer: there’s every chance, if you don’t pay careful attention, that you’ll end up concocting massive vats of barely-potable putrid goo that you’d rather use to clean a farmer’s yard than put inside your not-quite-yet-ravaged-by-too-many-Pot-Noodles body. And there is, also, the outside shot that your beer simply won’t taste very nice.Both of these problems can be easily taken care of, however, if you just pay close attention to the instructions. To be complementary (and totally fair) to iBrew, the procedure is almost entirely foolproof as long as you are consistent with what you’re being asked to do.Firstly, the iBrew kit doesn’t require you to dedicate your bathtub or kitchen sink to your project (apologies to those of you seeking the genuine Homer Simpson experience). Rather, the container that the whole package comes in is the vat, which you’ll ultimately be allowing your brew to stew and ferment in. And, thankfully, that’s made an entirely safe procedure by iBrew’s lovely (and probably legally required) decision to include some steriliser in the kit, so that what could easily turn grubby is left all spick, span and fit to brew some goo.And goo is exactly what your beer (or ale, or indeed stout, depending on which kit you opt for) will start out as.The whole procedure works as follows: once you have your tub cleaned out and sterilised, you’ll dilute the concentrated… well, beer goo, add some yeast - also supplied – and leave to stew for a fortnight. Then you just put the slop (sorry to use such unglamorous terminology, but it really is little more than a watery, aromatic slop by this point) into two 10-pint bottles, leave in the fridge to chill while it finishes fermenting, and a week later your brew is ready to tap.They say that vegetables taste better if you’ve grown them in your own patch rather than buying them in a regular old supermarket because they come infused with the satisfaction of having cultivated them by your own hand. There’s a similar feeling when you first taste your own beer: it isn’t, truth be told, going to be as clear or as naturally drinkable as your average bottled beer. But a few gulps in there is a nice flavour: not overwhelming, but not in the least bit stomach-turning either. Pure beery goodness, made by your very own hands.And the best part? Well, if you’ve ever tried German beers brewed under the country’s ancient purity laws, decreeing that only four natural ingredients (barley, hops, yeast and water) can be used in brewing, you’ll know that after a night on them, you’ll feel particularly fresh.Aside from the dehydration element, a hangover originates from the agents used to extend the shelf-life of your drink. A night on your own brew, though, and you’ll be right as rain the following morning – ready to spend the extra cash you’ve saved yourself by making your own.iBrew kits can be ordered online from www.iBrew.co.uk.