Make your own wine or home brew
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Published Date: 15 October 2008
WITH the price of bread rocketing through the roof and energy bills heading the same way, many of us are looking for ways we can cut back on our household spending. And while booze might be relatively cheap in supermarkets, it’s even more so if you make it yourself.
Jemma Walton waded into the world of home brew.
WE all know where wine comes from – from grapes which have been gently tickled by rays of Italian sunlight for several months and magically transformed into the fruitest, mellowest, most mouth-wateringly delicious falling-down water.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, you don’t need sun tickling your grapes, you don’t need to go within 500 miles of Italy and you don’t even need a vineyard to make your own wine.
More in this feature:
Making home brew wine with Jemma.
Fancy a pint of home brew?.
You just need a dark cupboard in Peterborough.
And a little trip to see Brian Fitzgerald, who has been running Silverwood Wine Makers, just off Lincoln Road, for nearly 20 years.
My memories of home brew are stuck firmly in the ’80s, when our spare room stunk of yeast and the village would get collectively sozzled on delights such as elderflower and banana wine.
As I grew up it seemed easier to buy a bottle of plonk in Tesco, but recently I’ve been wondering if that really is the case. Isn’t there something nice about the idea of making your own booze? And isn’t it cheaper to make your own? Isn’t it fun?
With hope in my heart and a lust for Chateau Neuf du Jemma 2008 I set off for Silverwood.
“Ninety-eight per cent of people who make their own wine from a winemaking kit will get a very enjoyable drink at the end of the process,” said Mr Fitzgerald.
“And the remaining two per cent won’t have followed the instructions properly.
“If you follow the rules, keep everything at the right temperature and make sure your equipment is clean, you won’t go wrong.”
Making your own drink is undoubtedly cheaper than buying it from the supermarket, and so I wondered if the credit crunch had seen an increase in homebrewing.
“Not really,” he said. “It tends to be older people who make their own beer and wine, and they have been making it for years. I think a lot of people enjoy making it not for themselves, but to give away to friends and family.
“It’s like when you’ve taken the time to cook someone a nice meal – it gives you satisfaction to see them enjoying it, and they appreciate it because you’ve put yourself out to do something nice for them.”
As for people that suspect that wine kits might help you to make, shall we say, an expensive form of vinegar, Mr Fitzgerald is adamant that kits are capable of turning out a decent gallon of vino.
“Wines made with fruit and veg and without using a kit are called ‘country wines,’” explained Brian.
“And I had one woman who came in here and made elderflower wine with a kit, and was blown away with the quality of it.
“She gave a bottle to her friend, who entered it into a country wine competition, and it won. The judges couldn’t tell the difference between a kit wine and a country wine.
“And so these people who say that country wine is always better than the wine you get from kits don’t always know what they’re talking about.”
Silverwood Winemakers was started by Mr Bodger many years ago, and Bodger’s Best Bitter, which is priced at £12.97 but will give you 40 pints, is still on the shelves.
“Trade goes up and down, some days we have very few customers, the next we’ll have 20 spending £100 each,” said Mr Fitzgerald.
“I can offer people help and advice on any aspect of home brewing, and I have some customers who have been with me for 20 years – but I’m always happy to see some new faces.”
SPIDERS, yellowing cuttings, odd socks – there are plenty of odd things lurking in The ET library, and there is now a new addition: a gallon of a feature writer’s homebrew.
All I can say is, I will do my best not to blow up the building.
Because as soon as you mention home-brewing to anyone they will immediately say one thing: “That can explode, you know.”
Apparently, it can. But if you keep it at the right temperature and don’t shove 4lbs of yeast into the mixture you should be all right.
With this – what the Americans might call “positive attitude” – I swilled out my demijohns, unleashed my wine mixture kit, crossed my fingers and stashed the lot in the darkest, dankest corner of ET Towers, and hope I’m not breaking any employment legislation pertaining to making booze at work.
I suppose I could have brewed my wine in the cupboard under the stairs at home, but the gas meter is there, along with the box of switches you have to play with if one of the lights goes off.
The only other option was doing it in my bedroom, and I’m not having it in my bedroom: coming to work stinking of booze two mornings a week is acceptable, every single day looks a bit, well, rum.
Within four weeks my £6.99 Young’s “Cabernet Sauvignon-style” kit, which is made up of wine yeast, Diammonium phosphate, bentonite, trace vitamins, modified chitan and several other (ahem) delicious-sounding ingredients, should be ripe for the drinking.
I will let you know how I get on.
Fancy a pint of home brew?
WINE is all very well, but when it comes to brewing something in your spare room, most blokes will plump for beer over gooseberry flavoured Cabernet Sauvignon.
The people at brewgenie.co.uk very kindly put us a beer-making kit together, including a 30-litre brewing bucket, sterilizer and a John Bull 40-pint beer kit.
ET assistant editor Brad Barnes is going to brew the beer at his home in Werrington
See www.bregenie.co.uk for more info on home brewing – the website offers a wide range of beer, wine and liqueur home brewing kits together with all the equipment that you need to brew at home.
They also have very competitive prices – a brew-your-own vodka kit, which makes 30 bottles, is available for just £12.95. Delivery is £5.95, free for orders over £65.