Home-brew beer might conjure images of milk crates filled with mismatched brown bottles in the back of a shed. The risk of explosion? High. The quality of the brew? Low. But the art of craft brewing is changing as improvements in equipment and ingredients are creating communities of highly skilled brewers.
For many Canberrans on their home brewing journey, their first stop is Brew Your Own At Home, a brewing supplies shop in Kambah. Colin Marshall has been running the shop for 30 years, helping generations of home brewers through the process.
Colin says that in the past, he often observed customers bragging about how cheaply they could produce their beer, but now the emphasis has shifted to quality. He’s noticed that brewers want to emulate their favourite beer styles as closely as possible.
“One of the important changes is that brewers today don’t care about the cost. They want proper, true-to-style, tasty beer. If it is inexpensive – which it is, relatively speaking – that’s a bonus,” he told Region.
The Canberra Brewers are a community club dedicated to all things brewed. It’s a place for brewers, whether beginners or experienced, to share recipes and learn more about the craft.
Club president Anthony Ween says that joining the Canberra Brewers is a great way to cut through some of the conflicting information online and get feedback on your beer from other brewers.
“People in Canberra are very open to sharing and educating others,” he explained.
“There are lots of opportunities to go and watch someone or be a part of a brew day.”
Bentspoke Brewery sponsors Canberra Brewers and has close relationships with other local breweries and local bottle shops like Plonk, who can source unusual international beers for the club to taste. The club runs competitions, brew days, workshops and events.
They also have a strong focus on education and members can work towards the Beer Judge Certification Program, an internationally recognised qualification. These judges can help new members learn more about identifying features of particular styles, troubleshoot problems, and educate them about brewing their beers to a higher standard.
Colin Marshall also credits this improvement in quality to better ingredients and equipment. In the past, home brewers relied on tins of concentrate mixed with sugar, resulting in cheap, if not particularly tasty beer. He says locally grown hops and specialty yeasts are much more readily available now, and there’s a wider variety on the market, thanks in part to the growth of small-scale breweries.
“The quality of ingredients has improved immensely. We use the same malt, hops and yeast as the local craft brewers in the industry,” he said.
And it’s not just beer. Colin reckons there are more people brewing apple cider, perry, mead, ginger beer and hard lemonade.
As for those exploding bottles? Well, Colin reckons that many people are just avoiding them altogether, thanks to the affordability of small-scale kegging systems.
“The investment in good quality brewing apparatus is well worth the expense. Particularly if you like a cold beer on a hot day!”
The Canberra Brewers meet monthly at the White Eagle Polish Club, 28 David Street, Turner. Visitors are welcome to attend a club meeting, and can find more information about membership on their website, or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.