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Where’s the best place to learn about home brewing beer in Canberra?

By Elias Hallaj - 18 March 2017 5

beer

The recent success of new brewers in Canberra such as Bentspoke and PACT has led a resurgence in the art of home brewing beer.

Hands up who would like to start brewing their own beer at home? I think thousands of people would if they realised how easy it was to get started. I’ve been playing around with a cheap Coopers home brew kit my better half bought me for over ten years now and thought I knew a thing or two about home brew. But I recently had the pleasure of spending two hours listening to the owner and proprietor of “Brew Your Own at Home” in Kambah impart his experience and wisdom about home brewing beer. Colin Marshall reminded me how easy it was to start but also how important it is to get expert advice to make the most of your home brew.

homebrew Colin stocking

Colin is a master brewer and has been running his little shop in Kambah longer than I’ve been allowed to legally drink beer. Most importantly for new brewers, he is a fountain of knowledge and runs regular information sessions at his shop. The information sessions are free but you might find them so motivating and inspiring that, like me, you’ll buy more kit before you leave the shop.

Well before I met Colin (or his charming daughter Fran – a fellow Canberra foodie) I thought I was a reasonably dab hand at homebrew, having mastered my old Coopers kit a long time ago. I’ve even tried to learn a bit about making beer from scratch with my friend Dan the brewer. That was fun, but it’s a bit overwhelmingly complicated for someone who has relied on kits in cans for 20 years. What I learned from Colin is that you can easily and relatively cheaply tweak your standard home brew recipe and process to achieve a far better taste. Your home brew beers may end up costing you a few more dollars but they will be far superior to the taste you can get from simply following the instructions on the can, which is what I had been doing for many years. And I wasn’t alone. A few of the other guys in the room had also made the mistake of assuming the kit instructions where the best advice.

home brew boys

But we didn’t really know how little we knew until we started listening to and talking with Colin. Two things we were quickly taught was how critical yeast and temperature are to the result of your home brew. Simply refrigerating your yeast or using a yeast that is better suited to the style of beer you are brewing can make a dramatic difference. Often the same type of yeast is supplied as standard within most kits, without consideration for the different styles of beer or the temperature of fermentation. Colin also explained how many kit instructions actually gave you are far too high temperature for steady fermentation and flavour enhancement. I didn’t realise until after asking Colin that I was often brewing at too high a temperature for the style of beer being made.

Colin is widely regarded as the wisest brewing brain in Canberra within Australian brewing circles. If you visit the Aussie Brewing Forum or Canberra Brewers website his name is often mentioned to new members seeking advice. Colin also has some cracking jokes and yarns about beer. The one that got the biggest laugh during the info session was how the Monty Python crew, when asked what they thought of American beer during a tour of the US, described it as “like making love in a very small boat”. The confused reporter asked them to explain what they meant, so they did. “It’s f*cking close to water mate.

Whether you’re happy making something that tastes like Guinness or wheat beer, Colin can explain what you need to get that result as easily as possible. And once you want to graduate from a simple home brew kit to something more elaborate, he stocks all the gear and supplies you may need. Brew Your Own at Home is Canberra’s only store dedicated to the homebrewer, catering to the novice and the experienced brewer. You’ll find everything from kit based beers to grains and the freshest hops.

homebrew hops

If there’s a commercial beer that you want to replicate they can show you the best ingredients, you might even end up with a new favourite. His parting advice to the class was “if you get the basics right and understand yeast and temperature you can make great beer with simple cheap kits and if you get the basics wrong you can make terrible beer with very expensive equipment.” He seems to be a modern-day version of Saint Arnold of Soissons, who famously saved the lives of thousands of peasants by encouraging them to drink beer instead of water, reportedly saving them from cholera and the plague. But if you don’t want to believe in saints you can still learn to homebrew and enjoy the miraculous taste of your own beer!

Colin’s shop also has a web page full of useful advice for beginners and experts alike: http://www.brewyourown.com.au/ and he usually advertises his next free class on his shop’s Facebook page. You can also drop in any time the shop is open at Shop 5, Primmer Court, Kambah Village, Kambah (on the south side of the shopping complex) or call on 6296 1412.

Elias Hallaj (aka CBRfoodie) is a part-time food blogger and full-time political staffer who has joined RiotACT as a regular contributor. All opinions are his own. If you have any tips or feedback you can find him on Twitter @CBRfoodie.

 

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5 Responses to
Where’s the best place to learn about home brewing beer in Canberra?
1
kylastra 1:41 pm
18 Mar 17
#

Yep, Colin in a nice guy, however he doesn’t seem to spend much time in the store at present, leaving the day to day running up to Steve.

I would suggest coming along on the first Thursday of every month to the Canberra Brewers Club meeting which is held at German Harmonie Club on Jerrabomberra Ave, Narrabundah at 8:00pm. There are plenty of people who regularly attend, whether or not they are frustrated home brewers, or brewers from Zierholtz, or others such as Kevin from Pact Beer http://www.pactbeer.com.au/, Steve from Stonedog Meadery http://www.stonedog.com.au/mead, or Doug from 3SonsCider http://www.3sonscider.com.au/.

All members are more than willing to speak to anyone about their interests, whether you’re an old hand or newbie.

http://www.canberrabrewers.com.au/

2
Elias Hallaj (aka CB 8:58 pm
18 Mar 17
#

kylastra said :

Yep, Colin is a nice guy, however he doesn’t seem to spend much time in the store at present, leaving the day to day running up to Steve.

I would suggest coming along on the first Thursday of every month to the Canberra Brewers Club meeting which is held at German Harmonie Club on Jerrabomberra Ave, Narrabundah at 8:00pm. There are plenty of people who regularly attend, whether or not they are frustrated home brewers, or brewers from Zierholtz, or others such as Kevin from Pact Beer http://www.pactbeer.com.au/, Steve from Stonedog Meadery http://www.stonedog.com.au/mead, or Doug from 3SonsCider http://www.3sonscider.com.au/.

All members are more than willing to speak to anyone about their interests, whether you’re an old hand or newbie.

http://www.canberrabrewers.com.au/

kylastra said :

Yep, Colin in a nice guy, however he doesn’t seem to spend much time in the store at present, leaving the day to day running up to Steve.

I would suggest coming along on the first Thursday of every month to the Canberra Brewers Club meeting which is held at German Harmonie Club on Jerrabomberra Ave, Narrabundah at 8:00pm. There are plenty of people who regularly attend, whether or not they are frustrated home brewers, or brewers from Zierholtz, or others such as Kevin from Pact Beer http://www.pactbeer.com.au/, Steve from Stonedog Meadery http://www.stonedog.com.au/mead, or Doug from 3SonsCider http://www.3sonscider.com.au/.

All members are more than willing to speak to anyone about their interests, whether you’re an old hand or newbie.

http://www.canberrabrewers.com.au/

Thanks for the tips kylastra! great advice for anyone who wants to learn more about beer. The food at the Harmonie Club is great too!

3
Leonard 5:49 am
20 Mar 17
#

Hmmm I’m not aware that PACT own a brewery in Canberra, or indeed anywhere. I’m pretty sure they just get their beer made in Campbelltown NSW, like numerous other fake small micro beers. Maybe the Riotact should do the real story about “craft” (LOL) beer: numerous fake micros, fake European beers, fake Japanese beers (often brewed in China), that are built on marketing and misleading – with very small and narrow font – labels. If you have some money, and good marketing skills….that’s all you need. I believe Pauline Hanson is even bring out her own craft beer.

4
KevinFromPact 5:51 pm
20 Mar 17
#

Leonard said :

Hmmm I’m not aware that PACT own a brewery in Canberra, or indeed anywhere. I’m pretty sure they just get their beer made in Campbelltown NSW, like numerous other fake small micro beers. Maybe the Riotact should do the real story about “craft” (LOL) beer: numerous fake micros, fake European beers, fake Japanese beers (often brewed in China), that are built on marketing and misleading – with very small and narrow font – labels. If you have some money, and good marketing skills….that’s all you need. I believe Pauline Hanson is even bring out her own craft beer.

Hi Leonard,

So glad to hear you’re interested in being part of the Pact Beer story! Shame you had to derail an article about our pal Colin which barely mentioned us to express said interest, but let’s deal with it anyway. You’ve presented some doozie alternative facts here that I will do my best to correct:

First of all, I’ve never been to Campbelltown, though I’m sure it’s lovely this time of year. I’ve never brewed there either, though we’ve certainly made beer in Sydney and sourrounds a few times. You are right that we don’t have a brewery – we’ve never hidden that. In fact, if you look at our website, the nature of our brewing operation is clearly spelled out in the first couple paragraphs: “brew ‘gypsy style’ at some of the finest breweries in the country”.

As it stands, I brew some of our beer here in Canberra with our mates at Wig and Pen, and some down in Victoria. We’ve brewed elsewhere over our ~18 months. Unfortunately, there’s nowhere local where we can produce all our beer at the scale our customers demand. We’re working towards building our own facility here.

Now to some more general facts about the industry – what’s involved with opening a brewery and how people go about it:

Do you know what you need to build a brewery of pretty much any scale? Money. Lots of it. Very few brewing operations, including most of those in Canberra, are wholly owned by the ‘face’ of the business. Some people take on many shareholders, others team up with one or two wealthy ‘silent’ partners, otehrs partner with like minded businesses, others still look to venture capital or foreign investment. More and more, people are taking another route – a growth route – starting off using other people’s facilities, growing their brand, their fanbase, their own capital, and their investment appeal…and working on next steps from there. It’s proven successful for the likes of Two Birds, Brewcult, Kaiju, and others, and we’re hoping to do the same.

So in regards to the last alternative fact you present: “If you have some money, and good marketing skills….that’s all you need.” . That’s far from the truth. We don’t have much money. We do have pretty good marketing skills if I do say so myself. We also have good operations approach, sales team and of course recipe design and brewing. All requirements for a succesful brewing enterprise. We’re doing that off the back of three canberra born and bred guys, supported by understanding partners, balancing families and still persistent day jobs, trying to share our tasty beer with those that might enjoy it. If you don’t like it, by all means purchase what beers you like and what brands you feel you can get behind, but don’t go spreading misinformation about us.

5
TheFoodMarshall 2:16 pm
23 Mar 17
#

Leonard said :

Hmmm I’m not aware that PACT own a brewery in Canberra, or indeed anywhere. I’m pretty sure they just get their beer made in Campbelltown NSW, like numerous other fake small micro beers. Maybe the Riotact should do the real story about “craft” (LOL) beer: numerous fake micros, fake European beers, fake Japanese beers (often brewed in China), that are built on marketing and misleading – with very small and narrow font – labels. If you have some money, and good marketing skills….that’s all you need. I believe Pauline Hanson is even bring out her own craft beer.

Good effort Leonard. Total bollocks, but good effort all the same, thanks for coming out to play. Nicely put, Kevin.

Insert disclaimer here – Col’s my dad so I’ll be fully biased and make no apologies about it, either.

Dad’s probably one of the hardest working beer blokes in the Beer Shop industry. He’s old school, customer service is his thing, he’ll talk your ear off if you let him. Customers come first and no request for help or advice is too much or too hard. Unless you bought your kit from Woolies, then he’s probably likely to tell you to pop back and ask the lad at the checkout why your wort smells like band aids (wild yeast infection, see a doctor), but he’ll more than likely give you a second chance if you buy some freshly bagged hop pellets and a hydrometer.

Anyway, even though Steve runs the shop in dad’s semi-retired absence (and he knows a thing or 50 about beer too!) Col is always a phone call/email away. After 25 years as a local Kambah small business owner, he’s certainly entitled to his Beer Legend status, and he’s worked damn hard to get it, too.

Know a lady (or otherwise) who’d like to know more about brewing craft beer? Keep an ear and an eye out on Social Media for an upcoming brewing demo that will be one for the chicks.

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