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.
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.
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.
— CBR foodie (@CBRFoodie) January 21, 2016
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.
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.