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11 best brewing tips for beer kits in 2017

11 great tricks for brewing beer in 2017

11 best brewing tips for beer kits in 2017


Beer is beer, and the principles behind making it will never change.

In 2017, you still want to get the best quality beer you can make with your beer kit and so here’s the best tips and trips we have to help you make great tasting beer. 

While often seen by many beer snobs as the ‘stupid homes schooled cousin’ of those who make all grain beer, those snobs are simply wrong. You can make great beer with kits. 

This is a great guide for first time novice beer brewers but seasoned pros may find a nugget of gold to help you make better homebrew!

1. You need to run a lean clean machine


You've chosen your beer kit and are ready to begin. The first thing you are going to do is ‘Keep it Clean’. This was the same for 1917 and it will be for 2117. If you are making beer, you gear needs to be cleaned and sanitised. Your fermenter and the gear you use to prepare your wort must be in a tip top state of
cleanliness. 

Sure, you can get away with not cleaning your beer bottles but you can’t get away without having a clean and sanitised fermenter. Sure, the Vikings who made lager in barrels in caves had never heard of using sodium percarbonate but you have and you need to use it to prevent your beer getting infected. The best part about using sodium percarbonate? You’ve probably already got some as it’s found in ordinary laundry soak

I’ve had brews get infected and I know it was my fault as I did two kit brews and the same time and both got infected. I am a 1000 percent sure if I had of done a proper job of cleaning my gear (including stirring spoons and washing my hands) I would not have ruined 80 bucks worth of malt and hops. That said, don’t stress too much about accidental contamination….

2. Brewing temperature will have a massive effect on your beer


Fermentation is a process that requires just the right kind of temperatures and the right kind of times. Different temperatures suit the differing kinds of beers. A very rough guide is that you should aim to brew lagers between 10-14 degrees, and get those ales done between 18-21 degrees. 

A constant correct temperature is also very important as the yeast can react to a temperature variance in ways that are not good for tasty beer! So when doing your first brews, make sure it can be done in a warmish area and one that's going to keep that temperature.

I often use blankets to ensure that the beer is kept at a fairly even temperature. 

3. Be a patient beer brewer


Your wort will take about a week to properly ferment. You can tell when fermentation has finished by taking readings with a hydrometer. When you get two or three consecutive days of the same reading, fermentation is probably complete. 

And if you are properly following the instructions of the beer kit (don’t), you might think it was time to bottle your beer.

It’s not. Wait another week.

While the yeast may have eaten all the sugars, it will move on to other parts of the wort and in doing so it will clean up your beer, helping to remove unwanted products of the fermentation process. The yeast will slowly drop to the bottom of the fermenter thus improving the clarity of your beer

4. Hops are like the magical ingredient of beer


If you just used malt and sugar and yeast you would get beer. Add hops and you get BEER! Different hop varieties suit different kinds of beer. After hundreds of years developing beer, there are now some well-established rules of thumb for what kinds of hops brewers should use. This guide to using hops will help you find the hops that’s right for you.

5. Want clearer beer? 


Trying using gelatin as a fining agent. It combines with the 'leftovers' of the beer brewing process and they fall to the bottom of the fermenter thus clearing the beer.

You can add it any time after fermentation and word on the street that it actually works best when the beer is quite cool. A common timing is to add it a couple of days before you intend to bottle your beer.

But just remember gelatin can come from the hoof of a horse, so if you are trying to make a beer suitable for vegans, think again.

6. Change up the yeast?


Making lagers can be a tricky business as they don’t have a strong flavour that can mask problems like a strong stout can.

A way to improve the chances of a successful lager brew, you may want to consider discarding the standard yeast that comes with a beer kit you might want to order the lager yeast known as WL833 - it's a popular yeast for lager brewing and is proven amongst the beer brewing industry.

7. The sweet taste of success


When bottling your beer, ensure that you use the right amount of sugar. If you use too much, you will no doubt suffer the pain of beer gushers. These happen when you open the beer and whoosh! It blasts out like a volcano going all over the place. 

Another handy trick to reduce the chance of a gusher beer is to have chilled your beer for at least a couple of hours before you intend to drink it.

I have personally experimented this with a troublesome batch and cooling your beer before you consume it definitely reduces the chances to too fizzy beer.

Using carbonation drops is a handy way to make sure you get the right amount of sugar in the bottles.

8. Oxygen exposure can impede the bottle conditioning of your beer

Too much oxygen in the bottle can give the beer a quality that you may not want in your beer. Too much oxygen can allow any organisms left in the beer to flourish, giving an unwanted vinegar like quality. While not a massive risk, you can reduce the change of it by using a beer bottling wand.

By adding it into the tap of you beer you are able to easily fill your beer without causing too much oxygenation. Make sure you firmly install the wand as I’ve had personal experience where I haven’t and spilled beer all over my garden shed floor…. Bottling wands also make bottling easier and faster as the valve at the bottom means you do not need to turn the tap on and off for each bottle when filling. 

If you don’t use a wand, we suggest you fill your bottles by angling them so the beer pours down the side of the bottle to reduce agitation.

9. Use a beer enhancer


There’s no easier way to making better beer kit beer. Beer enhancers are made of basic ingredients, being a mix of fermentable and non-fermentable. They usually contain a mix of dextrose and maltodextrin. 

Such beer enhancers work by the dextrose being the food for the yeast and are thus used in the fermentation process. Some beer enhancers also have hops added to match the kind of beer style so if you are ordering from an online store, check that the particular enhancer's hops matches the kind of beer you are trying to make. 

If you want a good creamy mouth feel, beer enhancers that have a high percentage of malt or DME will do the trick. This is because you are adding more ‘unfermentables’ in your beer. The more malt you add, the 'creamier' your beer will be. This is in the sense that your beer will be more viscous, making it feel thicker in your mouth

10. Storage temperature is also important 


Once you have bottled your beer, that’s not the end of the matter. It's often best to initially store your beer in a warm place. This will encourage secondary fermentation to commence (this is sometimes described as bottle conditioning). The ideal temperature range is between approx 18 - 25°C for 5 to 7 days. After that period, you should leave them in a much cooler place with a temperature range between approx 8 - 12°C. 

You should then leave the beer for a total minimum of three weeks since bottling date before some well-deserved tasting.

11. Note what you did down


Keeping a record of what you have been brewing will give you an insight into what has worked, what didn’t and what your personal preferences are.

Tips on how to easily grow your own hops

growing hops plants at home

Have you ever thought, gosh, I'm sick of paying so much for hops. I wish there was a cheaper way?

There is.

And it so so very easy.

You can grown your own hops!

Even if your green thumb is decidedly lack in green, you can cultivate your won hops in your own garden. Using fresh hops in your homebrewing efforts is an awesome feeling and adds to that sense of 'master of your own beer brewing destiny' that many beer makers seek.

It's also fairly organic if that's what you're into.

Here's our guide to growing hops.

Where can I get hops plants from?


Hops grow best from root-like cuttings which are known as rhizomes. Rhizomes can be purchased online but homebrewers that grow their own share with each other, or sell them cheaply. A great way to source these contacts is on social media groups such as Facebook and beer forums. There's plenty available to purchase on Amazon too.

You can always try growing hops from seed, though this is not considered as easy as using a rhizome.

What is the best season to plant hops in?


Hops may be grown in any moderate climate if given proper maintenance and care but the best to plant the rhizome is during spring to allow for the plant to take advantage of the summer growing period.

Where should I plant my hops rhizome?


Hops plants are best served by being planted in a sunny location. A site exposed to many hours of sun in the day is ideal. 

The hop vines (known as bines) grow upright at quite a rate so they will need something like a trellis to climb up. Tall poles can be used  together with strong string or twine are often used to support the growing bines.

Hops grow at a fast rate and really take advantage of the soil's properties - being  nitrogen, phosphate and potassium. Home growers can choose to use commercial products that add these elements or by making manure compost.

How to harvest hops from the bine


So if you've planted in spring, you'll be harvesting in summer. While it depends on where you live, autumn will likely be too late.  So hops can take 4 - 6 months in the growing cycle to be ready for harvesting. 
lupulin powder inside hops cone
Lupulin powder in the hop

A hops that is ready to be picked will feel dry to the touch, be somewhat 'stringy' and have a strong hop smell. The lupulin powder will be left on the fingers. 

If you open the hop cone up, it should release the powder if it is matured properly.  It it will be a warm yellow - goldish colour. 

I heard hops plants have male and female versions?


Yes, it's true. Just like kiwifuit. Male and female flowers of the hop plant usually develop on separate plants Because viable seeds are unwanted for brewing beer, only female plants are grown in hop commercial fields, thus preventing pollination.

It's not time time to light up


Light is the natural enemy of hops. Hop cones are susceptible to breaking down due the effects of the sun and light from the first moment they are harvest. You should do your best to avoid light exposure as much as possible so store hops in a dark place. A hops that has broken down due to light exposure can impart off flavours into the beer.

Experience has shown that hop makers have about 24 hours to begin to process hops before it begins to break down like a vegetable naturally wood. The keenest brewers get their hops into a kiln and dried asap. 

Homebrewers can actually dry their hops in an ordinary fruit dehydrator.

You can also leave them to dry on a mesh screen in an airy location (with little light). I've read that some people have been known to dry their hops in the oven using a low heat.

Tips on storing fresh hops


It turns out that turns out freezing hops is actually a popular trick with beer brewers!

Quite simply, take your dried beer hops and place them in a zip-lock bag. Remove the excess air and then seal. Grab a Sharpie pen and write on the name of the hops on the bag so you don't forget and then place in the freezer until required.

If you want to go all 'professional' you could use a vacuum sealer to remove all the air.

In such cases, you might not need to freeze the hops if the sealing has been done properly, but it wouldn't hurt.

How to use fresh hops with your beer


You've probably heard of dry hopping right? That's when you add hops in pellet form to the wort. So if you ever wondered what wet hopping is, it's adding fresh hops to your beer. And in this case, it's fresh hops you've grown yourself.

Wet hops can be used anywhere in the brewing process, including as a boil addition, whirlpool addition or for dry hopping.

What are some good varieties of hops to grow?


There are all kinds of hop varieties that one can choose from. We recommend these two for simplicities' sake:

Cascade is a very popular choice of hops. This is an extremely popular american hop. Known for it's floral hop trait, it is often likened to a grapefruit. Cascade is known as a versatile hop variety that is popular for bittering, finishing and dry hopping of pale ale and American style beers. It produces a good yield and is considered fairly resistant to diseases. The rhizomes can be ordered from Amazon.

Fuggle is another popular hop. It has a classic English aroma and provides a well balanced bitterness which makes it a great choice for English and American-Style Ales. It's described as being mild and pleasant, spicy, soft, woody, with some fruit tones.

Basically it will depend on where you live, what's popular and how easy it is to obtain. Many specialty hoops delivery websites have popped up as the demand for hops plants has grown. Kiwis could try Wild About Hops while many rhizomes can be found on Amazon.

Some hops are protected by intellectual property rights so cannot be grown by those who do not have permission to do so. For this reason, hop plants that are in the public domain are fairly popular with hops growers.

How much wet hops to use with a brew?


This can be a bit of a tricky measurement because fresh hops are called wet hops for a reason - they are made mostly of water - and that can mean all the tables and measurements go out the window if you are trying to work out the exact alpha acid rating for your hops.

That said a general rule has been established - use anywhere between 6 - 10 times the amount of dry hops you would normally use.

Generally speaking you are using fresh hops to promote aroma and flavor additions to your brew. If you are trying to add bitterness, store brought hops where you can identify their bittering qualities could be the way to go.

Beware the creeping vine of hops!


Hops have a tendency to grow quite rampantly when placed in good growing conditions. They tend to spread and take up very inch of soil that's open to them. That's why many growers recommend that after the final harvest of the hops cones, the plant should be cut back to about three feat and then left to grow back. A good time to do this is at the beginning of winter.

A further trick is to plant your hops 'above ground' that is to say in a container of some kind such as a tub or old kitchen sink so as to help contain the plant's movements across your garden.

10 questions about using hops one way or the other

what bear hops to use with beer

If you know a thing or two about beer, you'll know that the hops plant is so crucial to making good beer that the Germans made it the law for it to be an ingredient of beer.

There's a bit of mystery and magic about hops. They are like the secret ingredient that make everything taste and smell so delicious. 

Honestly, having a sniff of a freshly opened packet of hops is one of the best smells in the world.

It smells like...victory. 

While you can't go terribly wrong with hops, you can go even better when you learn all the tricks and tips of using them. And that means questions need to be answered about how and when to use them. Questions like: 

What kind and where from? 

What's a hop tea?

What is dry hopping? 

We have the answers!

Let's start with one of the most common questions about hops, what kind you might want to use.

What kind of hops should I use with my beer?


using beer hops with homebrewDifferent hop varieties suit different kinds of beer. After hundreds of years developing beer, there are now some well established rules of thumb for what kinds of hops brewers should use. 

Here's a wee guide for what hops to use.

  • The English Golding hop has become the signature hops of English ales. The popular Fuggle hop is another popular hop used for ale beer. 
  • Saaz hops are closely aligned with the brewing of lagers, mostly for the delicious aroma that has become associated with the beer. Saaz hops are an excellent choice of hop for the enthusiastic homebrewer.
  • Pilsner beers have become nearly synonymous with the four so called 'noble hops'. These are varieties of hop called Terrnanger, Spalt, Hallertauer and of already mentioned Saaz. As an aside, pilsner beers are known as traditionally coming from the Czech Republic.
  • If you're looking for hops that might help your beer taste a bit like the classic New Zealand beer, Steinlager, you might buy Green Bullet hops. 
  • America, the land of the free beer drinker, has become a home for hop production and many new varieties from old favorites have been developed. American hops are recognized and appreciated all around the world for their bold, and often intense flavors they imbue in beer. American hops are often described as being citrus like, however that's a most elementary description. Cascade hops are a very popular choice.
  • Chinook is another popular 'north western' hop.

What is a 'hops tea'?


Sometimes when making homebrew, beer makes also like to make a cup of hop tea!

Why would we do this?

The idea here is that the great hops aromas and oils have been removed from bullets due to the boiling and will then mix easily with your wort brew.

How to make a hops tea for homebrewing


Put the hops in a muslin bag (or tie up a square of it) and then boil it for several minutes. During the boil, have a good smell and enjoy the aromas as it wafts around the kitchen. That's the deliciousness you want to impart into your beer.

When you've boiled the hops for long enough, turn the pan off but leave everything right where it is to cool.

If you have already prepared your wort, so now put everything you've boiled - the whole muslin bag and the tea that you've made into the primary fermenter.

You can also drink your own hops tea too! It's done slightly differently to the above method for beer - you let the hops steep as you would any other tea and then drink when cool enough.

When should I add the hops pellets to my beer?


Typically the beer wort is boiled with the hops added at crucial moments before it is cooled down to begin the fermentation process. The timings of when to add the hops in the boil can be critical as the different timings can cause the hops to work differently on the beer.

If you are making your own wort (that is you are not using a beer kit) then it's best practice to follow a tried and true recipe, at least as you start out.

If you're at that point,  you'll want to understand that the process is sometimes known as the “hop schedule”. A hop schedule will lists the length of time that the hops should be in the boil, not the amount of time you should wait to add the hops.

This allows you to making your timings correctly.

The rough guide is the longer you boil the hops, the more bitterness they will impart. The shorter you boil them, the more flavour will be added. It depends on how you want your beer to benefit from the hops addition.

If you are using a simple beer extract kit then you can add the hops when you are preparing the batch of wort. Just throw it with your wort and nature will do the rest.

Some people like to delay adding the hops until a few days later. This is fine, but in our experience of using brewing kits, it makes little difference to the end result in the hop aromas and taste your beer will have. 

What's the best way to properly store hops?


It turns out that turns out freezing hops is actually a popular trick with beer brewers!

If you've purchased a vacuum sealed packet of hops and have some leftover, then we do firmly recommend that you freeze them.

Quite simply, take your leftover beer hops and place them in a zip-lock bag. Remove the excess air and then seal. Grab a Sharpie and write on the name of the hops on the bag so you don't forget and then place in the freezer until required.

If you want to go all 'professional' you could use a vacuum sealer to remove all the air.

In such cases, you might not need to freeze the hops if the sealing has been done properly, but it wouldn't hurt.

You can also refrigerate the hops. Again, put them in a zip lock bag or something airtight and remove as much air as possible if you can. I read that hops can stay fresh for up to a year this way but I know specialty brewing shops off load older hops much more regularly (handy trick, follow brewing specialists on Facebook - the ones I follow often announce that they are giving away their old hops stock because they have a fresh order coming in).

I reckon that as long as your hops has not been exposed to too much oxygen, it will keep well enough for the average homebrewer to not have to worry about hops going stale.

I've made a very hoppy beer, how long should I let it bottle condition?


We would recommend you start drinking your beer when it's ready to be drunk rather than saving it for a rainy day. Bottle conditioned beer starts to become very drinkable from around the 3 week mark, depending on the storage conditions so any time around then would be a good time to start drinking your beer.

Go on, you deserve it!

The longer you wait beyond this period, the strength of the hops begins to dissipate. Your beer of course will not be ruined, it will just be less hoppy than you may have expected.

What is the practice of dry hopping beer?


It sounds like a fancy technical term but 'dry hopping' is simply the moment when the brewer adds hops in (dry) pellet form to the fermenter after the wort has been prepared.

The brewer is of course using hops to improve the aroma of the beer and to add some bitterness to the brew (bitterness is best produced by the boiling of hops though).

This ‘dry’ practice is often done later in the fermentation cycle of the beer. The thinking behind adding the hops later is that the hops aroma is more likely to stay with the beer brew through to the bottling process.

This is because the bubbling process and emission of carbon dioxide via the air lock allows the aromas to escape.

Bearing in mind that one should leave one’s beer to sit quietly for a couple of weeks before brewing to ensure that the yeast has had a chance to do it’s thing, this is a great opportunity for the oils and bitterness of the hops to also transfuse into the beer. It’s for that reason why dry hopping is a popular practice.

So if that's dry hopping, what is wet hopping?


wet hopsWet hopping is simply adding in freshly grown hops into the primary. Homebrewers have been known to grow their own hops, harvest it and then add it to their beer. It's the natural way to use hops.

Turning hops into pellets has become popular as an easy means of distribution and serves as a way to preserve the life of the hops - it's a plant after all and just like when you don't eat the carrots in the fridge, they become rotten.

You can actually grow your own hops in your backyard garden too. All you need is to get your hands on some rhizomes, get your green fingers out and plant them in a spot that will let them grow like crazy. A good source of hops rhizomes is from local Facebook groups. Home brewers often sell them to one another quite cheaply or just for shipping costs.

My hops is just floating in the primary fermenter. Is this normal?


Yes, when you first add hops to your wort it breaks apart from its pellet form and generally just floats at the top of the wort and this is normal. Given a few days, it will impart its wondrous qualities to the beer and then fall to the bottom of the fermenter, its job done.

If you don't want this to occur, you could think about placing your hops in a muslin bag and dropping them in. Maybe put a glass marble in the bag so it weights down.

Can I add hop pellets into the beer before bottling?


If you've ever wondered if you could simply add a hop pellet to each bottle of beer when bottling your batch, think some more.

You're setting yourself up for a potential disaster. While it can work, you are at serious risk of causing beer gushers. If it merely foams you are likely to experience your beer head to suffer from hop stuck in the head and floating in the beer.

Ideally you want the hops to fall to the bottom of the fermenter so that when you fill your bottles you do not get the residue.

That said, if you leave your beer to condition for long enough so the hops drops to the bottom and becomes part of the sediment that usually forms, you might just get yourself a fairly hoppy beer. That said, leave your hoppy beer too long and you will lose the hoppiness.....

At the end of the day, if you're cool with your beer being a bit messy and prepared to run the risk of bottle bombs, you might get good result.

Where can I buy hops?


There's two ways to buy hops - in person or online. If you are going to do it in person, you need to find a local specialty beer brewing shop. I love going into specialty beer shops as the owners and staff are usually beer enthusiasts and give the best service and advice. 

Seriously, if you live close by to one, using a specialty store can save you delivery and postage costs and it's worth it to get that personal contact and ask any questions too! My personal favourite in Wellington is Brewtopia and the lads at The Brewhouse have been very helpful too. 

However if you're a busy brewer or live in the outback somewhere, shopping for hops online is a breeze. If you live in New Zealand we recommend Brewshop as they have fair prices and a very impressive delivery time.

For you Americans wanting to drowning in cascade hops just order hops from Amazon. There are plenty of reputable beer brewing equipment experts on there and between them, they have a large selection of the best hops to buy.

6 ways to easily remove beer bottle labels

Once more unto the breech...

Removing labels from beer bottles can be the most frustrating exercise in the world right?


What if I told you I've learnt the secret of easily removing those damn sticky labels.

You'd be thinking I pulling your leg.

I'm not though.

I've done the research. I've done the experiments. I have scrubbed labels. I have licked labels. I have oxicleaned and I have used my damn finger nails to get those last stubborn bits of residue off. I have also pulled labels off completely intact in one move.

So much so, I hate beer labels.

But, due to my work, for you dear home brewer, I've got 6 or maybe 7 tricks and tips on removing beer labels from bottles. They are not magical fixes but they sure make things a lot easier and less frustrating.

The good old overnight soak


The first thing you need to do is accept that life is like a box of shitty beer labels, you never know and some of them are as stubborn as your mother in law after a couple of gins. Some labels will simply come off after a 24 hour soak in cold water. Others will not even soften after three weeks in the bucket.

That's just the way is. Accept it, and you will feel so much better for it.

Yes, the most simple way to remove a beer label is to let the glass bottle soak in a bucket or tub overnight. Fully submerged. If you get a beer label that's willing to soak up water and with a glue that dissolves easily enough, there's good odds you will be able to pull the whole label off from the bottle 100 percent intact and leaving no residue.

Such occasions are rare and must be celebrated by sharing your home brew with your neighbours and workmates.

Baking soda is not just for making hokey pokey


But if the overnight soak doesn't float your label off intact, you might want to try baking soda. Baking soda is like a magical cooking ingredient that housewives from back in the day is also good for using as toothpaste and removing axel grease.

Baking soda is actually a handy chemical called sodium bicarbonate and it's true and time tested remedy - it will help remove labels. With your soak, add in a few table spoons of the soda, stir and leave to soak for 24 hours.

If there is some residue after removing the label, a quick scrub with a steel wool or plastic kitchen scrubber (think 3M cleaners) should do the trick.


Ammonia


Did you ever see Robocob?

The first one, not the shitty remake. I saw that as a young lad and one scene that stuck with me forever was when one of the bad guy's henchmen gets his comeuppance with a bath of toxic waste.

It melts his skin right off!

Like sucking chicken of a slow cooked chicken drum.

And see as that's how we really would like our labels to come off, let's rachet the solution up.

Ammonia.

It's a hydrogen and nitrogen compound (NH3 is the scientific name) and it dissolve your label like it was human flesh bathed in toxic waste. Be warned though, ammonia is a HARSH chemical as it is very caustic. Don't get it on you or inhale it and we suggest your do the soak outside.

It doesn't do anything to the glass bottle though, so it's a viable trick.

Never mix it with bleach as a chemical reaction will occur, exposing you to a poisonous gas.

So maybe only try to use ammonia if you have the most stubborn of beer bottle labels. Before using the bottles you will need to thoroughly rinse them in plenty of water.

And then rinse again just to be sure.

So if the suggestion above scared you, let's slow down and have a think about some other chemical agents that might be handy.

Have you ever heard of Oxiclean? 


It's a massively popular laundry cleaner / stain remover. It's good because it makes whites whiter and brighter brighter or something. Maybe it's good because one of the active ingredients in OxiClean is sodium percarbonate.

This wonder chemical is an adduct of sodium carbonate  and hydrogen peroxide, the active ingredients of OxiClean and many other popular laundry soakers.

I typically use sodium percarbonate  all the time and this is the actual truth, about an hour ago I was adding sodium percarbonate to a tub of beer bottles that needed the labels removed. As I was standing outside in the dark, garden hose in hand I thought, you know, it would probably be a good idea make a good post about how to remove beer labels).

So, I personally can vouch for using sodium percarbonate to remove beer labels.

It still can be a dog though. If you get a stubborn beer label, you're going to need to use some elbow grease.

Steam cleaning


You could also try using hot steam from a kettle. We haven't done this but we think this idea would probably work if given enough time. If you had to do twenty bottles, it wouldn't be worth the energy.

PBW - Powdered Brewery Wash


This cleaning product is widely used in commercial breweries and microbreweries a like but countless home brewers across the country have twigged that they can use it for cleaning their own brewing equipment. Because PBW is so strong it will also make short work of beer labels as well.  Give it a soak overnight and you might just be surprised at how easy it will be to get the labels off.

So in summary here's the ways you can remove beer labels:

You could also try using a jet blaster but you'd need to be able to securely hold the bottles!

These tricks also work just as well for wine bottles but you will have to be prepared to get in there and do some scrubbing on those stuborn labels, it's just a fact of life.

How to make home made gin

making home made gin with a kit
One of my favourite TV shows as a kid was M.A.S.H. Even as a young kid I could pick up on most of the seriousness of that show, comedy aside.

One of things that always amused me was how Hawkeye and his doctor buddies were always distilling alcohol in their tent and having a few drinks after performing harrowing surgery on wounded soldiers.

It wasn't till I was an adult, had actually drank alcohol and understood its effect and also had a comprehension of the true reality of war that I understood by Hawkeye would need to have a few drinks in him.

Because war is hell.

Lucky for us though, most of us just want to make our own alcohol and have a quiet evening drink before we retire for the night, and our choice of poison?

Gin.

Home brewed gin.

So let's make some using this kit!

Gin is never just gin. It is always made from a base of alcohol and that's why this why The Homemade Gin Kit has all the necessary ingredients and materials - you just need to supply 750 mls of vodka. 

The vodka is the starting point. 

So what does this gin brewing kit actually come with?
  • Includes: Two 375ml Glass Bottles, Fine Stainless Steel Strainer,Stainless Steel Funnel
  • Includes: One tin of juniper berries & One tin of botanical blend
  • Made in USA so you're helping Americans keep their jobs.
Essentially what the kit is helping you do is soaking the berries and spices in the alcohol.  Because we using the historical soaking method, we're more likely to get more solids and some color (potentially like amber).

So how to use the kit? 

  • Sterilize the bottle bottles. You could boil them or using something like sodium percarbonate.
  • Add your botanicals to the jar
  • Add your vodka, then leave to infuse in a cool dark place for 24 hours or so
  • The next day, taste your infusion – it should already be beginning to taste like gin. That's the juniper taking hold. If you're feeling fancy add some fresh peel orange peel and any extra botanicals whose flavour you want to boost.
  • Leave for up to another 24 hours. Give the bottles a shake a couple of times during that time. 
  • You are done. Use the strainer to get rid of the sediment and bottle. 
  • Enjoy with friends (and food!)
Here's a handy tip. If you want a stronger juniper flavor, and most gin drinkers prefer this, you can crush the juniper berries before adding them to the vodka.  If you want to add even more juniper berries, they're usually available at the spice counter at any major grocery store.

So am I making gin or not?


Now, we'll say this upfront just in case some naysayers tut in with,' this is not how you make proper gin!' 

We are not making distilled gin, we are making infused gin.

Because gin by definition is an alcoholic drink where juniper berries are the main ingredient. 

And that's the most basic part of it.

The economics of making your own gin


What you are doing here is not making gin to make a cheap gin. 

You are making gin for the experience of it. While the infusion method is not difficult at all, there's some reward in taking the time to follow the instructions and making your own gin. 

The reward will be the same any home beer brewer gets, the satisfaction of having made the thing you are drinking. 

If you are trying to make a fine gin, this method is not for you. You could try setting up a still but that's for keen enthusiasts only. 

So, are you ready to order then? The Homemade Gin Kit also have refill options so you can reuse the bottles and make over 2 litres of homemade gin!

To your good health Hawkeye!

How to use gelatin for clearing homebrew

clearing beer with gelatin

Whenever I think of gelatin, I think of horse hooves.

That's right horse hooves.

From the knacker's yard. Gross right?

Well I say jelly is jelly, food is food, and if I need to use the foot of a horse to clear my beer and reduce sediment in the bottle I will.

So, here's the guts of using gelatin.

Basically gelatin acts a fining agent. It combines with the 'leftovers' of the beer brewing process and they fall to the bottom of the fermenter thus clearing the beer.

So how much gelatin should I add to my beer?


Many beer brewers have found that between half and a whole teaspoon per 23 litres or 5 gallons will be a sufficient amount. You will probably get diminishing returns if you use much more.

When do I add the gelatin?


You can add it any time after fermentation and word on the street that it actually works best when the beer is quite cool.

A common timing is to add it a couple of days before you intend to bottle your beer.

How do I add the gelatin?


A good trick is to dissolve it in a half a glass of hot water. You then open up the fermenter or carboy, add the liquid and then shut the fermenter back up.

Do I need to use gelatin if I'm making an ale?


For many people, clarity of beer is important to them. If you are making a dark ale, clarity may not be so important to you.

However, finings do remove leftovers that can impinge on the taste of the beer too. The gelatin helps remove the unneeded proteins and polyphenols from the beer.

Where do I get gelatin from?


Most specialist beer shops will stock fining agents such as gelatin. You can also try your local supermarket as it's used in many cooking recipes. You can totally order it online from Amazon for speedy delivery too.

Gelatin can come in powdered form and sheets.

As Robby the Robot would say 'Beware Will Robinson!'


Make sure you buy unflavoured gelatin. If you use say Jello, because you know it has gelatin in it, you might be in for quite the taste surprise. That said, we've been known to use gelatin jelly beans from time to time...

Of course, if you don't wish to use gelatin (maybe because you're trying to make vegan beer?) you can try to use other kinds of finings to clear your beer.

What is the best beer brewing kit for beginners?

Did you ever hear your dad tell the story about how he tried to make homebrew in his glory days at university and it was just rubbish?

It was probably because the beer kits in his day were not really up to scratch. There was this strange stigma about making beer at home and there seemed to a 'turn your nose up' attitude to it.

Don't let this 30 year old stigma concern you.

Thankfully, the standard of beer kits is pretty good in this modern era and there's a massive range to choose from. We've been brewing with beer kits for a few years now, and frankly we've yet to have a dud kit.

So with that in mind, what is the best beer kit for beginning beer brewers?

There's a couple of things to think about.

The first is what kind of beer you may want to make. Our judgement is that if this is your first beer, you will want to get in there and just make beer.

Which is the point, we get that.

However you might not know that lagers are harder to get right that ales due to temperature and storage issues. For this reason (so to avoid any disappointment) we would recommend you do try an ale. That said, the difference in ale from lager quality isn't something to worry about too much. 

Ales are good tasting beers and there are plenty of beer kits that you can choice from. We are personally really into brewing nut brown ales. This is an old English style beer that originates from the dank and dirty pubs of London and beyond. Arguably one of the original working man's beers, a well brewed nut brown ale is a worthy beer for anyone that appreciates a cold beer after a hard day's yakka.

We recommend the Black Rock Nut Brown Ale kit for the beginner's choice beer kit. We've used this kit many times and it always produces a handy drinking beer.

You could also try out the Munton's Connoisseur Nut Brown Kit. Its reviews on Amazon suggest that it is an ideal brewing kit for beginners if prepared with some DME or dry malt.


So, maybe you're still of the mind to try your hand at brewing a lager?


In our view, lagers are what the make the world go round. 

There's not much better than after a hot day in the sun mowing the lawns that raising a class of cold lager to your mouth and emptying it's contents down one's throat. 

It's even better if it's your own beer!

So what's a good first lager to brew?

Lagers can be a challenge to make as they need lower temperatures during fermentation to achieve the desire result. Since lagers are light in body it is very easy to tell a lager that has been fermented at too warm a temperature as they may taste too fruit or spicy due to too much ester production. This is why we suggested early that you may wish to try your hand at an ale first. 

But whatever, we often say learn lagers by brewing lagers..

The very first lager I ever made was a Black Rock Lager with beer enhancer and Dr Rudi Hops. I have no idea who Doctor Rudi is but he sure helped make a good beer! 

You could think of this kit as being your 'standard brewing' kit - nothing too fancy or ambitious but you can be confident they will help you produce good beer.



You’ll also find that Cooper’s DIY Lager is well worth a crack – we do recommend you add some hops of course! We did a great brew of a Cooper's larger with the combination of both Moteuka and Saaz hops. Here's our review of a Coopers' Kit.

If you want to try a beer kit that could be perceived as having a bit more quality, you could consider brewing with the Williams Warn Bohemian Pilsner beer kit. This kit is described as having “a rich, complex maltiness and a crisp finish”. Our brew largely lived up to this claim so we would be happy to recommend this kit to the learner brewer.

A handy thing about this kit is that if comes with a yeast that is tailored for the beer (being the Fermentis Saflager W34/70 lager yeast) whereas some of the kits like the Black Rock range have the same yeast across their whole range. 

The choice is of course yours. 

And the end of the day, you just need to start brewing. We all need to start some where and grabbing a quality beer kit for your first batch of beer will help give you a great insight into the beer making process. 

Our brewing guide has plenty of tips and tricks to keep you on the right path to brewing delicious beer. We offer you one piece of advice that you would be very wise to heed, always, always sterilize your fermenter and beer equipment