The first time I decided to make beer was before I got married and it was a disaster. I thought it was easy, three or four simple steps, wait a month and Bob’s your uncle, free beer! But oh how wrong I was. The problem was I just didn’t have the knack, the insight to beer making. That underpinning knowledge and skill needed to make beer, not good beer, just beer. If I could make good beer the first time round then I would have opened a brewery. No, I was happy if I could just make beer. But all I made was a complete mess, literally. I also damaged my hifi, ruined the carpet and killed my cassette player. From that last sentence I’m sure you can work out roughly how long ago this was.Up and till I started bottling the beer everything looked fine, although it did have a very strong yeasty smell and was very dark and cloudy. I did everything that I was meant to do, followed every instruction to the letter. Then once the beer was bottled I stored them away at the bottom of my cupboard in my bedroom. And that’s where my troubles began. I was in the living room watching the TV when I heard a loud pop. I turned the volume on the TV down and listened. There it was again! POP! I got up to investigate when more popping noise and my stereo turned itself on! I rushed to my bedroom to find the bottles of beer had started popping open, spraying beer all over the place. One of the corks had fired across the room and hit the ‘on’ button on my hifi and Paranoid by Black Sabbath started to play very loud. After the popping had stopped the room looked wrecked! And smelt worse. Beer had gotten into everything, including my cassette player.
That’s when I realised that beer making wasn’t for me. Beer making isn’t easy, no matter what the guy at the shops says. Beer making is a science, it’s chemistry! It’s also an art, a fine balance of basic ingredients, at the right temperature, in the right place.
So, did I learn my lesson. Of course not. The holy grail of very cheap beer was always at the back of my mind. So, several years later I tried again. I was married now to Lisa and we were living in our first home, a small studio flat. This time I tried one of those ‘all-in-one-kits’. Basically you have a big canvas bag of molasses. To that you add some ingredient, yeast and something else. And then you add warm water, several pints as I recall. I had a friend help me with this as it needed someone to hold the bag up straight while the warm water was pored in. I rested the bag on the draining board and held it tight while my friend pored. It got very heavy very quickly. When I tried to pick it up to place it in the cupboard I dropped it and the worse thing that could have happened, happened. Sticky, brown smelly molasses covered the floor. For weeks after we couldn’t get rid of the smell nor could we stop sticking to the floor. My wife was less than impressed. And I said then, as I said the first time, ‘never again’.
All I need now are the apples.
But here we are ‘again’! But this time I have a secret weapon, well not so secret obviously because I’m going to tell you! It’s my mate Gary Alderson. He makes his own beer, cider and wine and also has a degree in chemistry from Oxford. He’s going to help me make my own cider.
“Not beer?” I hear you say! Yes I know the saying, third time lucky, but I’d rather not take any chances as my wife really wasn’t happy after the last attempt.
I don’t know how it’s going to turn out but if I follow Gary’s advice then I should end up something safe to drink! But what I’m about to make is probably Apple rot gut but at least it will be more palatable than the beer I tried to make!