Dave Hamilton provides some tips on home-brewing, including a recipes for home-made ale.

It is unfortunate that home-brewing sometimes comes with quite a bad reputation. It can be associated with that strange bachelor uncle who dusts off a few bottles of weird concoctions every Christmas, only for knowing relatives to surreptitiously discard them into the nearest pot plant. Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little forethought, it can be a very enjoyable hobby that produces both cheap and, hopefully, palatable alcohol. Buying the equipment can be a financial stumbling block, but this can be overcome by buying second-hand, asking friends or relatives, or asking on websites such as freecycle. One novel way to overcome the initial costs is to form a home-brewing collective. Home-brew can often be brewed in large quantities, so it makes sense to share both the outcome and the initial cost. Home-brew kits can be a little hit and miss, but provide a fantastic introduction for the inexperienced home-brewer. I have found that ale kits seem to produce a better beer than lager kits, and cider kits seem no different than making home-brew from apple juice (there is a recipe for this in my book).  As for wine kits, they seem only really worth it if your only motive for home-brewing is to produce cheap alcohol.  The most satisfying way to brew has to be to make it from scratch. An added bonus is that many of the ingredients are practically free as they can either be gathered from your plot/garden or foraged from the local area. Nettles make a surprisingly good beer and, in the spring, it is well worth trying your hand at making elderflower wine (recipes for both can be found on our forum www.selfsufficientish.com/forum). It is worth asking someone who brews what successes and failures they’ve had before you commit your prize vegetables to the brewing pot. For example, although you may find recipes for onion wine, there really is no need to try it! On the other hand, parsnips make a surprisingly good wine and the majority of fruit wines are well worth consideration. For recipes I like to use ‘Food from your garden’, an old Reader’s Digest classic, but visit any charity shop up and down the country and you should find countless books on home-brewing. For those of you who don’t want to wait that long to get started, you might want to try the beer below, adapted from my brother’s recipe, and one he considers amongst his favourite home made beers.  HOME-MADE ALE RECIPEIngredients•  1kg (2lb) of Malt Extract•  55g dried hops (2oz)•  750g (1.5 lb) Sugar (brewing sugar preferably,   otherwise granulated)•  20g (1oz) Ale yeast•  13 litres (3 gallons) of water

Other Equipment needed•  Very large pan•  Muslin cloth/Jelly bag•  Fermentation bin  (13 litres+)•  Big plastic spoon•  Empty beer bottles and caps.•  Syphoning tube

Method1.  In a very large pan, bring 7 litres of water to the   boil, throw in the hops and keep boiling for 25-30 minutes.2.  Pour the malt extract and sugar into a sterile   fermentation bin3.  Strain the hop liquid through jelly bag into the   bin (contents of the jelly bag can be    composted). Stir the wort to ensure that the   sugar is all dissolved.4.  Add 6 litres of cold water, ensuring the    temperature is below 18°C; sprinkle on your   yeast.5.  Seal the bin for a week or until fermentation   stops.6.  Place a level teaspoon of sugar into each bottle, syphon the liquid into the bottles avoiding syphoning any sediment.7.  Leave bottles for at least 10 days.             

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