Beer is said to be the third most popular beverage in the world, and it’s been with us for a very long time. Dating all the way back to 9000 BC in Ancient Egypt, beer remains a firm favourite, and there’s nothing quite like a cold beer on a hot day!
The good news if you’re a fan of beer is that we’re currently going through somewhat of a renaissance at the moment. More and more people these days are looking to buy craft beers, as they are generally regarded as offering greater flavour variations than your bog standard mass-produced lager.
But as we become gradually more environmentally aware, there is a big challenge facing any beverage or food product aside from packaging alone, and that is transportation (often referred to as ‘food miles’). Regardless of whether beer is made from organic materials and bottled in recycled glass or aluminium, it still has to be transported form producer to supplier. This contributes to greenhouse emissions as well as all the associated oil consumption that goes in to production, which seems like a lot of waste to ship what is essentially just water.
Aside from the environmental argument, people are getting into crafting their own beer at home for fun, and even for profit. You can buy a home brewing kit for as little as £70, which contains everything you need to get started, and there are countless guides online that offer step-by-step instructions. Just don’t get carried away with reading absolutely everything you can find about beer making on the Internet. You may get overwhelmed and talk yourself out of the hobby!
If you really want to get into home brewing, you don’t need to stop at beer either – you can also try your hand at making wine, port, cider, spirits, all you need is the right equipment and research.
Record keeping and research
Research really is the absolute most important aspect to home brewing. You will find literally thousands of guides online that will walk you through every step of the way, and there are plenty of forums where you can discuss the hobby with other enthusiasts, who will be more than happy to share their experiences and advice.
Adequate research can help to save money in the long run as well, as you can seek advice on the most cost effective equipment, as well ways to save with bulk buying the necessary raw ingredients.
After you’ve found a guide to help you through the ins and outs of beer making, you’re going to want to keep a brewing log. No matter how simple the recipe, you need to keep track of exactly what went in for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it gives you the opportunity to tweak your recipes to make them perfect (it’s said that even if your first batch is decent, it will take until after your tenth to really get it right), you can make this easy on yourself by labelling beers, so you have a clear reference in your brewing log.
And secondly, keeping track of everything in a brewing log will be invaluable should you want to take the step up from brewing for yourself to eventually selling your beer.
Once you’ve settled on your favourite beer, and you’ve nailed the production stage, you’re going to be hugely proud and might want to start thinking of the next logical step. You need to ask yourself – do you want to keep it all to yourself and your loved ones? Or maybe, do you consider scaling up and selling it on?
The first step is to decide on a fitting name for your beer, and then start bottling it and labelling it. You can opt for a flip-top cap, as these are reusable but expensive, or you could go for the traditional crown cork bottle top, these will need a bottle capping machine, or screw top bottles.
For your first homebrew batch you can use the same glass bottles over and over again. This saves money on resources and energy, and then once you begin selling on a small scale, you could introduce a reward scheme for customers who return their bottles. However, things change when you want to start supplying shops and renting brewery space. In essence everything here hugely depends on how large a scale you want to take your beer making.
The size of your operation greatly affects the legality of home brewing as well. If you want to sell your own beer, the 2003 Licensing Act states that the sale of alcohol requires you to have a license. And wherever you make your beer will come under food standards trading requirements and be subject to inspections form the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
Throughout the UK, the sale of alcohol is restricted, and your local authority must license any premises selling it. You can find your local authority here. The rules and regulations vary greatly depending on where the alcohol is being sold, and as a brewer you will really need to do your homework in order to adhere to the strict laws in place, as well as correctly pay your taxes.
Beer Duty tax is chargeable on any beer that has an alcoholic strength of over 1.2% alcohol by volume (ABV), and if you’re producing beer for commercial reason, then you must register as a brewer with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Once registered you must keep specific records and accounts of all income and expenses, and calculate any Beer Duty that is due, and pay that tax.
With a whole lot of skill, patience, hard work and research, you can certainly make some money from brewing and selling your own beer. It’s an immensely satisfying hobby, and one that, if done right, could potentially lead to an exciting new career possibility.