If you have been following this blog you’ll have seen me testing out a Brew Barrel beer kit last week and having a go at making some beer and I guess you want to know how it went?
If you haven’t seen part 1, you can see it here: http://www.eliapplebydonald.co.uk/blog/brew-barrel-reviewing-a-beer-kit/
Last week I made up the kit following the instructions and posted the video here to let you see. I generally found it incredibly easy to do, the instruction were very clear and well illustrated which I think made them perfect for someone who has never done anything like this before. Essentially with this kit you just pour everything into the mini keg add water and then leave it to sit for 5 days. That’s it. The downside of this process is that you don’t actually learn anything about making beer, you don’t learn any transferable skills that you could then take with you to make beer again using different kits. Even the language used in the instructions and marketing material lacks any real brewing terminology. But I made the kit up as instructed and left it in my cupboard under the stairs for the 5 days. This however was where I noticed the first thing that I think could have caused a bit of concern for novices.
Each day of the 5 days I found quite a sizeable puddle of beer and foam on top of the keg. Now I imagine someone who doesn’t have the knowledge of brewing would either just leave this or wipe it with a cloth. However both these actions could potentially attract bacteria and spoil the beer. Because I have prior knowledge of the brewing process I knew to clean the keg each day and more importantly sanitise it to prevent the risk of infection. After all the keg isn’t sealed, it has an air relief valve on top which can allow unwanted nasties into the keg and your beer.
One concern I had was that even after the 5 days, the keg was still foaming, I did wonder if this meant fermentation hadn’t finished, but as you are not taught about this on the kit instructions I acted as anyone else would and didn’t leave the kit any longer, it went into the fridge for 2 days as instructed (maybe to stop fermentation)?
This is where the fun started. I set up the camera to record my review of the beer, and tapped the keg as instructed. Boom, beer fountain. There was just too much pressure in the keg and beer went everywhere, all over me, the laptop I was recording with, the seat, the table, even the plant beside me so I had to stop recording to get everything cleaned up. I did try to vent the excess pressure by letting some of the beer flow from the tap, however this was crazy as well, I lost about 1.5 litres of beer as foam. So for a 5 litre mini keg, I lost beer every day with it leaking from the valve in the keg, I lost it in the beer fountain and I lost it in the explosion from the tap so I didn’t get anything like the 5 litres.
Unfortunately this is a real negative point as the kit itself is incredibly expensive. To buy this kit including postage would have been £33.50 for 5 litres. Your average home brewing beer kit costs about £12 – £20 pounds for 23 litres. Big difference, especially when you work out that to get 23 litres from this kit would be around £154. Eek!
So I did eventually get all cleaned up and managed to vent the excess gas from the keg after a few tries, and managed to have a taste.
How does the beer taste?
Given the cost of the kit, I was expecting a beer that was a little better than a standard beer kit product. Again I was disappointed. My first instinct on smelling the beer was that it had in fact got infected, there was this really sharp, astringent smell. Quite overpowering and in the video below I think my face says it all. I did eventually realise that this was in fact the grapefruit chemical addition, it wasn’t as I had assumed a grapefruit like aroma like you get from new world hops, it was actually grapefruit, like someone had poured grapefruit juice into the beer. It completely overpowered everything else.
On tasting the beer, there really was nothing to write home about. I think at the time I kept saying that it was “drinkable” and to be fair it was drinkable. I wouldn’t order a pint of it in a bar and I certainly wouldn’t pay for it but it wasn’t hideous, just not very pleasing. The grapefruit aroma didn’t immediately come through in the taste of the beer, however it did leave a really strong chemical after taste that wasn’t pleasant.
Unfortunately I really couldn’t recommend this kit to someone who wanted to get into brewing their own beer, it just doesn’t have any of the elements of actually brewing your own beer and certainly didn’t give me a beer which would make me want to do it again.
I do however see that its market maybe isn’t the home brew community, I think this is more likely to appeal to folk wanting to buy a quirky gift, maybe from one of the websites like “firebox” or “not on the high street”. It’s a gimmick for home brewing rather than an actual home brewing experience.
I’m sorry Brew Barrel, it’s just not for me.
As I said the video review didn’t go to plan, but you are welcome to watch me get drenched in beer if you want to have a giggle.