According to the Morning Advertiser, one of the pub industry’s oldest and most-respected magazines, in a recent study of 2,000 respondents commissioned by the St Austell brewery, 40% of pub users are unhappy about the cost of a pint. And in all probability, following the long dry hot weather seen this summer, things are only going to get worse.
Muntons, the Stowmarket based malt and malted ingredient manufacturer reports that the exceptional weather seen this year has had a profound effect on the malting barley crop. The UK cereal harvest saw severely stressed crops, affected through lack of rainfall, leaving farmers with lower than usual yields, particularly with late sown spring barley, leading to higher barley prices. Although Muntons are keen to assure brewers that there will be plenty of good quality malt available, this will inevitably translate into increased malt costs for brewers and inevitably even higher prices for beer at the pumps.
So, what can the average beer drinker do to alleviate the growing pressure on their wallet? There are three simple ways to reduce spending on the cost of beer. The first, whilst easy, may not be that attractive: drink less! Ok let’s discount that option, as moderation and health awareness are already key drivers ensuring that we drink responsibly. The second option? Drink cheaper beers. Rather than choose a top quality 5% ABV hand crafted ale served by your preferred friendly local publican, pop into a budget style pub and quaff a pint of more modest 3.5% abv draft ‘alco-fizz’ session ale. Not convinced? There is another, easier way…
There is a growing fascination with craft brewing, not just in the UK but the world over with consumers enjoying the hand-crafted nature of these fine ales made by enthusiastic and passionate craft brewers. The opportunity to enjoy the taste of regional beers, often created using a blend of ingredients, which deliver unique flavours designed to stimulate the palate, is being enjoyed by growing numbers of drinkers. Perhaps this goes some way to explain the seemly endless growth in both the number of craft breweries and craft beer aficionados. So why not join this fascinating trend and become your very own craft brewer. Make it yourself and the cost of a pint of fine hand-crafted ale plummets to a fraction of the price you currently pay at the bar.
You may of course worry about failure; that you will not have the necessary skills or the aptitude to become a real brewer. But things are far simpler than you might think. You can start out with the latest really simple craft beer at home system, a brew-in-bag product where you just add tap water to the bag, pour in the yeast, fit the pressure cap stand it in a cupboard and leave it to do its thing for three weeks. Then press the tap and freshly brewed craft ale comes pouring out for you and your friends to enjoy. In fact, up to 25 of your friends can enjoy a pint each from this brew-in-bag system – not bad for about a £1.00 per pint. And when you have finished just roll up the bag and throw it away. No sterilising, syphoning or mess.
The next stage, which will allow you much more scope to use your creative talents is to invest in a starter system to make your own craft beer at home using one of the many beer making kits available. All of the equipment required, which is completely reusable, will require a modest investment of less than £100 – not bad for a hobby which will keep you amused and provide a healthy supply of great beer on tap and certainly cheaper than taking up golf! The great thing here is that there is an incredible range of beer making kits available, so whether you fancy a strong Imperial stout, a refreshing golden ale or something a little more exotic such as a double fermented Belgian ale they are all readily available for your delectation. OK so you have to spend a little time making these beers, but the results are incredible, and a brew night is a great excuse to get your friends round to help with the process, the washing up and to help empty the barrel ready for your new brew.
Your next foray into the world of craft brewing is to move into ‘grain mashing.’ This is where you really learn the craft of brewing and it’s not for the faint hearted. Rather than using a kit, this time you make your beer the same way as professional brewers by starting with grain malt, hops, yeast and if you insist, adjuncts. You can shape and craft your beer exactly how you want, the world is your oyster and your creative juices can run as amuck as you like! You may even invent the world’s best beer – who knows. Have you ever wondered where all the new craft brewers out there have come from? The interesting thing is that many of the award-winning beers are brewed by master brewers who honed and perfected their craft in their kitchen. Could this be you one day?