Tom Caxton's Homebrewing With Emlyn Hughes OBE


PRESENTER (P): Away from the excitement of the world of international soccer, sporting personalities find different ways of relaxing. Our guest is one of the sports most popular figures, former captain of England and Liverpoool, and now a TV star in how own right, Emlyn Hughes OBE. You're quite used to answering questions on sport, but can we ask you a few questions on your progress with homebrewing?

EMLYN HUGHES OBE (EH): Well, as you know, if you're not playing a sport, then a good way of getting a different view of it is to watch it on TV - and what could go down better watching the big match then a pint of your own homebrewed beer. Here, try some of this ...

P: Hah, don't mind if I do. (takes a swig). Wow, well that's pretty good.

EH: Well, you're drinking Tom Caxton's homebrew - and quite a bit of teamwork went into producing that.

P: So what's the secret?

EH: Well, for a start Tom Caxton's make the job easy for you. One you've got the right kit - and follow the instructions carefully, it's pretty straight forward and frankly a lot of fun. It saves a few bob as well.

P:
You mentioned the right kit, so what else do you need?

EH: Tom Caxton's, of course, plus a five-gallon white plastic bin with lid. A clear siphoning tube, some pint beer bottles - but they aren't essential because if you're making a quantity, there are some really handy five-gallon barrels on the market with their own tap. But if you're using bottles and metal caps, then a crown capper is also necessary.

P:
What about a thermometer?

EH:
Yes, they're useful. I'll mention that a bit later.

P:
So what's the first step?

EH:
Clearing a space - and getting all your bits and pieces together. You need a clear run at the job.

P:
Assuming you've put the ingredients together in the right way, what happens next?

EH:
Well, tip number one is to sterilise all your equipment really thoroughly. You'd be surprised how many beers fail because of infected brews. Time spent in sterilising is always time well spent. And another very important point is to cover up your brewing vessel. And the reason for doing this is to keep out airborne infection. When you've done this, position your brew in a suitable temperature, which you can, of course, check with your thermometer. And provided you've followed your instructons carefully, you should soon have a good fermentation going.

P:
Now, how long does this go on before you can (slight pause)...?

EH:
Patience, patience. Between five and 10 days. But after bubbles have ceased to rise, check with your hydrometer that the brew is ready. When you're satisfied fermentation is complete, carefully siphon out the brew into your prepared bottles or barrel without disturbing the sediment.

P:
Now assuming you've followed all the instructions carefully, you should end up with a perfect brew. But I've had a few problems with my kits in the past - I've ended up with a rather lively or a gushing brew.

EH:
From time to time, people will have problems with their beer. But these can be minimised if care is taken and instructions are followed. If you have gushing beer, that means you've probably added too much priming sugar to your brew. Or it's been bottled or barrelled too early, or perhaps before the first fermentation has finished. If this happens, you can try serving the beer very cold, or release the gas that has accumulated in the storage vessel. Then reseal it. But if you are using a barrel for very good safety reasons, you must read your instructions first.

P:
Well, I've got another one for you, Emlyn. Am I the only home-brewer who ends up with flat beer? And why does this happen?

EH:
You'll find that that is due to too little sugar being added, or through the bottle or barrel not being air-tight. You must ensure that the correct amount of sugar is added, as per instructions. This is normally half a teaspoon per bottle, or two ounces per barrel. Seal the container securely and then leave it for about three weeks to mature.

P:
Fine. Now I'm sure some people have found their beer sour to the taste. Now are there any hints there for us?

EH:
This could be due to (slight pause) ineffective sterilisation, or the bottle top being defective. So if you do suffer from this, tighten up on the inspection of the bottles and the effectiveness of their seals. Another reason could be that the beer has been left laying on the sediment for too long after sedimentation has finished. Sorry about that, but there's not much that can be done to save the brew. The sensible thing to do is to dispose of the brew and start again.

P:
Now what's happened if the beer doesn't ferment?

EH:
This is a very important point and it's due to one of three reasons. The brew has been kept at too low a temp when the yeast was added. So try bringing the brew into a warm atmosphere, so that it reaches a temp of between 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The second reason could be that the brew has been kept at too high a temperature when the yeast was added. The answer here is to add a fresh batch of yeast and to again keep it at a temperature of between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The third reason is that your equipment hasn't been sterilised properly and the bacteria has killed off the yeast. Now this just shouldn't happen if you've cleaned it all properly in the first place. So the answer is to discard the brew and start again, following the instructions that cover the cleaning the equipment shown on the product you are using.

P: Right Emlyn, assuming we've covered all these stages properly, when will ...?

EH: (interrupts P) Well, the brew will be ready from two to three weeks. You'll see the beer clear. When it does, it's ready to drink.

P:
I think I'll have some more of that (takes another swing). It really is pretty good, isn't it?

EH:
Well worth waiting for.

P:
So, to sum up. What are the main dos and dont's?

EH:
Certainly, read the instructions on the home-brew kit. Follow them carefully, stage by stage. Cleanliness of all the equipment is very important and you can buy suitable products to help sterilise everything you use. This really is the most important step in your home-brewing. And the time and care you take will determine the quality of the finished brew. Oh, and remember, don't leave your fermentation container uncovered - that's asking for trouble. And if you have any problems at all, you can ring the Tom Caxton helpline on XXXX XXXXX.

P:
Right, anything else Emlyn?

EH:
Yes, you've got to be patient. You'll enjoy making your home-brew of beer almost as much as drinking it. (slight pause) Almost.

P:
Thanks very much Emlyn Hughes for your time and advice. If you want to score a few points making your Tom Caxton home-brew beer, remember it's well worth waiting for. Oh, and good luck - but don't drink and drive.