Homebrew year by numbers 2015

It’s the new year so time to reflect on the year gone by, looking at the numbers I have to admit I have a brewing problem. According to my notebooks there were 40 brew days in 2015.
This resulted in:
bottling 162.5 gallons of beer, 15 gallons of wine and 5 gallons of mead.
The berries, leaves, flowers and grapes for the wines were all either from the garden or foraged for locally.
The beer used approximately 5.7 kg of hops all harvested from my back garden.

Total spend on brewing equipment, malts and yeasts including a shiny new GrainFather came to about £1,200. Which means for all of the booze I was paying about £6.60 a gallon or 82p a pint, call it 90p if you include electric and such. Which as I don’t drink neither wine nor mead by the pint isn’t bad. Though of course if I don’t include the GrainFather as that should last many years (lets say 5 and so just include a fifth of the price) then I only spent £720, lets call it £800 for electric and other forgotten costs, that makes it just £4.30 a gallon or 55p a pint (about half the price of the cheapest ale in Tesco’s) – I can live with that.

Now to make that cost even nicer, the calculated duty I would have paid on that if I’d bought it came to £1,145. If I include the VAT payable on that duty it comes to £1,374 – which is £174 more than I spent or if you include electric and other random costs by brewing costs probably came out the same as I saved from the tax avoidance alone. Or If we use the lower figure calculated from spreading the cost of the grain father over a few years then my savings from tax avoidance alone were £574 which rather nicely is about what I spent on building my home bar.

Double Tap Bar

The Double Tap Bar

All told I’d call that a successful year.

Tobacco flower wine – Puritans despair

Tobacco Flowers A disreputable original – as a lot of people seem to think brewing with tobacco isn’t the worlds best idea. If you are growing tobacco at home and don’t want to add the flowers to your usual smoking mix rather than waste them make wine. This uses the same basic principles as every other flower wine – add flowers and sugar to boiling water ignore for 24 hours strain add yeast and nutrient. There’s no need to separate the green bud at the base of the flower from the petals before adding but try to minimize the amount of stem. I’ve mainly tried this with Virginia tobacco plants other varieties may produce different results

It produces a nice full bodied golden wine with a fruit and floral scent.

As ever with such things fresh flowers are best but I’ve used frozen when I didn’t have enough plants in bloom at the same time.

For 1 Gallon:

  • 1 pint loose fresh tobacco flowers
  • 1 Kg brewing sugar
  • 500g demerrara sugar
  • Yeast nutrient
  • High alcohol wine yeast (e.g. GV4)

Oak leaf wine

English Oak leavesThis recipe was based on Oak leaf wine recipes found at Natures whispers and Jack Keller.

I’ve used leaves from the English Oaks growing in my local meadows taking a few leaves from man trees to avoid stressing any given tree, assuming there’s a few oak trees near you an afternoons stroll will easily provide enough leaves for a couple of gallons. As Jacks observes you can make this wine from any green Oak leaves regardless of the time of year though the flavour will change over the course of the year.

The technique is much the same as for many other herb or flower wine recipes.

  • Wash your leaves and remove woody bits, bugs and other detritus
  • Poor boiling water over the leaves in a suitable vessel
  • Allow to steep for 24 hours
  • Strain into a fermenting vessel
  • Add suagr and mix
  • Add yeast
  • Allow to ferment and rack and bottle

The proportions I tend to use for 1 gallon are:

  • 1 Gallon of loose oak leaves
  • 1 Kg white/brewing sugar
  • 500 g demerrara sugar
  • juice and rind from a lemon

Any wine yeast should do the job but I prefer to use Gervin Gv4. As ever adjust the sugar for the strength of wine you want but I’d recommend keeping the 2:1 white:golden sugar ratio.

Pirate Stout

This isn’t so much a beer recipe as a modification I’ve made to several beers both kits and extract brews. It produces a rich dark spiced coffee treacle stout, which I normally finish off with a dash/bottle of something strong and interesting. I refer to it as pirate porter due to the ingredients used and the random names they seemed to acquire. All of the recipes start off with a fairly normal stout/dark ale recipe which is tweaked “slightly”, the method which I seem to have arrived at after seven iterations is as follows.


Follow the method/recipe for the beer you’re brewing as normal except:

  • Replace 1/3rd of the water required with good strong coffee (1/2 oz (15g) ground coffee per gallon)
  • Add 7oz (200g) of black treacle per gallon
  • Add muscavado sugar (instead of any white or brewing sugar) as required to get the O.G. to around 1.075
  • Add a lot of spices (to taste) I typically add:

    Cinnamon, Cloves, ginger, mace, nutmeg, star anise

    These should be left in during fermentation
  • When fermentation has finished just prior to bottling add 1/2 fluid ounce (14 cl) per gallon of Rum, Brandy or other spirit to taste.

Typical O.G. 1.075
Typical A.B.V 10%


I’ve made this successfully using the Blackrock miners stout kit, the coopers Irish stout kit and Everards Daredevil (from Brew your own British Real Ale)

I’d recommend aging this beer for at least 6 months before drinking as the flavours really blend and develop over that time. The addition of a good dash of spirits at just prior to bottling does tend to reduce the amount of secondary fermentation that takes place once bottled.

Needless to say this isn’t exactly a session beer.

Rhubarb Sherry

This is a nice quick simple recipe for making a Sherry like wine out of fresh rhubarb. The exact flavour will depend on the rhubarb and sugar used, but as long as you don’t use white sugar you shouldn’t go far wrong. The recipe and technique are based upon those given in “First steps in wine making

Ingredients (for 1 Gallon):

  • 3lb (1.3kg) fresh rhubarb
  • 3lb (1.3kg) Sugar (demerrara)
  • Yeast nutirient
  • Wine yeast


Chop up or thinly slice the rhubarb into a pan – do not peel.
Cover the rhubarb with the sugar and cover the pan. Leave the rhubarb and sugar until most of the sugar has dissolved, at least 24 hours. Strain off the syrup into a demijohn or fermenting bin. Stir the rhubarb pulp with a little water to get out the rest of the juice and sugar and strain into the fermenting vessel. Rinse with some more water and again strain into the fermenting vessel to make sure there’s no sugar left behind. Make up the volume of liquid to a gallon and add nutrient and yeast according to the relevant instructions.

Allow to ferment, then rack and bottle as usual.
As with all wines it’s better if left longer but this can be ready within 6 months.

Typical O.G. : 1.120
Typical A.B.V. : 13%


This is best made from young rhubarb but depending on your Rhubarb may work equally well with late harvested rhubarb, I’ve successfully used rhubarb harvested in September.

If you have to use white sugar the wine will tend to be overly dry and thing, without the richness of flavour that could be otherwise achieved. Though it is still quite drinkable either as a spritzer or mixed with other drinks.