A couple of years ago in Fiji, we were invited aboard another sailboat for sundowners. The skipper had brewed his own beer aboard and was eager to share some with us. That was the nastiest, foulest beer I can remember tasting, and after politely nursing it for an hour or so, I finally managed to down it all. So when we were aboard our good friends' sailboat Fifth Season in Sydney a year ago and were offered some homebrew, I was a bit reluctant to try it.
I needn't be. His brew was outstanding. He had brewed several varieties and it was like visiting a microbrewery. He had purchased a brewing kit and had been brewing beer for a year or more. I asked lots of questions and got a lot of good information and suggestions.
Beer here in Australia is quite expensive by U.S. standards. Brewing your own beer, on the other hand, is quite inexpensive. As a result, there is rarely a town in OZ that doesn't have a brew supply store. Even the local Kmart and groceries carry the basics.
I found a DIY brew-kit made by Coopers, an Australian brewery, that included everything I needed to brew my first batch. Fermenter, hydrometer, bottles, brew mix... everything was there. In addition, it came with a short video with all the instructions. The average sailor could do this. In fact a high IQ chimpanzee could manage it. Just the thing for me.
The results were outstanding. So far I've made several lagers, several varieties of Pale Ales, a cider, and an English Bitter. Each batch makes 23 liters or about six gallons, and costs roughly $20-$25 a batch. That's roughly 35 cents for a 12 ounce bottle or 42 cents a pint. Not bad.
Lest you think the rule that “nothing is ever easy aboard a boat” doesn't apply here, there are a couple of catches with brewing aboard a sailboat. The first catch is that we have to be anchored or berthed somewhere for a couple of weeks. Unless I can figure out how to gimbal a 6 gallon container of fermenting beer, we can't go sailing without the risk of turning the bilge into our fermentation vessel. We missed a weather window once because the brew wasn't ready to bottle. And since it requires a large amount of water for washing and sterilizing everything as well as for the beer itself, it's best done somewhere that we have access to water ashore.
So while Nine of Cups is berthed here in a quiet marina with plenty of water, I'll brew up a couple of batches. Of course, with that comes the necessity of frequent taste tests to maintain proper quality control.
Our youngest son was interested in trying his hand at homebrewing, so I checked to see what was available in the States. It turns out that Coopers markets the same brew kit via Amazon in the U.S. I highly recommend it.
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