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Review: BrewBarrel Christmas Ale

Its the Christmas present your friends and family have always hop'd for

I€™ve always been a big believer that, in order to adequately review any nature of products, you must first class yourself as some sort of notable voice in that field. You wouldn€™t ask a cyclist what he thought of your car, you wouldn€™t pay too much attention to a vegan€™s opinion of your barbecue, and if anyone wearing socks and sandals spoke ill of your trainers€ well you get the picture. So it was with some reluctance that I unboxed the Brew Barrel. Sure, I€™d been on the Guinness factory tour before, but my experience in this particular area comes far more from the consumption of the product, rather than it€™s creation. Brew Barrel claim to have created a straightforward and cost-effective solution to home brewing. If you€™ve ever been to your local DIY store and seen the liturgy of barrels, grains, strainers, pipes and tubes required for this undertaking, you€™ll know that the process has never been one designed to be easy on either the brain, or the wallet. However given the relatively low number of parts - you€™re confronted with merely a bottle of Malt Extract a sachet of Beer Yeast, a bottle of Hop Aroma, three coasters, some instructions, and the 5 litre keg itself upon opening - and the retail price of under £30, it€™s a claim that certainly stands up to scrutiny.
The box€™s main boast was one of simple preparation - a relief to any of us who have ever popped a cake in the over before realising a key ingredient was still sat unused on the bench - and, despite my reservations about dipping my toes in the frothy, hoppy waters of brewing for the first time, was able to follow the process easily. The shredded barley Malt Extract you€™re provided with (I€™m told that€™s a really, really important thing) is already mixed and measured for you, and the bottle it comes in can then be used to measure the water required to dilute it down. A quick shake later, plus the addition of some cold water and the sachets provided, and the entire process was finished. If, like me, you€™re terrible at opening and during sachets the last steps register as fiddly, but the less awkward amongst you should manage fine. After 5 days sitting at room temperature, I encountered my first and only problem. Moving it to the fridge for the remaining two days required a serious reorganisation of where my various meats, cheeses and vegetables were currently living. Owning but one, admittedly modestly sized, meant that finding a 48 hour home for my Barrel was tricky, but not impossible. Something to keep in mind before you get started.
At the end of the 7 day process - of which I€™d spent a total of 15 minutes preparing the barrel, an hour getting it in the fridge, and many nights worrying I€™d forgotten something - I was able to tap the barrel and enjoy the fruits of my labour which was in this case the festively named 'Christmas Ale'. Before sipping my beer I recalled all the home brew attempts I€™d been compelled to sample over the years. The ale that had been siting in my uncle€™s shed for a year, the DIY disasters of impoverished friends at university; all of them noble purists but still tasting a million miles away from something I€™d actually choose to drink. As mentioned, I don€™t consider myself an expert in the field of brewing the stuff, but I€™ve certainly drank enough beer to pass judgement. My own beer, which I had to stop to remind myself I€™d actually made, exited the barrel a gorgeous golden hue, settled itself with a near perfect head, and was sharp to the taste. Indeed the infused juniper berries, orange, and cinnamon gave rise to the feeling that I was truly savouring Christmas in a glass. Technically speaking; a light to medium sweet taste with a similar level of bitterness. Overall, a process that€™s as straightforward as it claims, with an end result that€™s more satisfying than you€™d suspect. Visit BrewBarrel.co.uk to browse the full range of beers on offer.
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An interesting team of distinctive personalities guarantees the success of Brewbarrel. Our goal is to observe the brewing scene from different perspectives, using all our passion to refocus the beer experience back on society – and fun never gets a raw deal at work! Brewbarrel inspires soon-to-be master brewers every day – whether they are longing to taste their very first home-brewed beer or are already proud home brewers.