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Moonshiners No More

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As the old cliché goes, “the best things in life are free.” As another, slightly newer cliché goes “but the second best things are pretty expensive.” For many people, alcohol falls under that second category. Still, if Prohibition proved anything, it’s that people will go to remarkable lengths to procure their poison of choice.  These days, however, making wine and beer at home is less about moonshine and hillbillies than it is about store-bought kits and professional staff.

 The ways people have been introduced to home brewing vary, often its friends or parents who have piqued their interest in the idea. The central theme, especially with students, is cost, but that doesn’t mean that other things don’t factor in. UNB student David Pitts has been brewing his own beer for over a year, and sees some of the reward in the process.

“I do it for a couple different reasons, I enjoy doing it, it’s a process that takes time and patience, and to come out with an end product weeks later that tastes good and is refreshing gives quite a bit of pleasure. I also do it because, financially it’s better to brew my own beer, and it is cheaper than buying beer from the store.”

Cheaper indeed, at up to fifty per cent less than retail price. With an average commercial beer coming out to $1.70 per bottle, Pitts says his “homebrews” cost him about 60 cents to a dollar per bottle. He says it’s mostly a matter of what you want to put in to the process.

“One of the beautiful things about brewing your own beer is if you want to you can make it quite complicated, or if you’re just a beginner it can be quite simple.”

 Another liquor that can be made with relative simplicity at home is wine, and at even greater savings. A decent 750mL bottle of wine costs about $15, but using a home kit produces wines that cost about $3 per bottle to make. Stores like Wine Kitz even let people make the wine on-site, which is a perfect solution for students like Kathryn Edgett of St. Thomas, who have limited space.

“As a student it’s pretty awesome to always have wine conveniently at your disposal and not to have to spend that much money on alcohol. Also, when you have the help of professionals it’s their job to make sure it turns out well.”

Edgett also sees making your own wine as a good way to ease into the often intimidating world of wine.

“Often if you go to a liquor store you can be really overwhelmed if you don’t know what you’re looking for or don’t know a lot about the different types of wine specifically. So if you’re getting something that you know you like it’s a lot easier.”

Wine Kitz in Fredericton is where both Pitts and Edgett go for their supplies. Employee Shari Embleton says that there is a big spike in business during late August, early September when students are coming back. She has watched the home brewing industry in New Brunswick grow tremendously, to the point where the Fredericton Wine Kitz ranks number one among franchises in Canada.

“Came in to pick up a kit, been here ever since,” she says. ” It has absolutely boomed. I’ve been here for three years, and I think we’ve quadrupled in business since we started.”

Embleton sees more students coming in for beer supplies, although some do make wine. Most students prefer to try brewing at home, but she is certain of the main reason they turn to home brewing.

“Money. It’s so much more economical to go this route than to the liquor store to buy the commercial stuff. I think the quality of the kits has improved so much. I can guarantee I have wine that people would never guess was homemade. They would think it was a commercial wine.”

There are also benefits to home brewing outside of savings, according to Embleton. Since the process uses fewer additives, there is less for people to react to.

“I’ve got people that say, couldn’t drink a red commercial wine but with this they can. There’s not quite as many additives in this as there would be in some of the commercial stuff because they have no idea what the shelf life’s got to be on that.”

Home brewing isn’t for everyone. Pitts, Edgett and Embleton all stressed that it takes some time and patience to go through the process. David Pitts takes a very casual attitude to the whole thing.

“Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew.”

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Written by Colin Hodd

April 15, 2010 at 3:33 PM

Posted in Print

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