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How to home brew during lockdown and beyond

While the pubs are shut, during lockdown are you thinking of turning to making your own brew?

If so, brewer Ben Martin of Mad Cat Brewery in Faversham, is here with his top tips for first timers:

Can you make this at home?
Can you make this at home?

How easy is it to make a home brew which actually tastes good?

It can be very easy to make great tasting home brew on your first go, as long as you follow a few simple rules.

Firstly, make sure you get a good quality beer kit, preferably made by a named brewery, such as Woodfordes or St Peters. Woodfordes Wherry was the first beer I made and it was delicious.

Secondly, make sure all your brewing equipment is clean and sanitised. Wash it with hot, soapy water, rinse it well, and then sanitise it with something like Bruclens or VWP to ensure you kill off any bacteria that might spoil your beer.

Thirdly, don’t let it get too hot or too cold. Many new home brewers will put their fermenting beer in the airing cupboard because that’s what their dads used to do, but actually a steady room temperature is ideal.

Finally, don’t try to make a lager on your first go – they’re surprisingly tricky. I’d recommend a nice English pale ale instead.

Ben Martin of Mad Cat Brewery with his lockdown home brew
Ben Martin of Mad Cat Brewery with his lockdown home brew

Is it cheap?

Absolutely! A good kit starts at around £20-25 for 36 pints, so that’s less than £1 per pint.

You’ll also need a few bits of basic equipment, including a 25L plastic fermenting bucket (about £10), a syphon tube for filling your bottles (about £4) and, if you are using glass bottles, a bottle capper (about £10-15) and caps (about 2p each). Most other things you’ll need can be found in any kitchen, like large spoons and saucepans.

You can save money by re-using beer bottles, or even fizzy drink bottles if you have nothing else, but be sure to properly clean and sanitise them and store them somewhere dark once they’re filled as sunlight can spoil beer.

How long does it take - can you brew something during lockdown?

The fastest you could turn around a good beer is about three weeks – one week to ferment and two to condition in the bottle – although it will improve if you can leave it a bit longer.

Brogdale in Faversham, where Mad Cat Brewery is based, usually holds festivals throughout the year including fruit festivals and cider celebrattions Picture: Alan Langley
Brogdale in Faversham, where Mad Cat Brewery is based, usually holds festivals throughout the year including fruit festivals and cider celebrattions Picture: Alan Langley

How did you get into it?

I got into home brewing as a way to save money and, like most people, I started making kit beers.

But I quickly fell in love with brewing and wanted to start making my own unique beers, so a friend of mine showed me how to brew with proper malt and hops and I’ve never looked back.

Even though I’m now a professional brewer, I still make weird and wonderful beers at home.

Tell us about Mad Cat Brewery

Mad Cat Brewery was started in 2012 by father & son Peter and Michael Meaney but when Michael moved away I joined as brewer.

We specialise in high quality cask ales, with five core beers throughout the year (Red Ale, Platinum Blonde, Golden IPA, Crispin Amber Ale and Crispin Pale Ale) and an ever-changing selection of seasonal beers as well as Belgian-style beers, fruit beers or anything we fancy.

Mad Cat Brewery produces a range of seasonal beers and this in-house beer
Mad Cat Brewery produces a range of seasonal beers and this in-house beer

For the past year we have started selling three kinds of bottled beer and nine months ago started supplying a chain of Thai restaurants – Rosa’s Thai Cafe – with their own, in-house beer, Rosa’s Thai-PA, infused with real lime juice and lemongrass.We have also won a number of awards.

Find out more here.

Read about our Secret Drinker's attempt at home brewing by clicking here.

For more ideas on things to do during lockdown, click here.


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