A friend of mine had a traumatic experience last term. A public house – that shall remain unnamed – charged her five quid for a pint of London Pride. She was too English to complain about being mugged in broad daylight, but the idea of it rankled with me. Don’t let the advertising fool you. Beer is not a high-tech potion: the hard-earned product of modern science. Humans were drinking it before they were driving, and that tells you all you need to know; it’s water, starch, yeast and hops. The secret’s out.
The first I heard of homebrew was from the legendary Super Hans of Peep Show fame. “Sorry, lads. Locked doors. Little switch just flicks, you know? Ever since Dad locked me in the airing cupboard to monitor the home brew.” Carrying on this paternal spirit, Hilary term was all about hiding my homebrew keg in my college son’s cupboard, albeit without the element of college-family cruelty. It’s a throwback to the days when people could make and mend things; come the nuclear winter, you won’t be able to count on breweries churning out their ubiquitous amber nectar/carbonated cat piss, so learning to make your own hooch might be a good idea. Not that I care; homebrewing is admittedly the territory of both the beer snob and the indiscriminate tippler. You know you’re making something dark, frothy and bitter, but get over the delusions of grandeur as quickly as you can; you’ll be doing well if your first batches are approaching drinkable. That said, us British students are hardy types, and the attractive bit is the price of it all; once you’re set up with some basic kit (keg, airlock), a batch of 25 litres (44 pints) of beer can cost you south of £15, which goes on a tin of pre-hopped malt extract. That means we have more money to spend on, like, books and stuff, you know?
Alcohol comes with a health warning; if you try and drink that all yourself, you deserve the hangovers coming your way. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy beer. The pleasure’s mostly in the brewing rather than the drinking; I felt an inappropriately childish excitement watching it bubble away for a week. If anything, feeling like a manually competent human was an alien experience, and those of you retreating into academia might want to grab the opportunity before it’s too late. In the dismal tundra-wasteland of austerity Britain, the 35p pint is definitely something to smile about.