Ever thought about U-brewing? It’s just another brick in the wall of beer enjoyment, and other than the method they use for actually producing the beer (full/partial mash or beer kit), U-Brews everywhere are pretty much the same.
The Whitehorse outlet, U-Brew Yukon, guarantees 44 bottles (500ml) per batch. You can purchase plastic bottles and caps at the store for about 90 cents/unit, or bring your own clean Corona bottles or Grolsch flip-tops to save some cash. (Only these two types are accepted.)
Select one of a wide variety of ale or lager styles, make your purchase, pitch your yeast, and three weeks later, you can swing by and bottle your beer.
So what goes on when you’re not around?
Well, U-Brew Yukon uses a beer kit which is basically a can of syrup, a packet of yeast, and some instructions. The can of syrup, at its simplest, is wort concentrate: it’s made from barley – hopped, boiled and then dehydrated to a syrupy form. Just add water.
This removes the need to grind grain, mash, sparge (rinsing grains to dissolve additional sugars) and lauter (draining wort from the spent grains), boil and go through the process of cooling boil liquid to room temperature, since the syrup can be added to lukewarm, rather than boiling, water.
What a beer kit does need is a dedicated caretaker. Enter: the U-Brew.
Pro: It’s inexpensive
After an initial outlay for bottles and caps, filling them with U-Brewed beer costs between $74-76, tax included. That puts it under $2 for a pint, or about $3.50/litre.
That’s cheap, even when compared to a large commercial brewery’s 24-pack at the liquor store, and the savings grow when compared to a $12 six-pack.
Pro: It’s easy
You could think of it like this: U-brewing is to beer what instant coffee is to your morning cup. No muss, no fuss.
In addition, as U-Brew is responsible for the process, there is no goofing up on your dime.
Pro: It’s fun
Okay, so this one is subjective, but having someone make your beer for you should be pretty awesome. You get to/are legally obligated to pitch your own yeast for the batch, which is cool for first-timers.
And whether you’re splitting the 44 with a friend or are in it alone, bottling can be swell when it’s your own beer.
Due to the fact that the wort isn’t boiled, you simply won’t get the flavours and characteristics that boiling creates. There’s a whole series of reactions, called the Maillard reactions, that you’ll be missing out on, and they can’t be faked.
Con: Lack of Control
While U-Brew Yukon is totally behind you experimenting with your own hops, if you don’t have the time (or inclination) to do the research and legwork – you have to source/purchase them yourself – you’re very much limited to the kit.
As mentioned, since the wort isn’t boiled, your only chance to make a hop addition is at the dry-hopping stage.
Hops incorporated at this step are responsible for adding aroma, but not bitterness or the myriad of other subtle characteristics that long- or short-boiled hops bring to a beer.
In the same vein, all other ingredients are in the syrup at the time of purchase, so ‘adding your personal touch’ (bacon), isn’t going to happen.
If you blow your beer budget on a U-Brew, you’ve got a whole lot of one-type-of-beer for the next couple months (or weeks, or a weekend … not judging).
Drinking the same beer day in and day out really isn’t for everyone, so you’ll likely want to top up your beer fridge with some store-bought beer. This may undercut that inexpensive benefit.
So no, it’s not brewing, but it’s a model that’s been around for awhile and one that works really well for a lot of people.
You will never get a craft-style beer with a no-boil kit and you will be hard-pressed to get a decent clone, but if your criteria for beer are refreshing, bubbly, alcoholic and inexpensive, this could be the route for you.
Please enjoy this article responsibly.