Q. I barrel the beer I make from Muntons beer kits. What is the longest time I can leave the beer in the barrel before I drink it?
A. In a good quality pressure barrel we would estimate a shelf life of approximately six months. If you bottle your beer in good quality beer bottles or clip top beer bottles it is possible to store your beer for up to a year, or even longer, as your beer is ‘living’. The small residue of yeast cells in the bottle will continue to gently ferment as the more complex sugars break down and this will keep your beer in good condition.
Q. Your beer kits tend to be more expensive than others, why?
A. All Muntons beer kits are manufactured using the highest possible quality raw materials, and manufacturing techniques which are designed to convert these raw materials into the finest end product. We do not take short cuts or use inferior raw materials and therefore our products are more expensive to produce. We firmly believe that our customers would prefer us to continue to maintain our high quality standards rather than penny pinch and lower the quality of the final beer they are producing.
Q. I've just bought a Muntons Premium Gold beer kit and notice that there is no mention of sugar in the recipe. Do I need to add sugar?
A. Muntons Gold and Premium Gold beer kits contain sufficient malt and hops to produce five UK gallons (23 litres) of beer without the addition of any sugar other than for priming in bottle or barrel. Your question tends to suggest that you have never used an all malt kit before. With cheaper beer kits containing 1.5 – 1.8kg of malt extract it is necessary to add 1kg of sugar to extend the brew length by adding additional fermentables. The sugar will convert directly into alcohol and carbon dioxide but will leave no additional residual body. In fact the sugar will produce a far “drier” beer than the commercial equivalent leading to comments that the beer is thin or watery and yet has the ability to blow your socks off!
Q. I have always boiled malt extracts before brewing. Your recipes do not mention boiling. Why?
A. Twenty to thirty years ago malt extracts produced required boiling in order to precipitate proteins and assist with the clarification of the final beer. Boiling also ensures that the malt extract is free of bacteria. Since that time tremendous strides have been made in the manufacturing techniques used to produce malt extracts – particularly those used in our Muntons beer kits. Boiling is not therefore either required or desirable with Muntons beer kits as boiling will simply drive off the volatile oils present in the beer kit. This will leave your beer tasting bitter but without any of the characteristic hop aroma. We therefore do not recommend boiling.
Q. My Muntons Gold beer kit took some time to start fermenting. Why? and will this ruin the beer?
A. Sluggish start to fermentation can be caused by a number of factors. Firstly low temperature fermentation conditions. If this is the case try using some heating medium such as a brew belt or brew pad. Secondly poor aeration of the brewing water. Usually water straight from the cold tap will contain sufficient oxygen to encourage the yeast to start multiplying which will assist in a rapid start to fermentation. If your brewing water has been left standing this could starve the yeast of oxygen which will slow fermentation. Thirdly the yeast itself may be at fault, either containing too few viable yeast cells or because the yeast itself is struggling to recover from its dormant state. For this reason we recommend a rehydration technique for our gold yeast in which the yeast is brought into contact with warm water for a short period of time. This encourages the yeast to rehydrate and activate ready for its next task – converting your fermentable sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Q. In your brewing advice and tips you recommend two stage fermentation. How does this improve things?
A. The use of a secondary fermenter with an air lock provides two benefits to your brewing. Firstly transferring your beer from the primary fermenter after the initial vigorous fermentation removes a large quantity of the dead yeast cells. Secondly, the fermentation conditions, under air lock, ensure that no airborne bacteria can enter your fermenting wort. The carbon dioxide layer covering your wort, produced by the yeast during fermentation, helps to protect the wort from airborne bacteria. Without an airlock and closed fermenter it is possible to disturb this layer and allow bacteria through. The secondary fermenter therefore provides a safe haven for your wort prior to transferring to your bottles or barrel. This ideal condition means if you wish you may clarify your beer and remove virtually all of the yeast cells prior to transferring to your bottles or barrel.
Q. Why does my beer not clear?
A. Wow this is a biggy! There are a hundred and one reasons why beers fail to clear so I will try to list some of the more common causes. Airborne wild yeast may have grown in your wort – some of these do not drop out of suspension. Your wort pH may be too high – add a small quantity of citric or lactic acid to reduce the pH. Is the beer barrel being disturbed in any way? Have you left it on top of the washing machine! If so move it to a more solid storage area. A bacterial infection may stop the beer from clearing – does your beer taste “acidic” or taste like vinegar? If so it has been spoiled by bacteria and must be thrown away. For beers in a pressure barrel failing to clear it may be worthwhile considering the use of a top float mechanism – these are readily available from your home brew retailer and only cost a few pounds. They will fit most standard pressure barrels even if they have a bottom tap. To see whether your beer has a fundamental problem try racking some from your barrel into a sterilised bottle and leave for two to three days. If the beer clears in the bottle it will, over time, clear in the barrel.