Tokyu Hands Brewing Kit

Tokyu Hands Brewing Kit

Last Thursday I discovered that Tokyu Hands sell brewing kits. Until that stage I’d been looking at ordering equipment online, but being a man who loves instant gratification, when I found out my local Tokyu Hands had them in stock, I raced down there.

The kit comes with:

Bucket with tap
Spray sanitiser
Bottle caps
Bottle capper
Hydrometer (for testing when the beer is ready)
Black Rock Lager

Everything I’d read about kits so far led me to believe I would need an airlock (to let gas escape during fermentation), so at first I was puzzled this kit doesn’t have one. After an hour of searching online and finding very little to reassure me that it’s safe without an airlock, I thought “what the hell – they wouldn’t sell it like this if it can’t be used, right?” (Later, after the first batch was fermenting away, I found that in the Japanese instructions it says the lid is designed to let gas escape through a gap between the lid and the bucket rim – during fermentation the lid swells up, but push down and I do indeed hear gas escaping.)

I’ve read that the most key thing to remember when brewing is to keep everything clean. The bucket was a little dirty to start with, so I rinsed the dirt out and sprayed the sanitiser all over the inside, lid, tap, water jug, plastic stirrer (the later two I had already). I used about half of the spray – hopefully enough!

There are a couple of things missing from the kit: bottles to fill, bottle filler (you can fill straight from the tap but a bottle filler helps keep out oxygen), and brush, cleaner, and sanitiser for the bottles (the spray could be used to sanitize but would be a bit awkward). I’d buy these later in the week, but most importantly for day one, what was missing was sugar or malt to mix with the lager kit.

In honesty, I’m not a big lager drinking, but I thought that given the lager was included in the kit, I may as well use it as an experiment. If I’m going to discover flaws in how I do things, better to do it with a beer I don’t care much about!

I wanted to get malt to mix with the kit because I’d heard sugar can give a cidery taste., but the Tokyu Hands I bought the kit in didn’t have any malt available and so eager to go, I just bought normal sugar from the local supermarket. I could have held out until I found malt (and indeed I did find some the next day in the Shinjuku Tokyu Hands) but I was eager to go, wanting my instant gratification, and, I thought, at least by brewing with sugar, as the Japanese kit recommends, I’ll get an education – I’ll get to discover what beer brewed with sugar tastes like, so I’ll have a base to judge future brews.

Mixing was simple. I’d read advice that even with kits you should boil the ingredients rather than just follow the kit instructions (here), but again I wanted to follow the kit instructions to give myself a base (and with deviating from the instructions comes higher risk that I’ll screw something up). So after leaving the lager tin in hot water for ten minutes, I opened it, poured it into the bucket, poured in the 1kg of sugar, added two litres of boiling water, and mixed. There then followed 18 litres of cold water and 1 1/2 litres of boiling water. As I was pouring I notices some of the water dripping onto the outside of the measuring jug I was using – and I hadn’t sanitized the outside. Will this affect the beer or am I being Captain Paranoia?!

Since Thursday the beer has been fermenting away. It takes 4-7  days to ferment. Today is day 6 and from the hydrometer readings I’ve had so far, I think today it will be ready. Whenever I remember, I’ve been pushing down on the top of the lid to help the gas escape and today it smelt more of beer than it has to date; I’ve also been trying samples from the tap every few days (if you can take beer out to use with the hydrometer, why can’t you sample it?!) – today was the first day it’s become close to actually tasting like beer.

Over the week I’ve cleaned around 40 bottles ready for the big bottling event. It isn’t enough so I also have some 2L bottles of water which I’ll empty to make up the slack – hopefully they will be OK. I don’t have time to find anything better and by trying them out with my experimental beer, I’ll be able to see whether they work or not. (If they do work, it will be ideal because they are cheap – and I’m going to need a lot of bottles for future beers!)

Tonight I receive a big order from Sakeland, which includes the bottle filler (attaches to the tap on the bucket, I hope) and no-rinse sanitiser for the bottles. I’m eager to get bottling and get the second brew started so let’s hope the hydrometer reads “ready” tonight!

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