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Review centre for beer and wine kits, equipment, commercial beers and homebrewing/winemaking books.

Beer kit reviews          Wine kit reviews 

- Note that all reviews with (PL) added are completely unsolicited & totally independent, submitted by me, Peter Laycock. I give MY PERSONAL VIEWS ONLY, irrespective of the manufacturer. I have included the date of my last review, a price guide, a “Final quality” rating that completely ignores the price BUT my “Overall” rating does, as value for money is generally of great importance to most home brewers/winemakers. Paradoxically, the more expensive kits tend to be the easier to make as no additional sugar needs to be dissolved in hot water before mixing in with the kit.
A beer or wines “Final quality” is the hardest rating to appoint as this is very personal, as a rough guide *** indicates a quality I would expect at the given price. (SB) denotes reviews by Mr. YoBrew himself, Stephan_B & Tony Stevens (AS) has submitted reviews for two of the relatively new “Milestone” kits, thanks Tony.

Underlined text denotes new or amended items.

Finally, and most importantly, BE YOUR OWN JUDGE! It's your opinion that matters.

NOTE:- All prices etc. have been re-assessed after the recent manufacturers price hike (around 20% for beer) caused by last years wonderful Summer weather & the myopic (UK & others) Government’s need to divert grain from food use to bio-fuels.

British Diamalt who make John Bull kits amongst other things, have unfortunately ceased trading, Some of their kits are still available & generally are very good. I’m sad to see them go.

 

Click to here to see Wine kit reviews


Beer kit reviews

 

It may be worth noting that I generally boil my beer kits for 10-15 minutes unless specifically instructed not to (i.e. York Brewery & Brewferm) and, if recipe asks for additional sugar, I tend to reduce this by about 5g or so per litre, the priming sugar in my bottles compensates for this. The reduction possibly gives a slightly better quality beer at the expense of about 2° in the O.G. or 0.3% alcohol, and quality should be one of our prime objectives, otherwise we'd all be drinking cans of "Smooth"!

After that horrible thought let's get down to business.

I have been as accurate as I can for my price rating, they include the cost of any added (including priming) sugar etc. and are based on typical December 2007 prices:-

£= 40p or less, ££ = 41-55p, £££ = 56-70p, ££££ = 71-95p & £££££ = 96p or more per litre of beer.

Some Typical Beer Drinking Temperatures


Barleydale Bitter (PL 1998)

Price £

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ****

Comments:- Big initial head soon died down but lasted for the whole pint, very bitter, slight "extract" tang, kept well after opening, good yeast, plus its good taste & aftertaste make it one of the better beers. A very impressive beer, despite being only 1.5Kg, it is possibly in the same league as the EDME Superbrew Golds etc. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. I bought this beer whilst on my travels in York, unfortunately the shop closed down (an all too familiar story) before I was able to purchase any more.


Brewferm Dark Abbey (Donker Abdij) (PL 2004)

Price ££££

Ease of making ***

Final quality *****

Overall *****

Comments:-After drinking 500ml of this Abbey style beer I knew why most Belgian Monks belonged to silent Orders! A dark Garnet coloured, full-flavoured brew, with a head that just would not shift! Not a drink for the faint-hearted, brew it if you dare! EXCELLENT.


Brewferm Diablo (PL 2008)

Price ££££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ****

Overall ***

Comments:- Much darker in colour than shewn on the label picture - mid teens rather than <10EBC. Massive head, very modest condition, not much aroma but lots of taste (herby). I have often seen this beer quoted as a Duvel clone but unfortunately my findings do not support this.


Brewferm Framboos (PL 2007)

Price £££££

Ease of making ***

Final quality *****

Overall ****

Comments:-A very good condition with a nice reddy-brown colour, a strong raspberry aroma and (dry) taste. This must be one of the most expensive kits made, very unusual, very different & it helps if you like raspberries! VERY INTERESTING.


Brewferm Kriek (PL 2008)

Price £££££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ****

Overall ***

Comments:- In fairness I must state that I have never tried a Kriek before, consequently I have no “reference point” or pre-conceptions. From the reviewing point of view this is the worst beer I’ve had, from the drinking point of view it is very good.
My first observation was that the beer was NOT RED, unlike the picture on the label, but around 15EBC with a slight orangey-red-coppery tinge. The initial head was good & never quite disappeared, leaving some lacing, condition was modest. No cherries were really evident to me in the slightly dry & acidic taste but cherry stones were hinted at in the long finish I was surprised at the complexity in a beer of only 5.5% ABV. I expected a cherry version of the excellent full-flavoured “Framboos”, consequently I was quite disappointed, not a bad beer by any means but it tasted as if the cherries had been omitted & so I felt the price slightly unjustified. This beer really needs well over 3 months in the bottle before sampling.


Brewferm Pils (20l Option, PL 2005-8)

Price ££

Ease of making ****

Final quality ****

Overall *****

Comments:-This kit allows the brewer 2 options, add sugar to make a 20l kit or make 12l using no sugar (apart from priming ). The 20l option was made, resulting in a lager with an excellent pure white head and a decent condition with the colour similar to the label picture (around 10EBC) looking very much.
This is probably the best lager kit I've ever made. If I were to make any negative comments then the beer is slightly hazy & the yeast deposit in my bottles was a little un-stable, but it would be churlish of me to do so, if fact, the loose sediment adds a little wheat beer flavour to the last pourings from the bottle. EXCELLENT.

A good pure-white head, modest condition, colour similar to the picture (around 10EBC) with a slight haze. The aroma was slight & the taste gentle & un-demanding, a touch of acidity that increased as the last part of the bottle was added to the glass, caused by the addition of the slightly loose yeast. Note:- This is NOT a bad thing


Brewferm Pils (12l Option, PL 2005)

Price £££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:-After making the 20l option I really had to try the 12l alternative (purely for scientific interest), As expected, darker, fuller & more complex than the 20l kit and slightly easier to make owing to the smaller volume and no additional fermentation sugar. On a personal basis I prefer the former (comment, not a criticism). Yeast a bit loose. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


Brewferm Tarwebier (White Beer, PL 2005)

Price £££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ****

Overall *****

Comments:-Very good looking, excellent head/condition, nice golden colour around 10EBC & star-bright (when yeast not swirled in). Not all that impressed, but then my favourite wheat beers are Franziskaner Weissbier Hefe-Weissbeir & Hoegaarden Witbier! Still it is a very good kit to try & gave a feeling of well-being!


Brewferm Triple (PL 2005)

Price ££££

Ease of making ***

Final quality *****

Overall *****

Comments:- At 2 month it had a poor head & condition, around 15EBC with a malty taste with some oakiness & herbs, I personally prefer hoppier beers but the wife loved it. At 3 months it had noticeably improved and continued to do so for quite a while (Brewferm recommend a minimum of 6-8 weeks maturation for all their kits rather than the usual week or two quoted by some!). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


Brewmaker Dry Irish Stout (PL 1999)

Price ££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:- An excellent brew, although the head was not too good, yeast good and solid in the bottle. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


Brewmaker Irish Velvet Dry Stout (PL 2003)

Price ££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ***

Comments:- The initial head did not last very long, condition not too bad, this beer tasted a little too bland for me. Time improved my beer quite significantly and a not unpleasant "Cola" taste developed.

NOTE That Brewmaker kits supply yeast nutrient and finings, I do not use these as they are superfluous (the kits clear beautifully in a few days), consequently I would like them omitted and any savings re-invested to improve the quality/quantity of the extract.


Brewmaker Pilsner Lager (PL 2003)

Price ££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ***

Comments:- Colour about 10 EBC, darker than shewn on label. Good initial head did not last long, condition O.K. Not unpleasant but more like a bland beer than a Lager.


Brewmaker Victorian Bitter (PL 2003)

Price ££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ***

Comments:- The supplied yeast nutrient & finings were not used (or needed - star-bright after 8 days rest). After a month it had a poor head, decent condition but was much darker than in the picture on the label. Tasted a bit malty but not too good. Much improved after another month (apart from the head). This beer did not seem nearly as good as in my previous brews but it was started the day before a phenomenal heat wave, this may have had an adverse effect, but it did improve vastly with time & is thus JUST RECOMMENDED.


Cooper’s Real Ale (PL)

Price ££

Ease of making ***

Final quality **

Overall **

Comments:- “Classic” top fermentation brewing for 2 days, then like bottom fermentation. Star-bright after “resting”. Note that Cooper’s mention the effect of priming sugar on a finished beer & shew how to calculate this effect, as far as I know, no other kit manufacturer bothers to give such valuable information. A nice coloured beer, twice as dark as the label shews &, unfortunately, as flat as a proverbial, with little condition. Being a tight-fisted Yorkshire man I had to drink the stuff and at 5.3% ABV I personally thought this was a bit too strong for this type of beer. NOT RECOMMENDED.


Edme Microbrewery Series Wheat Beer (PL 2005)

Price ££

Ease of making ** (See below)

Final quality ***

Overall ***

Comments:- I've come across spelling errors before on Edme labels but the information on the label and the included instructions were pure fiction! A 13.5l kit said the label, add 1Kg sugar & make 23l suggested the leaflet, the information printed in the Technical Data panel agreed with neither.  The "Comprehensive brewing instructions enclosed were risible. A quick response from Edme to my e-mail enquiry answered some of my questions but a further e-mail remained un-answered. In the end I decided to brew 23l whilst keeping my fingers crossed.

The resulting brew had a massive head, lots of condition and a colour similar to the picture on the label. The taste was slightly disappointing as I expected a "cleaner" taste and a little more wheat flavour although not too bad for the price it was let down by exceedingly poor instructions/information.


Edme Superbrew Gold Bitter (PL 2002)

Price £££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:- Poor head, good condition, colour slightly darker than on the label. Not unpleasant or anything special but has a tang to it, improved up to 2-3 months, RECOMMENDED although I personally prefer the Yorkshire Bitter.

NOTE That EDME and MUNTON’S both give a typical analysis of their beers on the labels, a practice which must be applauded.


Edme Superbrew Gold Irish Stout (PL 2004)

Price £££ (see below)

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ****

Comments:- Pleasant enough, style similar to Murphy's. RECOMMENDED.


Edme Superbrew Gold Irish Stout (PL 2005)

Price - no ratings given, see below.

Ease of making - no ratings given, see below.

Final quality - no ratings given, see below.

Overall - no ratings given, see below.

Comments:- As this was not made to the manufacturer instructions it would be unfair to give it my normal ratings. Edme include alternative instructions for a 13.8l version using no sugar, I decided to make 18l, reducing the recommended 1Kg sugar (23L)to 350g & adding 500g Spraymalt to get around 42 EBUs, similar to the "old" Guinness, with the priming sugar an effective O.G. of about 1040.4 was calculated. After the initial shock this was a very full-bodied & full-flavoured (roasted malt & hops) beer, acrid bitterness with a perfumey hint (like the "old" Guinness). V.G. long-lasting head & condition, quite clingy & a very smooth texture & a long finish. VERY ENJOYABLE.

For a comparison between an ordinary kit & one modified with Spraymalt see John Bull Best Bitter.


Edme Superbrew Gold Weizen Lager Wheat Beer (PL 2003)

Price £££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ***

Comments:- A big initial head quite well maintained by the very good condition, a golden corn colour (Lucozadey - orangey) around 15EBC. Very pleasant but not a lot of wheat, some bubblegum, slight clinging & a solid yeast (for a Weizen?). After 2+ months this beer developed that little bit extra quality that sometimes comes with maturity. RECOMMENDED.


Edme Superbrew Gold Yorkshire Bitter (PL 2005)

Price £££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ****

Comments:- A true "Quatermass" head during pleasant smelling fermentation! Good head & condition, a nice lightish colour, similar to that on the label. A very acceptable taste even after only a short maturation period (despite a slight "tang" which disappeared with time). Yeast (very little) was quite stable. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


Edme Superbrew Gold Yorkshire Bitter (Modified, PL 2006)

Price - no ratings given, see below.

Ease of making - no ratings given, see below.

Final quality - no ratings given, see below.

Overall - no ratings given, see below.

Comments:- As this was not made to the manufacturer instructions it would be unfair to give it my normal ratings. After the modified Irish Stout I decided to repeat the experiment by reducing this kit to 20l, giving the final beer 4.5% (with priming sugar), around 24EBC & 26EBU (all calc.). Excellent long-lasting head with lots of clinging, very good condition & colour as expected with plenty of hop-bite & was very dry whilst young but developed in to an excellent beer after some 2 months maturation. My only criticism was the slightly harshness of the hops, but this is not a problem when previously made to the manufacturers instructions & it could be exasperated by our hard water. A SUCCESSFUL EXPERIMENT.


Geordie Mild (PL 2002)

Price £

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ****

Comments:- Very clear, 100+ EBC, big initial head soon disappeared but good condition. Not a great deal of taste but went down very well! Kept well after opening & a good yeast. RECOMMENDED.


Geordie Lager (PL 2002)

Price £

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ****

Comments:- Reasonable TOP fermentation, no problems, quite solid sediment left. Head O.K., lots of bubbles rising. Colour, a little darker than on the label, around 10EBC. Yeast a bit loose, keeps O.K. after opening. Improved noticeably within a short maturation period. Not really like a lager to me but still very drinkable. Not the best or worst lager I've tried (kit or bought!), still RECOMMENDED.


John Bull Best Bitter (PL 2004)

Price ££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ****

Comments:- Quite clear, around 20EBC, poor head, good condition & good yeast performance (especially for the price). This was quite thin & lacked taste, otherwise NOT UNPLEASANT. Improved somewhat after 4 months.


John Bull Best Bitter (Modified) (PL 2004)

Price ££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ****

Comments:- Made with 500g Spraymalt & 350g sugar rather than the quoted 1Kg sugar resulted in a much smoother drink, otherwise very similar to the "normal" kit. Note the F.G. was 4° higher for the same O.G.


John Bull Best Bitter (Modified) (PL 2006)

Price ££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ****

Comments:- 20l rather than the quoted 23l were made & only 500g sugar rather than the quoted 1K. A massive, long lasting head with good condition & some clinging to the side of the glass. The dry, harsh bitterness disappeared slightly with time. WELL WORTH THE EXPERIMENT.


John Bull Brown Ale (PL 2004)

Price ££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ****

Comments:-Classic fermentation. Big initial head was short lived but there were lots of bubbles rising, around 100EBC or more. A touch of sourness, otherwise not a lot of taste. NO PROBLEMS WITH DRINKING IT.


John Bull Wheat Beer (PL 2002)

Price ££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:- A "classic" fermentation. MASSIVE head, very slow to reduce, very good condition. Colour (similar to colour on label) estimated around 20EBC. Does not taste too much like a wheat beer to me, but I have not tried too many. Some sourness & astringency, very slight clinging to the glass, keeps very well in the bottle after opening & yeast O.K. (note it is a wheat beer). A bit different & NOT UNPLEASANT.


John Bull MasterClass Bavarian Lager (PL 2007)

Price £££

Ease of making *** (See Export Pilsner comments)

Final quality ****

Overall ***

Comments:- For some reason this lager was reluctant to clear & consequently had quite a lot of slightly unstable yeast in the bottles, otherwise there was nothing much wrong with the result – massive, long lasting head, good condition, colour as quoted etc., my only problem was that at 36-44 UBUs, this was slightly too bitter for my personal taste.


John Bull MasterClass Export Pilsner (PL 2004, 2008)

Price £££

Ease of making *** (See comments)

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:- Slightly cheaper than most 3Kg kits, the only problem I had making this kit was with the size of the tin! Nice light colour around the 10EBC mark but some haziness & slightly unstable yeast. It had a massive long-lasting "stiff" head & excellent condition. Very pleasant to drink, deserves the name "MASTERCLASS".

2008 Update:- I made a second batch at around the same time as the Irish Stout below but with a final gravity of around 1008 it was about 6° below that of the stout. As both kits use the same yeast (Stout & Pilsner!), the only way to explain this is if the Pilsner kit contained about 2Kg of malt extract & 1Kg sugar. Knowing that the kit is sold as “all malt”, I asked John Bull if they could explain this phenomenon BUT THEY COULD NOT EVEN BOTHER TO REPLY to my e-mail. I still enjoyed this drink very much but the “Overall” rating may have to be reduced if we, the trusting consumers, are being ripped off. Perhaps this review may prompt John Bull to respond.


John Bull MasterClass Irish Stout (PL 2008)

Price £££

Ease of making *** (See Export Pilsner comments)

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:- Very dark colour, decent, long-lasting head with some clinging to the glass. The taste was of roasted malts with some liquorice with quite a long finish, but I would have liked a bit more hop flavour.


Milestone Black Pearl (AS 2008)

Price £££

Ease of making *****

Final quality *****

Overall *****

Comments:- If you like Irish stout then this is for you. It says ' Authentic Irish Stout ' on the box and it is exactly that. This stuff is like nectar, easy to brew, and tasted wonderful even just after 3 weeks in the barrel. I put some of the brew into 4 bottles yet to be tried. Like the Crusader this is also a NO sugar Brew with 2 cans to 3Kg and I cannot fault it at all. The guy in the brew shop said one of his other customers had said it was the best stout he had ever tasted and I totally agree with him. This kit is not a watery tasteless brew like some I have tried it is a full flavour real Irish stout. BRILLIANT, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - THE BEST STOUT I HAVE EVER BREWED.


Milestone Crusader (AS 2008)

Price £££

Ease of making *****

Final quality *****

Overall ****

Comments:- I came across these fairly new kits during a recent visit to my excellent local brew shop. I am normally a Woodforde’s Kit brewer and didn't think I would come across a kit that would equal these, until now. This brew is a typical Belgium style beer with a generally different taste to normal kits that are available. My son is a definite lager drinker and finds this brew to his taste especially when served cold. The initial taste is rather citrus and flowery but then you get a definite bitter hoppy after taste. I am not a Belgium style beer drinker normally but found this brew to be very moreish. The start of fermentation is not typical of today’s beer kits in that there was no froth during fermentation which makes me think it’s lager yeast. This beer is easy to make, clears quickly and was great after 4 weeks. There was plenty of life to the beer with a long lasting head. Like Woodforde’s this is a no Sugar kit with 2 cans to 3Kg.

This kit is great value and is a couple of quid less than Woodforde’s - Check it out, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


Milestone Crusader (PL 2008)

Price £££

Ease of making ****

Final quality ****

Overall ***

Comments:- I couldn’t find the %ABV quoted anywhere on the box, the instructions were good but somewhat “Americanized” & printed on two single-sided A4 sheets which I thought wasteful but it leaves plenty of space for brewing & tasting notes. The Gervin Nottingham yeast was quite amazing, it easily filled the top 70mm of my fermenter, lots do, but this one actually lifted the lid by 20mm or so before I skimmed it off. A thick (15mm) solid sludge was left behind. Rested for 3 days, leaving 5mm of solid sludge. At 6 weeks old it had a very good head & initial condition with a colour in the low teens with a slight haze & a lot of very loose sediment in the bottle. Quite a subdued, undemanding taste with just a touch of malt coming through, very pleasant & easy drinking, the creamy head matched the taste. It is not the best in the world but with no real faults it can beat most pub beers.


Munton's Connoisseurs IPA Bitter (PL 2002)

Price ££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ***

Comments:- Very clear, 30 EBC, poor head but good condition. What taste there is slightly malty, grainy dry & astringent. Kept well after opening & had a good yeast. RECOMMENDED WITH RESERVATIONS - I consider it to be a little too pricey for the quality.

NOTE That MUNTON’S and EDME both give a typical analysis of their beers on the labels, a practice which must be applauded.


Munton's Connoisseurs Pilsner (PL 2002)

Price ££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ***

Comments:- Good initial head, colour darker than on the label, a chill haze (for a PILSNER?), some clinging to the glass, quite a weak but not unpleasant taste, yeast a bit "swirley". Much improved all round after 2 months or so, head retention not too bad, but did not really taste like a Pilsner. Despite the rather negative comments this was rather nice to drink, RECOMMENDED although a little pricey.


Munton's Gold Old English Bitter (PL 1999)

Price £££££

Ease of making *

Final quality *

Overall *

Comments:- Very slow yeast. It was about 36hrs before any noticeable (vile smelling) action occurred. Virtually no head/condition, after 2 months it smelled & tasted like burnt plastic. THROWN AWAY!

In all fairness the problems may well have been caused by me but I do not fancy re-trying this expensive kit.


Munton's Premium Gold Smugglers Ale (WD 2010)

Price £££££

Overall *****

I noticed there is nothing on your review page about Muntons Premium Gold Smugglers Ale. So, having just made it again for the umpeenth time, here are my observations if you want to add them to your site. It's expensive (about £21 for 40 pints) but it always produces a consistently good quality ale. It has a nice colour (15-20 EBC) and bitterness (35-45 EBUs) with an ABV 4.5-4.9%. It is definitely my most successful (and tasty) brew. In fact, my local landlord in Spain said he could easily sell it behind the bar!


Lager Tom Caxton kit. (SB 2000)

This had a "Hop enhancement system" which allows you to vary the bitterness of the brew.

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ***

Comments. We left this over a month to mature and added 1/3 hop enhanced. Some found this a cross between larger and beer but definitely a fine brew.


Tom Caxton Lager (PL 1998)

Price £££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ***

Comments:- Does not taste much like a Lager, more like a beer. Slightly hazy & the yeast was a bit unstable. Not really to my taste, but otherwise O.K.


UNICAN Bitter, UNICAN Lager (SB 2000)

Very cost effective (Approx 5% alcohol)

The end result was a pleasant bitter which we drank after a month of maturing.

Ease of making ***

Final quality ****


WOODFORDE'S NOTE (PL)

As most Woodforde’s brewers will know, these kits can, quite often, end up with a Final Gravity that is higher than quoted, and/or their brew may have a slight haze. This should not cause too much concern as it does not affect the quality of the finished brew. Often the effects can be minimised by racking the brew & “resting” for a week before bottling.


Woodforde's Admiral’s Reserve (PL 2007)

Price ££££

Ease of making ****

Final quality *****

Overall ****

Basically a “normal” Woodforde’s kit with a sachet of (Challenger) hop powder. If you like hoppy beers then this probably one for you! With a superb (tight-bubbled) head & condition it stuck to the glass sides quite well. It was very drinkable, albeit slightly harsh in the hop department, after only a month and improved with age. EXCELLENT.


Woodforde's Great Eastern Ale (PL 2005)

Price ££££

Ease of making ****

Final quality *****

Overall ****

Comments:- After my last, slightly disappointing kit, this beer was back on top form. After just a month it had a modest head which did not disappear altogether, slight clinging to the glass but this kit needs more time to reach its best. It had a fair condition, colour less than 20 EBC and a smooth and gentle taste with some butterscotch, barley sugar and marmalade. Yeast in the bottle is exceptionally stable, especially when compared to my previous Woodforde's beers, on that score, this is probably the best yeast I've ever used (note that I always "rack & "rest" my beers for about a week before bottling). After 2 months it had a good tight-bubbled head like the old (proper) Guinness. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - ONE OF THE BEST BEERS I'VE EVER MADE.


Woodforde's Nelson's Revenge (PL 2006)

Price ££££

Ease of making ****

Final quality ***

Overall ***

Comments:- I'm sure my previous kit tasted much better than this, checking my records, I found that the subtly of taste and aroma has been replaced with harsh bitterness. Unfortunately I've occasionally noticed this before with Woodforde's and some other kits; surely we should expect more consistency than this.


Woodforde's Norfolk Wherry (PL 2005)

Price ££££

Ease of making ****

Final quality *****

Overall ****

Comments:- Again, after my last, slightly disappointing kit, this beer was back on top form. Although suffering from a chill haze it is completely clear when drunk at slightly below room temperature (optimum). A new yeast seems to have been used as the sediment in the bottle was a lot more stable than for previous brews. EXCELLENT!

I produced another batch soon after but used EDME SuperBrew Gold yeast (don't ask why!). I have never seen a yeast like this before, the "usual" tendrils were only about 6mm across and there were literally hundreds of them, the beer in the fermenter cleared exceptionally well, very quickly & the remaining sediment can be best described as being like a solid lump of clay. As usual the beer was EXCELLENT with a slightly different taste from the Woodforde yeast version.


York Brewery Yorkshire Terrier (PL 2006)

Price ££££

Ease of making **

Final quality *****

Overall ****

Comments:- An unusual kit to me, as it contained 1.8K liquid malt & 1K Spraymalt plus 50g hop pellets which looked like "Technicolor" mushy peas during the brewing process. An uneventful fermentation which finished about 6° higher than the quoted S.G. Decent condition & quite a long lasting head that tended to cling to the sides of the glass. Quite hazy with a colour possibly twice the quoted 7 EBCs. A full-flavoured beer with a long dry bitter aftertaste. This kit was fairly difficult to make in comparison to the usual kits & better instructions would have helped some. Despite my criticisms, which after all is the reviewer's job, I've drunk many beers (including "real ales") much worse than this in Pubs. I am now a member of York Brewery Club (I get 5% discount in the bar & 10% off everything else including kits). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


York Brewery Stonewall (PL 2006)

Price ££££

Ease of making **

Final quality *****

Overall ****

Comments:- A very similar kit to the Yorkshire Terrier, the only difference being that it used fewer hop pellets. This is reflected in a slightly grainier, maltier taste, the hops not as prominent. An ideal stable-mate (kennel-mate?) to the Terrier. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


Wine kit reviews

 

I have been as accurate as I can with my price ratings, they include the cost of any added sugar etc. and are based on typical December 2007 prices:-

£= £6-8, ££ = £8-10, £££ = £10-12, ££££ = £12-14 & £££££ = £14+ for 4.5l (6 bottles) wine Kit.

Some typical wine drinking temperatures (°C).


Beaverdale BAROLO Red (SB 2000 & 2001)

Ease of making ****

Final quality *****

The results of this review meant it was a must for me to try. This I did and was very pleased. I will try the Red Californian next.

This kit is a genuine single variety grape juice and all you need is in the kit so no measuring or weighing, just brew it!


Beaverdale Barolo (PL 2006)

Price £££

Ease of making ****

Final quality *****

Overall *****

Comments:- After seeing Stefhan's (Mr. Yobrew) review (see above) and his other comments on the home page and in the winemaking section, I just could not resist his recommendation. I found it to be a beautifully deep garnet coloured wine, star-bright with a decent body. There was a good nose, taste and aftertaste, not an easy-drinking wine owing to its complexity. I found it went exceptionally well with Danish Blue cheese and good music (NO, not Robbie & Mad Donna!). Despite all his enthusiasm, in my opinion, Stefhan slightly under-rated this wine, PROBABLY THE BEST RED KIT I'VE EVER TASTED.


Beaverdale Californian White (PL 1998)

Price £££

Ease of making ****

Final quality ***

Overall ***

Comments:- Not too bad but improved greatly with age.


Beaverdale Chablis Blush (PL 2008)

Price £££

Ease of making ****

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:- Give this wine about 3 months in the bottle for a vast improvement in taste. Dry, some acid & strawberries. VERY NICE!


Beaverdale Chamblaise (PL 2005)

Price £££

Ease of making ****

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:- Well up to the Beaverdale standard but the yeast was unusually a little unstable.


Beaverdale Chardonnay (PL 2003)

Price £££

Ease of making ****

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:- EXCELLENT, even better after a year!


Beaverdale Chardonnay (SB 2007)

Price £££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:- I have always been please with House of Beaverdale and normally I make red wine as that's what I like but for summer I though I would make some white. I added too many Campden tablets. Each time I racked it I added Campden tablets. Then I noticed and so could anyone that the wine had a distinct sulphur taste. Oops I thought maybe if I leave it for a few months it will be OK. Six months latter and it was just fine. It’s as good a white wine as I have tasted but then again I am not a good judge of white wines. All I can say is that thus far, House of Beaverdale have never let me down. They do not go silly on price like selections but they do deliver on quality (Best by far). They also avoid the mistakes of the lower end of wine kits where they do not seem to care what artificial additives they use. So for me these guys rock.


Beaverdale Gewürztraminer (PL 2001)

Price £££

Ease of making ****

Final quality ***

Overall ****-

Comments:- Very solid yeast deposit. Quite spicy but has a slightly "watered-down" taste. Improved with time. GOOD.


Beaverdale Merlot (PL 2008)

Price £££

Ease of making ****

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:- Star-bright with nice dark ruby-red colour & decent flavour. WELL WORTH THE MONEY.


Beaverdale Muscadet (PL 2005)

Price £££

Ease of making ****

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:- Previously I said this wine was not my favourite style but had all the right characteristics and JUST OOZED QUALITY, well, this is my second kit!


Beaverdale Sauvignon Blanc (PL 2008)

Price £££

Ease of making ****

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:- After three months in the bottle it was not too bad but seemed a bit “lacking”. Improved greatly with age –very good flavour, taste & finish.

EXCELLENT.


Beaverdale White Bougeron (PL 2008)

Price £££

Ease of making ****

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:- Star-bright, darkish straw colour with citrus & melon in the taste. EXCELLENT.

 


Beaverdale White Burgundy (PL 2005)

Price £££

Ease of making ****

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:- This really is one of my favourite kits, EXCELLENT.


Brewmaker Basic white (Sweet) (SB 2001)

This was very cost effective.

Ease of making ***

Final quality **

Overall ***

Note the quality was not as good as it could be due to oxidization which is really down to the brewer. When served very cold this was fine.


California Connoisseurs Chianti (PL 2007)

Price £££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ***

Comments:- Lovely clear, deep garnet colour & a slight bouquet, initially there was very little taste & virtually no finish but the wine did improve quite a lot with age.


California Connoisseurs Gewürztraminer (PL 2007)

Price £££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ***

Comments:- A beautifully coloured & very clear wine, there was nothing at all bad about this wine but, to me, it was slightly let down by a somewhat bland taste for this style.


California Connoisseurs Liebfraumilch (PL 2006)

Price £££

Ease of making ** (See comments)

Final quality **

Overall **

Comments:-. A Canadian kit that uses Llalamand Lalvin Champagne yeast that was foam-free & working after an hour! The comprehensive instructions came in the form of a record sheet complete with gravity “targets”, this would be ideal for a novice if the process were a little simpler, the dried elderflowers were also a bit of a problem. Unfortunately the finished product tasted like a slightly overpowering cheap elderflower wine. VERY DISAPPOINTING. At this point I must state that I do not like Liebfraumilch at the best of times.


California Connoisseurs Pinot Blanc (PL 2005)

Price £££

Ease of making *** (See Liebfraumilch above)

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:- This kit just oozed quality, from the "named" yeast (rather than the usual non-descript packages provided), the instructions and the 6 bottle labels supplied. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


Condessa Cherry Brandy (PL 2003)

Price £££££

Ease of making *

Final quality ****

Overall ***

Comments:-This is NOT a kit for the novice with just the basic equipment as it needs a reasonably accurate thermometer, it is also quite time consuming. Condessa seem to have simplified their process slightly & the instructions a little clearer. Unfortunately I started at the beginning of a phenomenal heat wave and these kits do not like the heat! I received excellent help from Condessa on their help line and a "very fast" yeast re-starter through the post.


Condessa Vodka (PL 1998)

Price £££££

Ease of making *

Final quality ???

Overall ???

Comments:- Again, NOT a kit for the novice with just the basic equipment, it is also quite time consuming. I had a slight problem with the making (my fault - I failed to see a finer point of the instructions) but I received excellent help from Condessa on their help line. It is impossible for me to rate this product but I had a willing Guinea Pig (the wife) on hand. Unfortunately she does not drink Vodka neat, hence the question marks in the ratings, but rated it as a very good mixer.


Grande Maison Reserve Chablis (PL 2004)

Price ££

Ease of making ****

Final quality ***

Overall *

Comments:- A 1.4Kg kit containing lots of sugars (hence no added sugar required) and assorted chemicals, it even had a sachet of flavouring! I would expect this in a very cheap kit or a high alcohol kit but not in a wine at this price! It looked and tasted like an apricot wine. The wine did improve significantly in a short time but I still found it VERY DISAPPOINTING.


Grande Maison Chardonnay (Single Grape) (PL 2002)

Price £££

Ease of making ****

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:- A dark straw colour, full flavour, butter, butterscotch, green apples, long citrus finish, astringent with some acid. EXCELLENT. It appears these kits may no longer available but the inferior (in my opinion) “Reserve” kits are.


Grande Maison Pinot Noir (Single Grape) (PL 2003)

Price £££

Ease of making ****

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:- Tried after just 2 months in the bottle. Very dark & clear ruby red. Raspberry, strawberry, jam & violets in the mouth with a long finish. A good body with a slight alcohol taste, dry & quite astringent. After a further 2 months it had more flavour, the violets being more prominent. Decent raspberry & violet nose. EXCELLENT. It appears these kits may no longer available but the inferior (in my opinion) “Reserve” kits are.


Grande Maison Sauvignon Blanc (Single Grape) (PL 2004)

Price £££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:- The fermentation was frighteningly slow in starting (36hrs). Apricot in colour with legs & lots of flavour - apricot/citrus/melon/honey. Some "sweetness" in the finish. EXCELLENT. It appears these kits may no longer available but the inferior (in my opinion) “Reserve” kits are.


Grande Maison Reserve Barolo (SB 2007)

Price £££

Ease of making ****

Final quality **

Overall ***

Comments:- Quite drinkable but not a touch on the real thing. I must confess I did not add the Barolo flavouring sachet as I am a bit against adding too many chemical flavours to make an imitation of a wine. So I guess if I had added the flavouring it would be better. But should we be calling it Barolo on one hand and simply taking a sweet inferior grape juice and adding artificial flavours. For me the pack price is not low enough to justify this.


Grande Maison Cabernet Sauvignon (SB 2007)

Price £££

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ***

Comments:- Nice easy to follow steps. No sign of artificial additives. Made with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The result was rather pleasing.


Selections Premium wine kit (Barolo) (SB 2007)

Price £££££ (Expensive)

Ease of making ***

Final quality **

Overall *

Comments:- What a disappointment. I am not happy with the whole selections idea. I can buy a bottle of OK red wine from Nettos for £2.10, this includes wine tax, the wine ready made and aged in a professional winery, it also includes the bottle labels and a cork. And I can just buy one bottle at a time. So if you sell bulk unfermented grape juice it should be significantly cheaper. Yet a selections kit of grape juice to make 30 bottles costs around £1.80 a bottle. Gee at these prices the juice better be from the best vineyard in Italy, but there is no sign that it’s from Italy so how do they get to call it Barolo. On top of this as a home brewer you will have the odd error leading to a poor taste and that is what I got with this one. Probably my mistake but I was very careful and I racked it as instructed and left to age for a year. That the risk of doing a 30 bottle kits. It is better to do a one gallon kit. Smaller kits (6 bottles) allows you to build up a better variety of wine and a mistake only affects 6 bottles.
I have not given up on Selection. I have 30 bottles of Du roi on the go. See how that works out.


Solvino Chardonnay Style (PL 2004)

Price £

Ease of making ***

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:- A 1Kg kit with no yeast or any additives apart from the preservative. Made with Grande Maison Chablis yeast as none was supplied (on a personal basis I prefer yeast to be supplied, although others would wish to choose their own, possibly giving a better quality wine). A slightly dark gold colour, star-bright with "legs". The flavour was stronger and fuller than I would have expected at this price. A GEM.


Solvino Italian Classic Red (PL 1999)

Price £

Ease of making ***

Final quality ***

Overall ****

Comments:- A Boot's yeast used (none is supplied with the kit) produced a quite violent initial fermentation. Dry, lightish body & quite smooth. Not too bad but not a "classic", drinking 1 bottle seemed to give me a headache the following morning.


Solvino Italian Classic White (PL 2005)

Price £

Ease of making ***

Final quality ****

Overall ****

Comments:- Again, not a "classic" but very good for the price.


Young's Country Definitive Black Cherry (PL 2006)

Price £

Ease of making ***

Final quality **

Overall **

Comments:- This is a new kit to me and it used twice the sugar I would have expected for a kit of this type, especially when considering that the kit contained glucose and glucose-fructose syrups. The lovely dark ruby coloured wine had a hint of "chemicals" in the bouquet, taste & after-taste. It had been matured in bulk for 4 months but bottled only 2 weeks earlier, hopefully it will improve with age. The wine tasted drier than I expected for a F.G. of around 1004 (not a problem as I prefer dry wines & this figure is well within the range quoted in the instructions). DEFINITIVELY NOT RECOMMENDED.


Young's Definitive Chardonnay Style (PL 2006)

Price £

Ease of making **

Final quality **

Overall **

Comments:- Very poor yeast, would not work for 3.5l, had to top up to 4.5l ! Took almost 2 month to ferment! (I may have had a duff yeast, it does happen occasionally.) Again I thought I was paying too much for a lot of sugar! The results were much better than expected, a beautifully star-bright wine with a light lemon colour and a very strong flavour that was possibly too powerful and had a hint of “chemicals”. DEFINITIVELY NOT RECOMMENDED.


Thanks to our reviewers for their time and effort.

Note: The method of reviewing used here is not intended to be scientific instead it is fellow home brewer’s write-ups on their own kits. Therefore these reviews should not be taken as fact, but simply a record of the writer's observations of their own kits.


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