Brew-it-yourself plan produces pints at 35p: Britain's first miniaturised brewery is offering professional facilities and expertise to frustrated kitchen-table real ale lovers

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The Independent Online
WHEN Ken Chalk goes out for a beer, he visits the brewery instead of the pub. Mr Chalk, an architect, is a member of Britain's first do-it-yourself brewery, Brewer's World, which opened in Edgbaston, Birmingham, recently.

Real ale enthusiasts, like Mr Chalk, can take advantage of a professionally equipped and staffed miniature brewery to produce bitters, ales, stouts and lager the equal of any found in a pub, all from 35p a pint, and avoiding the pitfalls of kitchen-table brewing.

Mr Chalk, who lives at Streetley, Staffordshire, a county famed for its Burton on Trent breweries, has been a home brewer for more than 20 years, but he stopped after a series of failures. He joined the members-only brewery within days of hearing about it. 'I couldn't be bothered with making beer at home any more. I was fed up with washing out the bottles and sometimes pouring it away because it just wasn't good enough - I was getting offended by what I was drinking,' he said.

But Steve Wellington, of Brewer's World, who practised his craft for more than 25 years with Bass, is confident that the only place members will be pouring their beer is down their throats. He is in charge of devising recipes and helping members to follow the step-by-step instructions on brewing.

The basic ingredients - malt extract, hops, flavour grains and sugar - can be juggled to make beers ranging from light ales with 4 per cent alcohol content, to barley wines at 9.5 per cent. Members can also cook up exotic beers, such as Russian Imperial Stout, German weissen - wheat - beers, or brews like Bismarck Hock, 'which needs to be sunk often'.

Brewing an 80-pint batch takes a couple of hours, followed by fermentation for a week before the members can return to bottle the beer.

Robert McLauchlan, managing director, came up with the idea after visiting friends in Canada where micro-breweries took off after a change in the law. 'There the breweries tend to be upgraded home operations. What we've done is to miniaturise a professional brewery,' he said.

He has spent more than pounds 200,000 over the past two years perfecting the brewery and is confident that even a small slice of the pounds 4bn annual market in beer drunk at home will pay dividends. He plans to franchise the brewery across the country, but doesn't think the pub trade has anything to fear. 'The experience in Canada shows that these sort of breweries expand the market, rather than eating into existing markets,' he said.

It is a sentiment shared by Chris Kyprianou, manager of the nearby Ivy Bush: 'Takings have increased noticeably since the brewery opened - I've no complaints.'

(Photograph omitted)