Home Brew and Wedding Bells

I’ve dabbled in home brewing with my partner Josh over the last few years. We started with just a couple of buckets, a basic syphon tube and the kitchen hob. Since then we have upgraded to a three tier system in the garage complete with burners which has increased our capacity and sped up brewing time.

This year we had the honour of one of our closest friends, Matt, asking if we would help create a beer to celebrate his wedding at the end of August. The idea was to be a fun project for the three Best Men, the Groom and myself to be a part of and as a contribution to the Big Day. Matt decided that he would like a tropical ‘Bucks Fizz’ style IPA that used champagne yeast, in keeping with the celebratory theme. He also wanted the beer to be fruity so it could be enjoyed by his family and our friends so chose mango, blood orange and passion fruit as his ‘juice’ element of the classic Bucks Fizz. Josh modified a recipe that incorporated all of this and on Good Friday we decided that we should do a test batch to make sure that it would work. So far we felt that the day went very successfully, and we congratulated our efforts by cooking some burgers using the burner for the boil. What could possibly go wrong?!

Unfortunately problems arose as we came to the bottling our beer. Due to the amount of pulpy fruit mixture was far too thick and resembled a very boozy smoothie, with a much higher ABV then we expected. Despite our best efforts we realised that we could not bring this to the wedding.

We took to the drawing board again but it was already July and we were a bit concerned that we wouldn’t be able to make a beer in time for the wedding. We still wanted a fruity beer so we decided to recreate Partizan’s Raspberry and Lemon Saison, taken from CAMRA’s Essential Home Brewing, as we felt it would be a light, easy drinking beer for the day and it should be fruity enough to appeal to a lot of people. Once again the brew day went successfully and when it came to bottling we kept our fingers crossed that we had produced something good enough to share at Matt’s wedding.

With 2 weeks until the wedding Josh, myself, Matt and Becca (the bride) thought to open up one or two bottles of the home brew just to check it was ok. We had no more time to try again so this was going to be the decider as to whether or not we had anything to bring to the wedding reception. The Saison poured out a gorgeous hazy raspberry pink colour and tasted much better than we expected. I was a bit worried that the beer would be too sweet but it had a great ‘farm yard’ quality to it, typical of a Saison, and some freshness from the lemon. With the ABV coming in at 5% this home brew was more what we had in mind when we first set out to creating a celebratory beer for our friends’ nuptials. And so Cheeky Brunch was born. Named after Josh’s Dad and his loathing of the use of the words ‘cheeky’ and ‘brunch’.

The big day arrived and Cheeky Brunch went down so well with everyone who tried it. It was really great to see so many enjoying a beer that we had made in a garage and nice to hear such positive feedback, especially from people within the wedding party who had been asking about the progress of the brew in the weeks running up to the big day.

The first home brew didn’t go to waste. We still managed to bottle it (after quite a bit of sieving) and have called it Chunky Bastard as it still has the consistency of a smoothie! If anything the experience has taught us to stick to a recipe but we certainly had fun during the process.