By: Kate Tilley
December 5, 2013
Two South Australian firms have joined forces to make home-brewed beer easier to produce and of better quality, thanks to plastic pails.
Home brew is notoriously kept away from family and friends because its “beauty” is usually in the eye of the beholder only — but not anymore.
A do-it-yourself beer kit is now available for connoisseurs around the world.
Gone are wooden kegs, steel kettles and glass bottles once used to ferment the amber liquid.
Now it is done in 8 1/2-gallon plastic pails made of random copolymer polypropylene, a clear, semi-crystalline thermoplastic resin known for its high stiffness and impact strength.
Coopers Brewery Ltd., located in a suburb of Adelaide, approximately 450 miles west of Melbourne, makes a variety of beers, including stouts, ales and lagers.
It has teamed with Australia’s largest air conditioning manufacturer, Seeley International Pty. Ltd. of nearby Lonsdale, to make the do-it-yourself beer kits, which sell for about $A100 ($90).
Seeley specializes in plastic air conditioning units and they said they were happy to help out with Australians’ favorite drink.
Scott Harris, Coopers’ marketing manager for brewing products, said 30,000 kits will be produced and sold in the next 12 months, with strong demand expected from overseas home brewers, including those in the U.S.
“The new DIY beer kits have been designed to overcome most of the problems encountered by people making their own beer, especially new brewers,” he said. “They are simpler to use, very reliable and easier to clean. They include a DVD that not only takes people through the simple steps involved in brewing with their DIY beer kits, but also contains links to interesting sites, tips and hints for new brewers. We think the kits will encourage more people to enjoy the experience of producing their own quality beer.”
Harris said the plastic is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and has passed all regulatory healthy and safety checks in Europe and Australia.
He said one key to the new kit is the redesigned micro-fermenter that overcomes many problems experienced by rookie brewers.
“The new fermenters are easier to clean and sterilize, reducing the chances of contamination spoiling a brew,” he said. “They also reduce sedimentation and use a special collar and ‘floating’ lid arrangement instead of an air lock to enable vigorous brews to expand while fermenting without spilling.
“Another breakthrough has been the development of a plastic hydrometer specifically made for beer that measures alcohol content. This replaces the fragile glass hydrometers provided previously,” Harris said.
He said the plastic pails are easy to clean, do not scratch or scruff and are strong yet have a little flexibility for when they were knocked around. They have also been designed for ease of stacking for exporting.
The pails also had to be stable for making ginger beer, which can be harsh and corrosive during the brewing process.
Harris said Australian home brewers have changed their tastes in recent years. They have moved on from making poor-quality backyard brew, to lager, draught, English bitter, Mexican cerveza, and amber and pale ales.
“We are seeing far more craft beers in pubs ... likewise in home brewing,” he said. “Once it was all about cost saving. Now it is about good quality.”
Harris said there is a coffee analogy with home brewing, as Australians move away from instant granules to $5,000 coffee machines in their own homes.
“But they still love to go to their favorite cafe for a coffee. It is the same with beer. The home brew market is a lot more mature in Australia, so it is fairly stable. But we have seen about 15 percent growth in the US and the UK and that is expected to increase,” he said.
“Our kits are already proving a big seller on Amazon.”
Seeley founder and chairman Frank Seeley said while his air-con company will still concentrate on making people cooler, the Coopers DIY beer kit will do the same “but in a wonderfully different way.”