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BIY (Brew it yourself)

Home brewing has long been marketed as a way to save money on beer, but the hype hasn't always matched the reality -- until now.

"We've all joked about Uncle Dudley's homemade beer and poured it down the sink the minute he turned his head," says Colin MacLennan, vice-president of The Beer Machine Company, makers of The Beer Machine, an invention that revolutionizes the home brew process by eliminating almost all the steps and equipment necessary to make beer at home.

The Beer Machine
"The main difference is our beer is turned into a fine powder," says McLennan. "Once the powder is put into the machine, all the consumer has to do is add water and reintroduce the yeast, which is in a two inch by two inch envelope."

The machine does the rest, carbonating the beer and keeping it at the desired temperature until it's ready to drink. You can even pour genuine draft beer right from your fridge, so there's no need for bottles.

"You can dispense the beer quite nicely from The Beer Machine," says McLennan. "All you have to do is make sure you've cleaned it properly, you wait the four or five days for the fermentation to be complete. Then, you just place it in the fridge, let it cool down and after another four or five days, it's ready for serving."

While The Beer Machine apparatus costs $119, it makes ten litres of beer and each of its 17 separate flavour packets, which come in varieties such as red lager and pilsner, are about half the cost of any 24-pack you can get at the liquor store. Still, The Beer Machine is large and cumbersome, but there's a product out there that allows you to brew great tasting craft beer right in the bottle in one simple step.

MB Bottle Brew
Most home brew kits require you to add concentrate, sterilize your own water and hope for the best, but what if you could brew your own great tasting, indistinguishable craft beer right in the bottle in less than two minutes? Now you can with MB Bottle Brew.

"We have our own brew kettle and we stop the brewing process right before fermentation," says Stephen Best MB Bottle Brew's marketing manager. "Then, we pasteurize it, which gives it a very, very long shelf-life and all the customer has to do is add the little vial of yeast that comes attached to our special bottle cap designed to provide room for the carbonation expansion."

MB Bottle Brew also takes the requisite ten days once the brew process is started before it can be served, but not even The Beer Machine can match its convenience and savings.

"Traditional craft beers go for $45 to $50 per case of 24, whereas the retail price for our four bottle, 24-pack equivalent is 20.00, which is less than half of what 24 bottles of Creemore and Mill St. cost," says Best.

Both home brew brands start out non-alcoholic, so their availability is not limited to the liquor store and there are virtually hundreds of stores across Canada that carry each. The Beer Machine does have MB Bottle Brew beat on variety, as MB Bottle Brew only offers a Bohemian Blonde Ale and a Mexican Cerveza, but Best says more flavours are coming.

"We do have other flavours already done, but we've been focusing on the two for retail, but we will be launching a new flavour within the next couple of months."

The verdict
I tried MB Bottle Brew and thought the Mexican Cervecza flavour was better. Overall, the quality was definitely higher than your standard brands, but there are still craft beers I like better and they don't take 10 to 14 days to make. I'd put MB bottle brew somewhere in the middle. It's good value for the money. However, drink up: The beer goes flat after three days in the fridge, so you don't have very long to finish the two-litre bottle.

Aaron Broverman is a Toronto-based freelance writer.

-- Posted May 6, 2013
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