Brewing is legal and safe. Here are some vague outlines to experiment with (although there are many ways to go about it).
Most homebrew shops will try and sell you lots of gear, but you only really need a fermenting bottle with airlock, a packet of yeast, and a length of hosepipe to siphon out the fermented liquid (all cheaply available from www.art-of-brewing.co.uk). These are the basic steps. You will find more detailed instructions within some of the recipes on this page.
The basic steps are:
- Decide on what to ferment (this can be any sweet liquid). If you are fermenting fruit. Mash it up, remove stalks and seeds.
- Gently heat this in a pot. Heat, don’t boil. You may need to add sugar to increase fermentability. It should end up sweet, but not syrupy.
- Let the liquid cool until it feels tepid to the finger, but not at all hot. Pour it into the fermenting vessel (bottle, bowl, bucket, etc.).
- Sprinkle around three teaspoons of yeast into the fermenting vessel, and put on the lid. Fizzing and bubbling is a sign of contentment in yeast.
- Let the vessel stand (covered up) in a warmish place, until it stops fizzing (anything from a week to three weeks later).
- Taste with interest.
Modern brewing guides talk about the importance of sterilising equipment. While there is potential for bacterial contamination, I have never had this happen in a year of unsterilised and lo-fi brewing. A wash with hot water seems to work well enough. I am not condoning dirty brewing, but I have had no problems.
For a comprehensive guide, written by a master, try Charlie Papaziana’s The Complete Joy of Home Brewing.
For an excellent history of brewing, old recipes, and accounts of various traditional brewing practices, try Stephen Harrod Buhner’s Sacred Herbal and Healing Beers.