Beer Kit Review: Brewferm Diabolo

16 Aug

About twenty years ago, I went through a phase of making lots of beer from kits. Most of them were perfectly drinkable, but quite often had that flavour-characteristic that I (and I expect everybody else) call ‘homebrewy’. It’s a taste that I have tried to remove from my full-mash brews of more recent times.

Some of the homebrew kits that I made in those days, however, never had any hint of that homebrew flavour. One in particular stood out for me. It was called Diabolo, probably the strongest kit beer I ever brewed. I have some notes from those days, but all I wrote for this particular kit was “Brilliant!”

Times moved on and home brewing took something of a back seat, I occasionally made a brew for a special event, but not as a regular thing.

Over the past year or so, I have taken up brewing again, this time full-mash, but last time I went to the local brew shop, I was looking through the kits and there it was – Brewferm Diabolo. Before I knew it, I had bought the kit, along with the ingredients for my next two full-mash projects.

I spent eight hours a few days later mashing, sparging and boiling my latest beer. After I’d finished and washed up, I spotted the Diabolo kit, just sitting there saying “Please make me! Please make me!” I took out the instructions. It seemed very simple, there wasn’t even any boiling involved, so I decided to make the kit straight away. It took all of thirty minutes.

The kit is supposed to make nine litres, but if you follow the instructions to the letter, you end up with a little more than that. Basically, all you have to do is to add water, sugar and yeast and off it goes. Because of the extra liquid, I split the brew between two medium-sized buckets. A single bucket would have overflowed when the head formed, making a mess of the kitchen floor and I was keen not to incur Lady Alebagger’s wrath.

The original gravity reading was 1.070, against the instructions’ 1.075. Maybe the extra water caused the lower reading. After ten days, the specific gravity had been constant at 1.013 for three days, so the beer was racked into two demijohns for what the instructions describe as ‘second fermentation’, though no extra sugar is added at this point. The derived ABV is about 7.2% at this point. The beer remained in the demijohns for four weeks, when it was transferred to 19 Grolsch bottles, with half a teaspoon of sugar added to each bottle.

After sitting in the bottles in a dark garage for six weeks, I decided it was time to have a first taste. Ooh! No disappointment at all. This beer is strong, rich and very smooth. The first two bottles (both drunk at the same time but not both by me) had distinct aniseed flavours, but these have since reduced to the point of vanishing. The beer is a deep orange in colour with a large, slightly off-white head of tightly packed tiny bubbles. It is sweet in the mouth to start, followed by a quick bitterness at the finish. The most prominent flavours are smooth toffee and spicy pepper. The mouthfeel is smooth, with an extremely smooth, satiny finish. There are strong alcoholic overtastes, typical of strong beers.

One curiosity I have noticed: the beer is clear and bright in the bottles with only traces of sediment in the bottom of the bottle, yet when I cool the beer in the fridge, it goes quite hazy. I’m not sure why this happens. If you have any ideas then please comment below.

I drank the first couple of bottles with a friend of mine, a keen and discerning beer drinker. He asked “Why do you go to the bother of brewing from scratch when you can make stuff like this from a kit?”

It’s a reasonable question. I’m sure there are many homebrewers out there who would reply that there is more control and more satisfaction in making it all yourself. It’s like asking a cook why she bakes her own pies when she can get perfectly good ones from the local supermarket. But still, he has a point.

This kit cost me £11.49 and a bit of sugar. That’s damned cheap for 19 bottles of 7.2% beer!

I’m not going to stop doing the full brew, but I’m going to check out a few more kits. After all, I put my full brews in casks, and kits can go in bottles.

In conclusion then; Brewferm Diabolo is an excellent brewkit. You don’t need any special equipment apart from a food-grade bucket. There’s not even any boiling required. You can make your own proper strong Belgian ale for around 60p per bottle. Give it a go!

P.S. For what it’s worth, the full-mash beer I took eight hours to make on the same day turned out to be undrinkable!

Words and images are my copyright, please respect that. All you have to do is ask. Thank you.

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Posted by on 16 August, 2012 in Brew Kits, Home Brewing


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11 responses to “Beer Kit Review: Brewferm Diabolo

  1. Alebagger

    16 August, 2012 at 16:43

    OK, I’ve had the answer to my question courtesy of Jay Krause of Quantum Brewery. It’s all to do with the cold break. I need to chill the wort quickly using a wort cooler. This will precipitate more proteins out of the wort, thus preventing this chill haze from forming. Thanks.

    • Tim

      9 December, 2014 at 12:34

      I’m currently reading “Belgian Ale” by Pierre Rajotte and he states that Belgian beers are not served chilled and so would not form a haze. If you do decide to chill it and it forms a haze, then this is authentic for the style.

      Maybe you should close your eyes or look away before each mouthful? 😉

      • Alebagger

        9 December, 2014 at 19:16

        HI Tim,

        I’m not a beer chiller by habit. 12 degrees Celsius works for most, but I find some beers – this one included, actually taste better if dropped to about 8 degrees or so. Personally, I couldn’t care less about the haze, it doesn’t affect the taste in any way.

        If that makes my beer more authentic, then I’m well chuffed! Thanks for the comment.

  2. spanishaid

    5 February, 2013 at 20:05

    I have bought and make this kit. Do I really need to do a second fermentation? If so how can I do it with just one fermentation bucket? Can I transfer the beer to 2 pots and then back to the fermentation bucket?
    Thank you for your help

  3. spanishaid

    5 February, 2013 at 20:15

    Hi I have bought and made this kit. Is the second fermentation necessary? if so can I pass the wort to 2 pots and then back to the fermentation bucket.(I only have one bucket)thanks a lot

  4. Alebagger

    6 February, 2013 at 18:08

    The second fermentation isn’t really a fermentation at all. I think it’s just a ‘resting’ period for the beer. The recommendation is that you rack off the beer into a demijohn fitted with an airlock. If you are going to use this resting period, you must get the beer off the sediment that the primary fermentation will have thrown into the bottom of the bucket. Whilst resting, the container the beer is in should be fitted with an airlock, to prevent nasties getting in but to allow any gasses that are produced to escape. So, best advice – buy a couple of demijohns and airlocks and put it into those. 2nd best advice – get it into bottles.

  5. spanishaid

    25 February, 2013 at 12:58

    Ok So I followed your advice and the beer is in 2 demijohns. this is its second week. 4 weeks seems a long time. the density at the moment is 1.025. So I guess the beer will have to stay there for a bit longer. Now when bottling you say you added half tspoon of sugar. how many grams is than? I am using sugar cubes (4 grams each), this will be much easier than using a spoon.
    Thank you

  6. Alebagger

    26 February, 2013 at 16:34

    Four weeks isn’t really a long time, you do need a little patience. Your specific gravity of 1.025 seems rather high, you may not have had a very efficient fermentation. This means that your ABV will be a bit lower, and more sugar may remain in the beer. What was the original gravity? I would not expect the gravity to drop during this period, as I stated before, this isn’t really a ‘second fermentation’, but I’d be interested to know what the gravity is at the end of the four weeks.
    One sugar cube = one teaspoon of sugar.

  7. Andyh

    17 July, 2013 at 12:24

    Hi would be interested in your advice on this kit. I have had this in primary now for only 5 days. Before pitching the yeast i made a starter as per the instructions and really ‘ariated’ the mixture before pitching. The initial temp of the wort was 24 degrees. After 3 days the temp went down to 22 degrees ( also the ambient temp ) . I have taken a sample and it’s at 1010. Do you reckon its worth settling the beer now in the second clean vessel? Or to wait for the full 10 days before doing so?

  8. Alebagger

    18 July, 2013 at 00:48

    You don’t mention the original gravity, so I can’t estimate the amount of alcohol you’ve produced. Whatever the level it’s at, I wouldn’t move it until it has remained constant for at least three days. It might still be fermenting, and you can’t tell whether it is or not from a single gravity reading. Once it has remained constant for three days, then you can move it to a clean demijohn for settling. The instructions for this particular beer refer to this as a ‘secondary fermentation’, which it isn’t really. If you want the beer to settle (and you do), the last thing you want is for it to continue fermenting. So have a little patience. Three days seems very fast for the fermentation to have completed.

  9. Andyh

    20 July, 2013 at 18:21

    Thanks for your advice. I appreciate it. It seems it’s always the same story reading the Forums. Newbies (like me) posting patience (or lack thereof) related queries.


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