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.