Brew for Africa - 011-949-1009 / 076-173-9196

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How difficult is it to brew beer?

A: Very easy! In fact, if you can prepare a meal from one of those meal kits you can buy in supermarkets, you can brew beer. It's really that simple.

Q: If I buy one of your starter brewery sets, will you train me in how to use it?

A: There's no need! Our starter brewery sets come with a detailed instruction manual. Simply follow the steps in the manual you'll be fine. No training is required.

Q: I know someone who used to make beer and it was awful! Can the same happen to me?

A: The homebrew products that were available in South Africa many years ago tended to be based on food grade malt extracts and generic yeasts, none of which are really suitable to be used as main ingredients for beer. However, the quality of beer kits has improved dramatically in recent years. If you carefully follow the instructions, the beer you end up with will be so good that your friends won't believe you brewed it yourself!

Q: I know someone who used to brew beer, but the bottles exploded and the wife put a stop to it. Can the same happen to me?

A: When beer bottles explode, the beer was either bottled too soon (before it had finished fermenting) or too much priming sugar was added to the bottle. In the early days a common problem was also the use of food grade malt extracts that fermented very slowly and therefore built up too much pressure in the bottle. However, modern ingredients are far better than they used to be, and this is no longer an issue. If you follow the instructions that come with our beer kits, let the beer ferment out properly, and add the correct number of carbonation drops to the bottles (one for a dumpie, two for a quart) there will be no risk of exploding bottles.

Q: Why use Brew for Africa brew blends with a beer kit and not just sugar (or dextrose)?

A: Brew for Africa Brew Blends contain a mixture of various fermentable and unfermentable sugars, malt extracts and finishing hops, designed to enhance a particular beer style. They provide colour, mouth feel, flavour and alcohol to the beer. While it is possible to brew a beer kit with nothing but dextrose sugar, one must keep in mind that dextrose is a fully fermentable sugar that is converted completely into alcohol. In other words, dextrose (and similar sugars) will increase the alcohol level of a beer, but will contribute nothing to its flavour, nose, colour or mouthfeel, resulting in a disappointing beer. The use of table sugar is inadvisable, since this is likely to produce an off-flavour remeniscent of green apple.

Q: Is it legal to brew my own beer?

A: Absolutely. You may brew as much beer as you like for your own consumption, and share it socially with friends and family. However, you may not sell it, or even offer it to the public free of charge.

Q: So what if I want to brew beer to sell?

A: In order to brew commercially, you will need to obtain the appropriate liquor license(s), be registered with SARS and pay excise on the alcohol produced, be registered as a producing brewery, and work from premises that have been approved for use as a food production facility. Enquire with your nearest commercial craft brewery; they will be happy to tell you of their trials and tribulations with the various authorities.

Q: I have never brewed a drop of beer in my entire life, but I have decided to start a commercial brewery. Can you tell me what to do?

A: Sure. See the full answer here.

Q: My beer is not fermenting! What should I do?

A: The most important thing to realize is that bubbles coming out of the airlock are an indication of fermentation, but if there are no bubbles that doesn't necessarily mean fermentation is not taking place! When you see no bubbles coming out of your airlock at all, the cause is almost invariably a gas leak that allows the carbon dioxide gas from your fermenter to escape through the gasket under the fermenter's lid or through the rubber grommet that holds the airlock bubbler in place. Tighten the lid and press the grommet in firmly.
Other than bubbles coming out of the airlock, a good indication of yeast activity is the layer of gunky foam floating on your beer (known as "Krausen"). This layer consists mostly of active yeast cells, hops and solids from the wort. When in doubt, open your fermenter and check if there is a layer of foam on top of the beer. If there is, the beer is fermenting. (Note: it is normal for the Krausen to drop to the bottom of the fermenter after a few days. Also, NEVER disturb the Krausen or stir it back into the beer; it will create nasty flavours.)
But the best way by far to monitor a fermentation is to take a gravity reading. If the gravity is lower than it used to be originally, that means sugar is being consumed by the yeast, which means the beer is fermenting. When the gravity has dropped to a low final point (typically 1.010 or thereabout) and no longer drops over the course of 48 hours, fermentation is complete.
Sometimes a fermentation is slow to start. This is usually due to low temperatures, or insufficient aeration of the wort. (We recommend you splash the wort or top-up water into the fermenter from some height in order to provide the yeast with the oxygen it needs.) Note that the yeast supplied with our beer kits is a very robust strain, and we have yet to encounter a sinngle beer kit within its expiry date with yeast that was not viable, and even up to a year after its expiry date the yeast continued to perform without any problems.

Q: I have bottles of varying sizes. How many carbonation drops should I use?

As a rule of thumb, use one carbonation drop in bottles up to 500ml. and two carbonation drops for bottles up to 1000ml. Yes, there will be a slight variation in carbonation, but not enough to matter. We have succesfully bottled beers in bottles of 330ml, 340ml, 440ml. and 500ml. using one carbonation drop, and in 750ml and 1000ml. bottles with two carbonation drops. In all cases the beer was fine. The carbonation level in the 500 and 1000ml. bottles was a bit lower than in the 330ml. bottles, but remember that craft beers tend to be lower in carbonation than commercial lagers to begin with, as carbonation interferes with flavour.

Q: Can I use the PET bottles that cold drinks are sold in?

A: We do not recommend this. These bottles are made of a clear material (rather than brown) which means that light will affect the quality of your beer during storage. Also, these bottles are only rated for the pressures at which cold drinks are bottled, and they may be unable to contain the pressure developed during the bottle conditioning of some beers. Lastly, if you keep your beer for more than six months or so, PET bottles will not retain the carbonation and flavour as well as glass beer bottles do.

Q: I brewed a lager or ale in winter and it came out smelling of sulphur. Why is that?

A: All beer yeasts produce some hydrogen sulphide (a gas that smells like rotten eggs) as a result of the sulphates present in either the wort or the water used. If the fermentation is vigourous enough, this sulphur aroma is stripped from the beer by the bubbles that escape during fermentation. However, when the temperature is too low for a vigourous fermentation, or if there is too much sulphur, the sulphur aroma may remain present in the finalized beer. In order to avoid this, keep your fermentation temperature high enough (around 22-24°C is ideal; avoid having the temperature of the fermenter drop below 18°C in winter!) and avoid using borehole water with a high sulphate content. Also give your beer time to fully ferment and don't bottle too early. In some beer styles the yeast produces sulphur compounds during the first stage of fermentation, which then disappear later in the fermentation. Bottling too early (or having the temperature drop in the second half of the fermentationg so the yeast goes dormant) prevents the re-uptake of the sulphur compounds. In some cases adding a yeast nutrient to the wort may help to get your yeast in better shape during the colder months of the year.

Q: Isn't there a way to filter my beer when it comes out of the fermenter so that I don't have any yeast in the bottle?

A: Not really. Filtering yeast from beer requires a special and rather complicated filtering set-up, as used by professional craft or industrial breweries. Also, our beer needs some yeast in the bottle in order to provide carbonation, maturation and a better shelf life. While this does require the proper pouring technique to leave the yeast deposit behind in the bottle when you serve the beer, it will give you a much better beer!

Q: I always drink [insert mass-produced industrial lager brand here]. Which one of your beer kits is closest to that?

A: The beers brewed with our products are craft beers. These are difficult to compare with mass-produced industrial beers, which are designed to be as cheap, unchallenging to the palate, and neutral in flavour as possible. Craft beers on the other hand have much more character, have a much more diversified flavour, and represent specific styles. In short, trying to brew a craft beer that is similar to an industrial mass product is much like cooking up a six course gourmet dinner and trying to make it taste like a plate of chips.

Q: What if something goes wrong and I accidentally poison all my friends and relatives?

A: Don't worry! This can't happen. The horror stories about home-made alcoholic beverages that wipe out entire parties all involve liquor (home-made or not) that has been mixed with wood alcohol (methanol) or methylated spirit, which is toxic. But methanol has to be synthesized through a chemical process. The yeast used in brewing, on the other hand, is physically incapable of producing methanol in quantities of more than a few parts per million. Since it takes around 100ml. of pure methanol to poison an adult, drinking homebrewed beer is completely safe.

Q: Where can I buy your products?

A: You can order them directly from the products section on this website!

Q: Do you deliver?

A: Yes! We ship country-wide.

Q: Do you export and/or supply to customers outside South Africa?

A: Yes, we do. However, while we do have an export permit and can assist you with all the formalities and documents, we do not ship across the border but supply strictly FOB only. In other words, you, the customer, will have to arrange your own transportation and have the goods collected from our premises.

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