The Cheap Beer Challenge

The Cheap Beer Challenge was originally a challenge to find the the best commercial cheap beer, but has been commandeered in homebrewing circles to be a brewing challenge on a budget. Werner Baron, a homebrewer from Victoria, BC, gave it a go and his own twist on it.

“The whole reason this started was a conversation about the Hamilton Hops crew and a few of their friends…doing a ‘cheap domestic beer challenge’, making the cheapest American style lager with $20 limit on ingredients I think it was,” Baron explains in a message.

Baron wanted to get together with his brother and friend to try something like that, but he was the only one with an all grain set up, and the three of them were living in different cities with varying access to homebrew supplies, so they decided to use a Coopers Real Ale kit.

“The idea behind it was that the Cooper’s kit is a consistent common base that we could all get and use with our varying brewing experience and kit. The only rule stated was, you have to use what’s in the can.”

So Baron dived in and used 500g of dark DME and 500g of Belgian wheat, an ounce of Fuggle hops he had in with the DME on a short 20 minute boil, and decided to fruit the beer with roughly 1kg of frozen mixed berries. He replaced the kit’s yeast, (“The yeast isn’t in the can as it’s glued to the lid under the plastic cover!”) and snagged a personal strain of Kveik from Frank at Hamilton Hops.

So come D&D day, the three brews were presented and shared. Baron’s version was “sweet, lots of unfermented maltiness so it’s sticky but not sugary, with sour notes from cherry and raspberry coming through from the fruit, and after the fruit you get some of the fuggle hops. It’s not quite an IPA as far as hop character. Couple of people compared it to plum pudding that little sweet little tangy.”

The two other brews made were a nut brown with toasted oats, which tasted “quite literally like a barley sandwich, super bready and dense”, and a brown apple ale with crabapples, which tasted “SUPER tart, but in a refreshing way, just couldn’t drink it fast (like that flash of ‘brightness’ you get from eating lemon slices)”.

Kathy Yan Li is a director of the Canadian Homebrewers Association, and lives in Shilo, MB with her husband and dog Barkley. She is always looking for Canadian homebrewing and brewing content, so feel free to get in touch with her with ideas and suggestions.

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