That kit you just made? It worked! The second one? Your mates loved it too! But now you’re looking for a little more punch. Patrick Gengler looks at the easiest three ways to really give your kit a some attitude

Many of us will start to homebrew as simply as possible; some rudimentary gear and a brewing kit. Kit brewing is a great way to start, it’s how I started. After a few brews however, I felt the need to get a bit more creative with the kits before going all-grain. It’s time to unleash the mad scientist.

Build on flavours

The first thing to do is look at the main flavours you want to accentuate in your kit. For example, a beer that is meant to be amber or deep red is usually malt focused, so I’ll take those malt flavours and bring them forward. My personal favourite is the caramel flavour brought out by caramalt, it’s a dark amber-coloured grain that adds a little fermentable sugar and tonnes of flavour. I’d consider doubling the caramalt maybe, or if the kit doesn’t have any add a 100 grams or so – it will boost the caramel flavour to the next level.

Add ‘accent’ flavours

The other approach is to add ‘accent’ flavour. I prefer beers with less bitter hop presence and honey is a great way to achieve this accent flavour. Many kits come with brewing sugar to help create more alcohol potential, if so, I’ll substitute that honey for the sugar. Honey is very fermentable: 90-95% efficient in technical terms. The sweetness from the honey dissipates as the yeast converts that sugar into ethanol and CO2. All you are left with are the subtle notes that the honey brings, dampening down the bitterness. I like to use orange blossom honey in particular as it’s more citrusy than floral and heather honey adds a nice spicy floral kick as well.

Hop it up

The other thing you can do is, of course, add some more hops. If you are making a pale ale or an IPA, the kits usually come with pre-measured hop sachets. Feel free to double them, or replace them all together. Without throwing it around willy nilly however, I often looking up the specific acid breakdowns of the hops so that you can emulate the same bitterness that the kit has set out for you to achieve. YCH Hops ( is my favourite place to check out all of the specific details of the hops included, and the hops I want to replace them with. I really like the malts used in an English style IPA but prefer southern hemisphere hops that bring tropical notes to the beer, so I’ll maybe go with bittering and the marvellous aroma hops from New Zealand.

These are only a few ways to make your kit that much more personal. I haven’t even got to the yeast yet. We will do soon, but bear in mind it can make a huge difference to the beer.

In the meantime, I hope you all have a great time with some mad scientist experimentation. Happy brewing!