Written by Terry Smith
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Best home brew kit [UK]: Top ale, IPA and wine making starter kits compared and reviewed
This article was last updated on October 11th, 2021 at 9:13 am
You’ll be shocked just how many home brew options there are out there. Not just volume, but type too. I can honestly say there are as many options for home brew kits as you can find beers on the shelf. Sounds great but having too much of a good thing can create a bit of confusion. So in this article I’ve whittled the list down to some sensible picks; bitter and laggers are well covered but I’ve also some starter beer making kits in case you’re looking for the complete setup and this is your first time. Naturally if you already have the kit ignore the equipment and focus on the beer 😀 and what better time, in preparation for Christmas 🙂 and beyond that, do we need an excuse? 😀
To give you a tiny bit of background info though on buying the best home brew kit (so you can be a tad organised), most home brew kits in the UK take 3-6 weeks to brew. They’ll get better if bottled and kept for longer though. And that definitely applies to the Youngs Premium Ale Kit I have had a go at a couple of times. Make sure your yeast is dead and settles before transferring to Coopers bottles. Also, tinkering with the kits like the John Bull – Adding honey and beer enhancer goes a long long way to recreating a professional pint of beer. That information is golden and should set you down the path of researching the adaptation of almost all IPA beer, especially the John Bull IPA India Pale Ale Home Brew Beer Kit 😉
There’s something deeply satisfying about brewing your own ale, much in the same way as baking your own bread. I don’t know if it’s down to something primal recorded in our DNA or simply that having beer and bread ‘on tap’ for low cost is something that can’t be sniffed at. Beer, and wine, brewing has been a part of human culture for 7000 years, starting with the most ancient cultures of Sumer, Egypt and China. Sumerian beer was more of a thick porridge like substance, so it’s the Egyptians, who adapted and improved upon the Sumerian recipe, who are regarded by many as being the first ‘beer’ brewers.
I’ve learnt a huge amount (and drank twice as much as I learnt :D) since I wrote this article nearly two years ago and have updated it accordingly to give you some of my personal insight. The truth be told, the worst bit is just how prices have rocketed but I’ve done my best to pick some bargains too. And whilst my views are most certainly expert, you’d be amazed at just how differently your beer will come out picking the right brew kit as well as following the instructions to the dot as compared to just throwing in an amount of sugar that suits you, or changing the bottling / decanting dates by as little as a few days, or even not understanding how you can tell if the fermentation process is complete. So when reading my reviews consider that I do my absolute best to follow each guideline as set-out by the manufacturer and thus how I’ve drawn my conclusions and opinions.
Our top picks for the best home brew kits in the UK:
Best home brew kit overall: Balliihoo® Complete Homebrew Beer Making Equipment Starter Set
Best beer starter kit in the UK: Balliihoo® Complete Homebrew Beer Making Equipment Starter Set
Best value starter kit: 40 Pint (5 Gallon) Cider Making Starter Kit – Brewmaker Cider Deluxe
Tastiest pale ale: Youngs Premium Ale Kit – American India Pale Ale IPA
Best bitter brew kit: MICRO BREWERY 40 PINT BEER MAKING KIT HOME BREW BITTER
Best cider making kit in the UK: 40 Pint (5 Gallon) Cider Making Starter Kit – Brewmaker Cider Deluxe
Best value wine making kit: BJ #3 PET Kit – Winemaking Set
What you get in this article:
How to pick the best home brew kit to suit your personal preference
Picking is easy when you know how 😀 You need to decide if you’re after a pale ale or a traditional pub amber ale essentially. Or perhaps even a stout or darker pint of ale? All are a great in taste but very different. If you like a more traditional pint you probably want to take aim at the brew kits named amber. If you like a lighter ale then go for pale. And if you like a full bodied and heavily flavour ale then stout or dark ale might be a decent choice. Don’t just go on price either, a good bit of research (with so many of us at it these days) will give you some excellent choices.
Brewing beer is surprisingly easy and enjoyable these days
In modern times, home brewing has never been easier. Home brewing kits are a plenty, and are improving all the time. Most contain everything you need to brew your own ales and include detailed instructions on how to do so for the best results. Of course, there are numerous forums and videos on the internet offering tips and advice for both beginner and experienced home brewers alike and what could be better than being sat on the patio on a long Summer evening with the dim glow of the garden solar lights and background music. Of course a patio heater doesn’t go a miss does it 😀 Actually talking of which I’ve recently bought a table top heater as well as a wall mounted heater to compare power consumption whilst having a relaxing beer late into the evening if you’re interested.
For a first timer though, we would suggest buying a good home brewing kit and following the instructions to the letter. After you’ve successfully created a batch or two and feel you’ve come to grips with it, then you can start to adapt the recipes to your tastes and combine them with the perfect food, a barbecue or smoker come to mind here.
How quickly do you want your beer to be ready?
Some home brew kits will be ready in a matter of a couple of weeks. Some take four to six. So if you’re looking for a quick beer then pay attention to the review for timings as that may considerably sway the beer you want to make! It’s worth noting however, my experience is that you can’t rush a decent beer. Anytime I’ve gone for the shorter side of fermentation or leaving the beer to settle, I’ve found myself with a lower quality finish. Now while this might be anecdotal I have brewed a heap of these kits and continue to do so even as we speak. I have a cracking stout that I bottled about 6 weeks ago and when I drank it a month ago it was no where near as deep in flavour or as complex as it is now. In fact, it was still a bit ‘yeasty’ if I’m honest. So consider really you don’t want to rush the process if at all possible…
Here are the best home brewing kits reviewed for you. Enjoy.
1. Youngs Premium Ale Kit - American India Pale Ale IPA
Note to achieve my opinion of this being a cracking beer I fermented this for a little over two weeks and bottled it for three weeks. I drank it 7 days after bottling and it simply wasn’t ready so it needs a bit of time and you’ll end up with a cracker of a home brew. And without causing offence, it should be stated if you like Budweiser we won’t get along in this article – I review beers with proper notable and distinguished flavour only 😀 It’s lovely and citrus flavoured, not quite as much as Adnams Ghost Ship, somewhere in the middle with a nice head. You won’t be disappointed with this ale.
Youngs Premium Ale Kit is our first review. This once 5 star rated product has been pleasing customers worldwide. I don’t think the quality has dropped one bit since I last reviewed and use this kit, I think the major price increases has brought with it far more in terms of expectation and a solid rating of over 4.6 world wide now is still top draw and a top pick if you’re into pale ales. The big plus is this ones super easy for novices – I had great results early days with this pale ale. Here’s a look at just how easy it is:
Priced at £30.27, it includes Yeast, sugar, priming sugar, hopped liquid malt, and hops. Youngs are proud to announce that this kit includes twice the amount of raw materials that a standard kit does and will produce 40 pints. All that’s needed from you is to add water, follow the Instructions and wait a few weeks. At the end, you’ll have more than enough of the light and malty, 5.6% ABV ale to keep you and your friends busy for a while.
While no brewing equipment is included in the kit (we have reviewed equipment kits for you below) the ingredients are pre-weighed out for you so as to save time and guess work.
The ingredients are top notch, especially the malt which is well balanced, and the ale produced has a lovely hoppy aroma. Word of warning, don’t be fooled by the light and zesty taste, as this ale packs a punch and is stronger than you think. If you like a good pale ale then this will give you many happy evenings ( and afternoons :D). It’s exactly what you would expect of a pale ale.
- Excellent customer feedback
- Twice as much dry ingredients as a standard kit, produces 40 pints
- Light, malty and hoppy taste with a touch of zest
- At 5.6% it is deceptively strong despite the light taste
- Pre-weighed ingredients make things so much easier
- Ingredients only kit. No equipment included
- Price increased considerably in the last couple of years
2. Brooklyn Brew Beer Making Kit
With easy to follow online instructions, all the dry ingredients, plus all the equipment needed to brew your own beer, this set priced at just over forty quid is great value for money. After being for sale on Amazon for a couple of years now it’s still well respected and hardly ever picks up a bad review. I’ll tell you what I noticed after brewing this a few times – the fermentation process was pretty much complete on all occasions after a couple of weeks. When I bottled/carbonised and drank it after 7-10 days it was no where near as good at 15-20 days. So be warned, I’m calling this a decent beer after about four weeks brewing all in all. At three weeks total it was NOT ready.
The equipment you get includes a glass fermenter, thermometer, tubing, a racking cane & tip, airlock, cleanser, and a screw-cap stopper. What is not included, but you will definitely need is a very large cooking pot of at least 6 litres in capacity and of course a large strainer.
This is an American product, so the amount of beer produced is an American gallon, which is less than our imperial gallon, but still a decent amount of beer.
This particular kit brews up a strong everyday IPA at 6.8% ABV, but if you click on the link we have provided you will see that there are other versions that will produce other types of beer or ale.
Brewing takes about a month and leaves you with a decent tasting beer, but not as hoppy as the Youngs Premium Ale above when comparing them together. This is a great set for a beginner and will teach you the process of how to make beer from scratch. The equipment is all reusable but I would probably replace a couple of the components such as the thermometer for better quality ones if you’re planning on using it often, at the end of every batch I just take it into the back garden and hose it all down, the nutrients then go back into the soil too which is handy.
A word of warning, don’t expect absolutely everything in this kit you’ll still need a few extras but it’s very well priced all in all.
- Good value for money
- Includes all dry ingredients needed to brew an IPA
- Includes glass fermenter, thermometer, tubing, a racking cane & tip, airlock, cleanser, and a screw-cap stopper
- Clear and easy to follow online instructions. Good set for a first time brewer
- Produces a good tasting yet strong beer at 6.8 ABV
- Equipment can be reused
- You only make a gallon with this kit 😀
- Bit on the strong side might be off putting for you
3. John Bull IPA India Pale Ale Home Brew Beer Kit - Makes 40 Pints!
John Bull IPA India Pale Ale is a pretty decent lighter ale and it can get a lot better if you know how. The video I’ve included will put you in the right direction for sure!
This lad runs through the entire process for John Bull. Very clear, and straightforward. Great tutorial and he adds a bit of honey. Very interesting twist with a bit of beer enhancer. After trying it it I can say it worked lovely. It gave lovely flavour notes I wasn’t expecting.
One thing to note, the video is fairly old and he quotes prices – forget those. A truly cheap home brew has been and gone. The lockdown saw to that when everything sold out and what was left kept on going up and up in price! Still, it remains a bargain when compared to a pint of draught ale at the pub!
If you followed the video you’ll see just how easily this home brew can be tinkered with. I’ve since made two of these. And one thing I’ll say, without enhancer this is thin. I would definitely recommend spending the few extra quid on a decent youngs beer enhancer. Apart from that you are completely ready to go.
- Well priced
- Very nice middle IPA
- Easy to setup and can adapt with honey well
- bit thin without beer enhancer so definitely add some.
- not much chatter online to adapt it beyond my recommendations
4. Balliihoo® Complete Homebrew Beer Making Equipment Starter Set
Since I last reviewed this a couple of years ago, Balliihoo are even more solid and producing better equipment than ever. You can buy in complete trust and this is my favourite starter kit in the UK, no question about that.
Our next home brewing kit review is for this equipment only kit from Ballihoo available for £85.71. This kit doesn’t come with any brewing ingredients of its own but can be used to brew pretty much any natural materials, allowing you to use it with an ingredients kit like the Youngs Premium Ale kit, or a kit from Ballyhoo themselves for brewing beer or your own cider.
Included in the pack are a 5 gallon bucket for your first stage fermentation, this has a lid and an LCD thermometer strip for easy monitoring. The lid also has a grommet pre-fitted and an airlock to keep things sealed.
For transferring your brew, Ballihoo have given you a syphon tube and racking cane, a hydrometer to determine the volume, some sterilising powder and cleaner for sanitary reasons, and a 5 gallon pressure barrel (also with temperature strip) for your final fermentation stage. Also included are a jug and funnel set, mixing spoon, cloths and a pint glass for when the time comes for a taste test. All the equipment is good quality and should have you brewing up beers, wines, ciders or whatever you like for a long time to come.
- Full equipment kit for home brewing beer, wine, cider, etc.
- Great price
- 5 gallon bucket and lid with pre-fitted grommet, air-lock and temperature reader
- Hydrometer for measuring the strength of your brew
- Includes everything you need for keeping your brewing sanitary
- 5 gallon pressure barrel for second stage fermentation
- Good customer service should any problems arise
- You need to buy a need kit as well
- The odd faulty barrel tap but as note excellent service so no issues
5. 40 Pint (5 Gallon) Cider Making Starter Kit - Brewmaker Cider Deluxe
What a lovely kit this is and it’s still the same as it was two years ago with even more glowing feedback online. When I made this Cider kit it’s worth knowing I went for 30 pints rather than 40 – I like my cider full flavour and the first time I made this Cider I couldn’t help but feel it didn’t quite taste punchy enough. I let it ferment for a little over two weeks then bottled and left it be for another couple of weeks too. Note, you’ll need your own bottles and a bit of sugar to carbonate your cider!
I’ve got to admit to being a bit too much of a cider lover. Especially in summer when the sun is shining, you just can’t beat an ice cold glass of cider. This kit has been specially designed with first time cider brewers in mind, and is a great starting point for beginners to get their feet (and taste buds) wet, before moving on to more complicated processes. The kit has full, detailed instructions, again aimed at beginners, to guide you all the way through setting up the equipment, to tasting your first glass of homemade cider.
All the equipment you need is here including a 25 litre fermenting bin with lid that seals really airtight and a 6 chamber airlock for you to monitor the bubbles. There is also a syphon with a U-bend and tap, a hydrometer, measuring cylinder, cleaning materials and a brewing spoon.
The kit also includes 1kg of brewing sugar, a pack of cider yeast, and a selection of cider concentrates. I personally found the cider a bit weak so I would recommend less watering down than the instructions say. Either that, or purchase some other brand cider concentrate. Other than that, this is a great starter kit for cider lovers.
- Designed specifically for cider brewing
- Made with beginners in mind with detailed instructions
- Contains all the equipment needed to start you brewing
- Fermenting bin lid seals airtight
- 1kg of brewing sugar, a pack of cider yeast, and a selection of cider concentrates
- Makes a cracking 30 pints much better than a weak 40 pints
- You need to remember some bottles if you want this carbonated
6. MICRO BREWERY 40 PINT BEER MAKING KIT HOME BREW BITTER
If you’re more of a bitter lover than cider or ale, we’ve got you covered with this kit from Woodfordes. It contains all the ingredients you need to create 40 pints worth of ‘pub style’ bitter and also all of the equipment to get you started. It’s a bit hoppy and amber in colour when ready to drink. If you like a decent pint of traditional ale then this is well well worth a go.
I can tell you this was a pleasure to drink! I’ve used this kit to make endless refills too so no worries on quality either!
The kit includes a 25 litre fermentation bin with lid that seals well, hydrometer, syphon, paddle, 40 pint barrel and CO2 injector. The equipment is all decent quality and should keep you happily brewing for a while. One thing I will say though, is that the instructions say to brew for 4-6 days, but to really get a decent ale, you should be brewing for at least 2 weeks in the bucket and another 2-3 in the barrel. That’s what I did to achieve a cracking bitter.
- Made for ‘pub bitter’ lovers
- Includes ‘woodward wherry real ale kit’
- 25 litre fermentation bucket with good sealing lid
- 40 pint barrel
- CO2 injector
- Good quality at a reasonable price
- Priciest option
- Few complaints of faulty equipment
7. BJ #3 PET Kit - Winemaking Set
The next best home brewing kit we are reviewing is for all you wine lovers who’d like to have a crack at making your own. Two years ago this cheap as chips kit had a few teething problems but since then the reviews and quality are on the up and up. Pretty much one of the last bargains you’ll get in the home brew world in my opinion given the massive overall price hikes!
This equipment set is meant to be used in conjunction with any 6 bottle winemaking ingredients kits, and doesn’t include any ingredients of its own. However, being the kind fellows we are, we have included a review for a wine kit for you below.
This kit includes the usual equipment- 5 litre fermenting bin, syphon with U-bend and tap, bubbler airlock, hydrometer, cleanse and steriliser, and brewing spoon. There is also a 5 litre plastic demi-john, plastic jug and funnel, all made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) to prevent any flavours or odours from contaminating your brew.
- Cheap price of only £22.99
- To be used with 6 bottle winemaking kits
- 5 litre demi-john is made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) to prevent any unwanted flavours or odours
- 5 litre fermenting bin
- Bubbler airlock
- Hard to pick fault given the prices involved! BARGAIN
All you need to make this kit into an absolute bargain is the fruit and a container to brew in. The price says it all and the reviews all over the internet match my opinion too.
Here’s the ideal kit to be used with the wine making equipment set above. Priced at only £6.99, it includes recipes for a wide range of fruit wines, everything from apple and strawberry to rose petal, rhubarb and parsnip, all together over 30 different types.
The kit has finings such as yeast, pectin enzyme and citric acid to help you clear and improve your wine. All of the ingredients come in separate packages that are clearly labelled to avoid any confusion, and the instructions provided are clear and easy to follow.
Combining this kit with the set above will having you creating a lovely selection of wines in no time at all.
- Low price
- Includes recipes for a huge variety of fruit wines
- All ingredients are packaged separately and clearly labelled
- Clear and easy to follow instructions
- Includes finings such as citric acid, yeast and others to clear the wine
- Perfect for newcomers to wine making
- Need to buy fruit and brewing container separate
9. Home Brew Online Standard Beer Starter Equipment Pack With Bottles
Our final review for the best home brewing kits comes from home brew online, and can be yours for £52.95.
This is an equipment only kit, so you’ll have to purchase the type of beer ingredients you want separately.
The fermentation bin will brew about 22 litres comfortably and has been bored so as to fit the little bottler that is also included in this kit. The little bottler will make it easier to transfer the beer from the fermentation bin to the brown plastic bottles, of which there are 40, all with screw tops.
A thermometer and hydrometer are provided for monitoring your home brew’s alcohol percentage and temperature, and steriliser to keep things from getting contaminated.
This kit comes with easy to follow instructions with first time brewers in mind.
- Priced well
- 23 litre fermentation bin is bored to fit little bottler
- Little bottler makes filling the bottles easier
- 40 brown plastic bottles included
- Thermometer and hydrometer to measure and monitor temperature and volume
- Still need to buy a beer kit
10. Youngs Beer Kits - Youngs Bitter Home Brew Kit
This beer could be ready in as little as ten days according to Youngs. I’ve never known that to be the case when making this delightful home brew.
I thought fitting we finish with a Youngs Beer Kits given we opened up with one : – The Youngs Bitter Home Brew Kit is simply put, one of the best bitter beer kits you’ll get your hands on in the UK. Not only is the bitter easy to brew, it’s full flavour and exceptional quality for something you can make at home. It’s a lovely session bitter and full of hoppy flavour but not really full steam dark bitter. You will be really well chuffed with your efforts if you give it time…Whilst Master Brew from Shepherd Neame is a far superior bitter, it’s that type of mild but flavourful session bitter.
This has to be as easy as it gets when it comes to home brew. Following literally a handful of clear instructions you’ll make pub quality beer in next to no time.
I always ferment for a minimum of ten days but Youngs suggest it could be as little as five days. My preference is to give it time. I then bottle and a minimal sugar. The result is a lovely full flavour mild bitter. I give it as long as I possibly can bottled. That’s the trick. Opening early never yields the same quality ( or at least it hasn’t for me up until this point!).
- Bargain at less than 50p a pint
- Very very easy to make following instructions that fit on a pack of cigarettes.
- Quality customer service you would expect from Youngs
- Always a good brew – never a bad one.
- Could be ready in as little as ten days !
- So good for the money it’s probably going to make you rink more than normal!
Best home brew kit buying FAQ’s
You’d be amazed the questioning I face over the brews I knock up in my garden shed. So rather than answering a ozen emails a week I thought I’d whittle that own an cover some of the basic questions most have when trying to buy the best home brew kit.
What is the cheapest way to make home brew?
Whilst not the most reliable, you could literally buy yourself a kit like the Youngs Bitter Home Brew Kit, get yourself a food safe container and some Milton tablets, and knock it. Then bottle into some old coke bottles with a little sugar. Whilst this isn’t going to yield the same results as simply following the instructions and using some decent Coopers bottles you’ll still end up with something worth drinking. That said, it does seem a bit of a shame to go to all that effort only to throw away your efforts on a few quid saving!
What is the best bitter you can brew?
In my mind, you can’t go wrong with the Youngs Bitter Home Brew Kit. Not only is it extremely well priced, it’s full of flavour, lovely and hoppy, but not totally overkill as to stop you having a good few beers. It’s definitely a session bitter, no question about that. And if we’re honest it needs to be. Brewing 45 pints and drinking one every few days probably doesn’t work out and defeats the home brew rationale somewhat.
What is the quickest I can make beer with a home brew kit?
Amazingly some home brew can be ready in as little as ten days. Whilst I disagree with this because I know from vast experience beers wants longer settling in a bottle after fermentation, I certainly do not argue the point that it is drinkable and safe to do so! I just merely point out a bitter or ale that ages a little longer is almost always of better flavour, with much of the yeast settling and falling away a couple of weeks later into the process.
What is the easiest to make home brew kit?
They are all shockingly easy. No more than a handful of clear and easy to follow instructions will fall on your lap, often on a piece of paper A5 sized, or simply printed onto the can of home brew concentrate itself. I wouldn’t pick one over another in terms of ease but I would say that I had excellent success with Youngs Premium Ale Kit – American India Pale Ale IPA earlier in my home brew days.
Well, there you go – the best home brewing kits reviewed for you complete with bullet points highlighting the best features. We hope this article was of some use to you and has helped guide you towards a more informed purchase. We have only reviewed products that should be easily affordable for most people, and tried to focus on brewing kits that good for complete beginners.