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Bucket to bottle - here's how we made our own homebrew in TheJournal.ie office

TheJournal.ie, The42.ie and DailyEdge.ie were let loose to make their own office homebrew.

BACK IN SEPTEMBER, the staff in Journal Media – encompassing both journalists from our three titles TheJournal.ie, The42.ie and DailyEdge.ie as well as the tech and commercial teams – started a whole new chapter of their lives.

They started brewing their own beer.

Split into three teams, competing against each other to make the best Christmas ale possible, they all got to grips with airlocks, siphons, hydrometers, gallons-strong buckets and all that’s in between.

All the work was to take place in the office kitchen, as part of the Smithwick’s Homebrew Challenge – and everyone wanted their title to win.

Let’s see how it went…

Brew day

In any homebrew adventure, the brew day is day zero. All of your equipment is sanitised, your water, yeast, malt, hops added and things get underway. Of course, this is a lot easier said than done – especially for a group of absolute beginners.

TheJournal.ie‘s – henceforth known as Journale – team melted down a milk chocolate bar and threw it into their bucket. (NB this does not come recommended by experts. More on that later.)


DailyEdge.ie (or DaleyEdge) added some fresh espresso and an extra 500g of sugar.


The42.ie (AKA Brew 42) went for an infusion of fresh Mandarin orange peel, and also decided to dry-hop their bucket a week later.


brew3 CEO of Journal Media, Adrian Acosta

When it was all over, the buckets and their precious cargo were placed in a storage area just off the office kitchen to keep them at a stable temperature and safely away from the sun’s rays.

And now to wait…

Brewing with the kits we used takes 2 to 3 weeks. Check-ins on the buckets took place regularly though, of course – in fact, Journal Media homebrewers reported going into the storage room to “gaze maternally” at the carbon dioxide bubbling out of the airlocks.


Bottling day

After waiting for the yeast do to its job and ferment all our lovely malt into ale, it was time to bottle.


Bottles, like everything else in the brewing process, need to be sanitised. In came the office dishwasher. (Don’t tell the Operations Manager.)



A teaspoon of sugar was meticulously placed inside each 550ml brown glass bottle. This gives the yeast some more to work with, but the CO2 this time cannot escape via the airlock and remains in the bottle, causing it to carbonate. Then it’s time to siphon from the bucket.


Bottling was a messy business – but made a lot easier with the graft of teamwork.

42 Some lads from The42.ie get bottling


yua Editor of The42.ie Adrian Russell and TheJournal.ie reporter Christina Finn bottle it

Now was another wait until our grand finale a couple of weeks later… Drumroll please… The tasting.

Expert opinions

But before we find out how the three Christmas ales tasted, we asked some expert opinions on the various flavour combinations that DailyEdge.ie, The42.ie and TheJournal.ie went for.

On DaleyEdge, President of the National Homebrew Club Thomas Carroll commented:

“Fresh espresso? I’d be very interested to see how that turns out. More sugar means that beer might come out with a higher ABV.”

On Brew 42, a beer specialist and Pilot Brewery staff member noted:

That could be quite nice. The fact the pith was used might mean the beer is a little drying on the palate, or a bit bitter, and give it less of a head.

On Journale, brewer at St James’s Gate Natasha Alves said:

” MILK chocolate? That beer’s going to be horrible, sorry. Chocolate has oil… You could probably get… I don’t know, maybe a rancid flavour or something.”

In fact, all three of our beer experts were quite damning about the addition of milk chocolate to TheJournal.ie‘s bucket…

And this was confirmed with a layer of fatty deposits at the top of their brew, which was scooped off twice.


busa Business Editor Peter Bodkin checks the damage

Excitement turned to mild trepidation for some of our office homebrewers. How would it all turn out?

The first cautious test

One week before the official tasting, an impromptu gathering in the kitchen took place to ensure the bottles were all carbonating successfully. No one was more surprised than the brewing team members to find that everything was going to plan – and actually tasted quite decent…

Party on

Design gurus on each team worked up special labels for the bottles, and that was the last job to be done and dusted. Oh, except for – saving the best til last – the group tasting of the fruit of our weeks of effort.


As luck had it, the finish line of the brewing project coincided with Journal Media’s fifth birthday. A big bash was planned to incorporate pizza, birthday cake – and the house’s own hand-brewed Christmas ale. Not too shabby eh?



Next up was a blind taste test.

fah Daragh Brophy tries his hand at tasting some brews


As the homebrewing undertaking was definitely a competition at heart, all the teams were rightly eager to see who had come out on top. A selection of each of the ales was presented to a representative from each department in the office. As you can see, it was taken extremely serious by the participants…

And the results were in:


Journale stormed away with it! Twist: turns out melting milk chocolate into your beer won’t ruin its chances at success. Just don’t try this at home, eh?

(We jest – you definitely should. Find out more details on starting your own homebrew adventure below, and stay tuned to find out the names of the two finalists in the Smithwick’s Homebrew Challenge.)

Now read: Meet the people who brew Ireland’s beer – from just a few bottles to enough pints to supply the country>

Next: 6 things you never knew about Irish beer>

Next: 7 handy tips to get you started with homebrewing>

If youwould like further information about the Smithwick’s Challenge visit www.smithwickshomebrewchallenge.ie or to learn more about homebrewing and to pick up some tips visit www.nationalhomebrewclub.ie

Happy brewing!

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