It may seem strange that in a country with some of the best beers in the world anyone would brew at home. If your experience of 'homebrew' has been evil-tasting muck brewed from syrups in plastic dustbins for student parties you'll be even more puzzled about why there's an association dedicated to high-quality home brewing. Obviously home-brewed beer will be cheaper than shop- or pub-bought beer - but most members brew because it can be better and also because we can brew the beers we can't buy, such as a stunningly hoppy 6½% Victorian IPA. Brewing at home is just as natural as cooking at home. Restaurant meals and draught ale in pubs are a nice change from home-made, but many commercial filtered and pasteurised beers in the shops have about the same gourmet qualities as a pot noodle.

If you'd like a description of just how good home-brewed ale can be, the following description by Susan Nowak, author of the Beer Cook Book, will give you a good idea of what they used to taste like.

"The other night I drank a glass of 1860 porter. It was quite superb, a powerful black brew at 6.4% strength bursting with the aroma of roast barley and the most chocolatey flavour I have ever found in a porter. Only it wasn't brewed in 1860 - any beer brewed 150 years ago would almost certainly be undrinkable - but in the past year or so by Vic Waters, one of a group of enthusiasts dedicated to tracking down old beer recipes. Better still, they then brew and bottle them, so I was actually sipping, with deep appreciation, a little bit of living history. I went on to taste an Imperial Russian Stout, at 7.5% as complex as a fine brandy, with a wonderful sweet 'n' sour palate of butterscotch and Marmite. This one actually was quite old because it was brewed nine years ago, as close as possible to the style of stout brewed in London around 1900 for export to the Russian Czars. The strongest I tasted that night was a mind-boggling 12.5%, yeasty, fruity with flavours to drown in; the aroma alone was enough to make your knees buckle... It was a Majority Ale which originated when the brewery-owning landed gentry saved a cask of its strongest ale brewed after an heir was born, and saved it to be drunk at his 21st birthday."