First of all, I have to mention that this is a paid review, solicited from me via ReviewMe.com, a service that I recently registered for after seeing it mentioned by Alan at A Good Beer Blog. I am admittedly a little bit torn on the ethics of this, as after spending years as a music reviewer and DJ, I’m worried about anything that might be construed as payola. But ReviewMe has a policy that all paid reviews that are posted must be identified as such which makes the process more transparent. I guess you can therefore consider this review – and any that might follow – to be sort of like infomercials, except they may not always be glowingly positive. I might be getting paid for this, but not enough for me to lie about something if I hate it. And besides, I’ll just end up spending the pittance on beer, which will mean more content for you to read and enjoy, so everybody wins!
Now, then: I’ve been asked to give my thoughts on Homebrew 4U, a website in the UK that sells supplies and equipment for homebrewing of beer, wine and cider. Now, I am at a bit of a disadvantage here because:
1) I’ve never homebrewed myself; and
2) I don’t live in the UK.
That being said, I do know a bit about website design, and Homebrew 4U looks pretty nice. The front page is informational without being too busy, and the inclusion of an option to change between small and large fonts is a nice touch. The only real design turn-off for me is the use of stock photos in the top banner and the left sidebar, but that’s just personal preference.
As for the contents of the site, the main area is the online shop which is well organized into logical categories (Beer Kits, Wine Kits, Cider Kits, etc.). However, the stock and selection seem to be oriented primarily towards novice homebrewers who aren’t especially adventurous: for example, the only beer kits available are for lager and bitter, and they’re of the “just add water & sugar” variety. Perhaps they should consider branching out into selling hops, malt and other supplies for the more serious homebrewer that prefers to create their own recipes.
The site also features a Homebrew Advice Forum, although the only post is a “welcome to the forum” message from a couple of weeks ago, so it’s not that useful at the moment. Maybe it will pick up as the site gets more established, but if all they’re selling is starter kits, I’m not sure how they’ll be able to attract experts to give some advice to the newbies.
The final section of the site is Homebrew Resources, which features some fairly rudimentary information on how beer and wine are made, although again they are oriented towards a novice making beer or wine using a starter kit, so most if the info won’t be of much use to someone looking to move up to using raw ingredients and more unique recipes. For that, they’ll have to turn to some homebrewing books, which are helpfully offered for sale in this section via links to amazon.co.uk
All in all, Homebrew 4U looks to be a decent site for folks in the UK who are looking to take their first steps into homebrewing. The site is simple to navigate and the selection looks to be sufficient for beginners. But it’s probably not of much interest to people outside of the UK, or more experienced homebrewers who are looking for a supplier for their next batch of Imperial Stout or Double IPA.