My tips for brewing with a Mr Beer starter kit

Craft beer and home brewing is a booming industry. It’s no surprise that at least one company has been successful selling simple, easy to use starter kits aimed primarily at the gift market. I may be talking about you, who last Christmas received a MrBeer kit from an aunt in Philadelphia or some other beer mecca. My advice? Try it! If you haven’t brewed and don’t currently own more sophisticated equipment, you have no excuse not to. That being said, it will be highly advantageous to enhance the basic kit with some simple upgrades to make your first or fifteenth batch more likely to succeed. I would also recommend brewing a style you enjoy drinking. I realize aunt Mary may not know you’re a certified hophead and erringly get you a kit for a Pilsner. Extreme cases aside, there’s opportunity for tasty beer. If you have the choice, the Diablo IPA and Northwest Pale Ale kits are nicely flavored starting points.

Before I go any further, I realize the hardcore beer snobs have already tuned out. Not a problem, although at some level I share a bit of their snobbery I’m not above my roots and anything that gets people to try brewing is a GREAT idea. If you find you love brewing, you will quickly outgrow the MrBeer setup. However, as I can testify, it will remain useful for side batches, special projects and experimenting. Cheers…

The first thing I would upgrade is the method of sanitizing your equipment. It may seem simple, but aside from infections, improper temperatures and not paying attention to the process and recipe, not much else is likely to trip you up. I am slightly religious about StarSan and would recommend picking up a small bottle at your local homebrew shop. It’s not so much that the included packets don’t work, but the minor cost far outweighs the chance of a ruined batch.

Secondly and to me, the most important aspect to upgrade would be the hops. Although their advanced recipes almost always include the addition of pelletized hops, the starter kits do not include them and rely on the liquid malt extract being prebittered. Even if you are content with the listed IBU bitterness rating for the kit, for many styles I would recommend the simple addition of 1 ounce flavor(15 minutes left in the boil) and 1 ounce of aroma(1 minutes left in the boil) hops. I also tend to dry hop (added ~7 days before bottling) every beer I brew, even in the case where it’s categorically discouraged. This may not be stylistically appropriate in all cases… but I am called MrHops for a reason. Single ounces of hops can be purchased at your local homebrew store and usually cost less than $3.00. You can often discover which hops are used in the brewing of your favorite beers through the brewer’s website and use that as a starting place for selecting strains.

The third upgrade is more optional than recommended for your first batch. Although it will most likely make your beer taste better, it complicates and prolongs the process a bit. Adding a couple pounds of specialty grains to the wort can really improve your beer in nearly every aspect. I would try steeping, ie just using the grains as a tea, to extract color and flavor, and not to attempt the much more complicated process of extracting fermentables (mashing). As an added bonus, grains are typically very inexpensive.

The final upgrade is highly recommended depending mostly on how long you think your kit has been sitting around. Yeast does not age well at room temperature. Additionally, the yeast included in the MRBeer kits is generic and may not exactly fit the style you’re brewing. Although a couple dollars more than dry yeast, I’ve become a big fan of Wyeast‘s liquid smackpacks. The puffing of the package is a solid indication of viable cells. You can either research the appropriate strain to buy online or just ask the attendant at the store.

I think anyone with a love for craft beer and a basic understanding of cooking should try their hand at home brewing. MRBeer kits are a very easy and inexpensive way to find out if you enjoy making beer. Happy hopping!

Link to part two of this article: Revising the Mr Beer starter kit brewing schedule

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About mrhopsbeertalk
Avid homebrewer and craft beer taster. I love all the hops I can get. #hops #ipa #iipa #ipl #porter #dipa #specialtyale #saison #craftbeer western mass · mrhopsbeertalk.wordpress.com

6 Responses to My tips for brewing with a Mr Beer starter kit

  1. bolanrox says:

    May have to give one of these a go this year, they almost always sell pretty cheap by me, and I do have a few local home brew shops. I know I don’t have the time or space to do anything more serious at home (thankfully have a Brother in law for that) but this could be fun just to mess around with

  2. Pingback: Revising the Mr Beer starter kit brewing schedule | @mrhopsbeertalk

  3. Pingback: 14 batches of home brew later I’m a fiend for fresh beer @Slumbrew @Wyeastlab @Weyerbacher @sixpoint @SierraNevada | Mr Hops Beer Talk

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