June 8thIn looking at the beer making kits, there were several choices starting from $39.99 with the Deluxe KitBeer Brewing) all the way to $149.99 for the Ultimate. I looked at what the Ultimate kit had and what I wanted, then started by selecting the Premium KitBeer Brewing) at $49.99, which was the next step up. They also had the free Ground UPS shipping special for Father's day, so I was glad to take advantage of that offer! Perfect for starting this Mr Beer review.
My shipment arrived in 2 modestly sized UPS boxes...
I couldn't wait to open them!!!
I took out the items on the packages and laid out the Mr. Beer Premium edition items to get a feel for what $50 gets you – not too bad but maybe a little light with one recipe.
After laying out the remaining items that I chose separately, the overall purchase seemed substantial, and looking at all the stuff I got for under $100, I thought it was a pretty good deal after all.
The instruction booklet is worth reading and has good information that can be devoured in half an hour.
While you could begin brewing by following the pictures right on the box, the reading gives you a good foundation as well as some ideas regarding ingredients and ways to augment flavor and increase alcohol content.
The Asian guy on the box is hilarious AND he appears to be Mr. Beer! You can find him on facebook, but I'll leave his name alone so noone bothers the guy. And the instructions on the packaging make it look super easy, but I'm going to pay close attention to the details and follow every step carefully.
I couldn't wait to get started brewing and writing my Mr Beer review, but Father's day is a week away and I had to repackage the items and wait.
June 20 - First batch setup
My family had other plans for me on Father's day, so I decided to start this Mr Beer review and cook up my first batch a day early on Saturday. I spent a good half hour reading the Brewer's Guide when I first received the packages, then skimmed through it for the remainder of the week prior to today's Mr Beer review. It's a very light but informative read and it becomes apparent quickly that sanitation is a hugely important element prior to brewing. Many of the problems associated with a bad batch are a direct result of unsuccessful sanitation, so I'm going to focus a good amount of energy when I get started.
I find a good time in the day when everything is quiet in the house and lay out my setup and get started on this Mr Beer review. I've assembled the tap for the brew keg and got a glass measuring cup, a can opener, a ceramic bowl and metal whisk along with my ingredients. I've also prepared my cooking pot on the stove top and took store bought Spring water out from the refrigerator, which I had stored there the night before. My house gets its water from a natural well, and a recent recommendation from a brewmaster at a local brewery claims that well water is a good source for beer making. But I filter my water and it gets pretty hard and orange. Since I don't want that in my beer, I'm going with the Spring water.
With all the importance on sanitation, Step 1 on the instruction guide is followed precisely. Fill the keg with warm water and add half a pack of their trademarked One-Step sanitizer. Swirl it around with the cap on then place all of your utensils in it. Pour out of the tap a few times and pour some of the solution in the bowl to sanitize it (this bowl will come in handy for housing the utensils in a sanitized spot). Let it sit for at least ten minutes, then pour out the solution. According to the guide, there's no need to rinse.
Now comes the brewing part, Step 2 on the instruction guide. First fill the keg with four quarts of cold water - this will help the keg keep its shape when the hot wort is poured in. During the ten minute wait for the sanitation to complete, I started warming up the beer mix on a small pot to make it pour better, just remember that there's an yeast package under the lid that needs to be removed.
Once the measuring cup has been sanitized, pour four cups of water into a clean pot - bigger than 3 quarts. The next step involves the Booster to be poured and dissolved. I'm usually not cool with corn based anything in my beer, but I'm keeping true to the recipe and it does need that additional alcohol. Currently, the mix will yield about 2.3% ABV, and the booster will add 1.4%, making the total alcohol content in the beer 3.7%. The booster takes some time to dissolve, so stir it in slowly and keep stirring until the clumps are dissolved and there are no translucent spots left, then bring it to a boil. Next up is the beer mix which is nice and warm now. Again, only using a sanitized can opener, open the mix and pour it into the wort after removing the pot from the heat source.
In the sink, I pour the wort into the keg and add cold water to fill the keg to the 8.5 quart mark, but I overshoot and pour in a little more water than necessary. The yeast packet awaits and is opened and poured into the mix. Tiny pellets of dry yeast send its surrounding material in the water running scared, they must know they will be devoured. Let the yeast sit for five minutes, then stir like crazy! The yeast forms bubbles that are awakened and alive!
That's almost it for this portion of the Mr Beer review! The brewing has been done and the keg is closed up. My wife suggests adding a little plastic film around the tap to protect it, and I paste on the temperature gage currently reading at 76. Over the next few days the gage reads steady at 74 and is nicely within the 68 to 76 degree Fahrenheit window. I find a nice spot right over the fridge to store the keg out of sunlight and am done in a matter of one and a half hours, and I only took this long to be extra careful in following the instructions and taking some photos along the way. The literature and advertisements sometimes say that it will be ready in as little as seven days, but further reading suggests optimal flavor at 14 days.
Since I want good beer, I'm taking the recommendation and letting it sit for two weeks before proceeding. So far, writing this Mr Beer review has been lots of fun!
July 4 - Bottling
In continuing with the Mr Beer review, I've let the brew ferment for two full weeks, I'm taking a good hour from this sunny Independence Day Saturday to bottle my beer and continue my Mr Beer review. At first glance the liquid in the keg looked clear, but it still had some cloudiness to it. To be sure that the brew is ready, the instruction guide suggests pouring a small amount of beer from the tap and tasting it - too sweet and it might benefit from another couple of days of fermentation - if it tastes like flat beer, it can be bottled. Luckily, my beer tastes just like that, flat beer!
Bottling takes the fermented beer and lets the fermentation continue in the bottle, allowing the flavor to mature. The added sugar is fermentable material that is what lets the bottled beer become carbonated.
I prepared all my materials to bottle outside on this gorgeous day and work on my Mr Beer review, and was excited to use some of the brewtensils I bought with the kit. I take a spoon with me as well, but the brewtensils worked out so well I didn't need it. On the table were the eight plastic bottles, the keg, the sugar, the brewtensils and the sanitizing mix.
The sanitation rules apply here as well, and you're instructed to pour the remaining half of the One-Step sanitizing solution into a gallon of water. Each of the eight bottles are filled half way then shaken vigorously and allowed to sit for ten minutes. The brewtensils are also sanitized in a ceramic bowl.
These 1 Liter plastic bottles require 2.5 teaspoons of white granulated sugar. According to their warning, too much sugar or bottling the beer early can cause overpressurization, making the bottles burst or gush, so measure it correctly! The measuring spoon that comes with the brewtesnils kit slides back and forth and is perfect for this task. There's a plastic cylinder that premeasures the sugar that also comes with the brewtensils, but I like the spoon much better. After all the bottles are filled with the right amount of sugar, it's time to pour the beer in.
Holding the bottles at an angle, the brew is poured in from the tap with about 2.5 inches from the top left empty. Once finished, they're going right back to the spot where the keg was brewing the beer, kept at that magic number of 74 degrees. The instructions urge to let sit for a minimum of seven days, but a fine print tip suggests that carbonation and flavor will be more pronounced if the bottles sit for two to three weeks. Since I want good beer, I'm letting it sit for three weeks. I've still got plenty of the store bought beer to hold me over while I finish writing this Mr Beer review!
July 25 - Cold Conditioning
Now that I've let the bottles ferment for three weeks, it's time for conditioning and continue with the Mr Beer review. Step 4 on the instruction guide mentions that the beer is carbonated and ready to drink, but adds that you may still want to condition it for weeks, even months!! Ok, I've been following their recommendations and let the keg ferment one week longer for the two full weeks, and let the bottles carbonate for an extra two weeks for a total of three weeks. I'm not going to drink this right away, but weeks to months seem too long to me, so I'm going to give it one week, cold conditioning it in the refrigerator.
I personally choose to cold condition all my good beers. Without science to back up my theory, I feel that the yeast works slower in colder temperatures and are able to more efficiently digest their fermentable materials, creating a smoother, thinner body with a higher but lighter alcohol feel.
The bottles appear firm due to the carbonation inside, therefore I'm assured that the carbonation process has worked. Four bottles are now in the downstairs fridge, three bottles are in my upstairs master bedroom fridge where I keep my private reserves, and mom-in-law taxed one bottle to condition in her in-law suite at the left wing of the house.
Next week, we have some friends coming up from North Carolina to spend the weekend, and it will be the perfect time to test out this brew and complete the Mr Beer review - of course I'll back up the experience with good quality beer, some private reserves, some sick tequila and maybe some margaritas and jello shots!
August 1 - Enjoying the Night!
Our friends from North Carolina finally came over and we were ready to rip and ignite! Everyone was ready to try out Mr Beer review, and I took out a few bottles as a prelude to an even longer evening filled with Mr Beer, tequila shots, margaritas and more beer!
We all stood around in anticipation, and the first sound we heard was the nice and strong sizzle made from the carbonation opening the bottle. The pour produced a lively straw colored brew with ambitious carbonation forming a fluffy white head. The aroma of the brew was clean and uplifting, and all of us had the very same reaction, "Hey, that's pretty good." As we kept drinking, we all would periodically repeat, "That's not bad at all!!" This Mr Beer review was easy to write.
The beer tasted surprisingly delicious, the buzz was pretty sweet, and the experience sent us all in an uplifting good mood.
This video does a good job demonstrating how easy Mr Beer is, and the process is done with none other than Brooklyn Brewery's own brewmaster, Garrett Oliver and his assistant Christopher Basso. I love the way Oliver takes a highbrow approach and pokes fun of the brewing process, but check out his reaction at the 2:21 minute mark!