Homebrewers love talking about craft beer so here is all the latest craft beer news, all in one easy to read Craft Beer Blog. This blog is where the team collects craft beer tasting notes, favorite Mr. Beer recipes by season, answers brewing questions, and tackle beer topics they feel haven't been dealt with yet.
You have a wondrously-varied collection of kits to choose from if you are just cracking into the beer making game. I thought I’d help you out and give you the lay of the land.
The goal here is to give an honest and thorough comparison of all the beer making kits out there that are targeted at the absolute beginner. I would disagree with that categorization for some of these kits according to my own experience, but I will be fair and categorize according to the kit maker’s intention. Following the same logic, if the business does not list them as a starter kit, you won’t find them here.
I have chosen to only assess kits available from the maker directly. If you must hunt them down at a brick-and-mortar retailer, they’ve been disqualified. If they can only be purchased from some iffy third-party online, they’re out. We want accessibility and a direct connection in case of mishaps. Personally, I always feel much better knowing I bought from the business that made the kit and can get the support I need no matter what. If you disagree, comment below and I can always modify the comparison to best fit what you folks need.
Factors I Considered:Ease of Use
Though some beginners will want the full experience from the moment they first brew, many aren’t interested in the hours of effort that all-grain brewing demands. Any masterful brewer will tell you that extract, steeping, mini-mashing/partial mash, and all-grain are simply methods – flavor will not be impacted. In fact, many expert brewers will build an incredible all-grain recipe, only to modify it for extract so that they can cut off the hours of work all-grain takes. If some dingus has threatened that extract doesn’t taste the same, we suggest you read here, and ignore that noise. Choose what you can truly start comfortably with, or else you’ll get burnt out.
Batch size will rely upon the amount of space you have to brew, how frequently you’d like to jump into another batch, the “risk” of experimenting with larger batches, and how rapidly you are likely to consume your batch. Most kits are offered in 1-gallon and 5-gallon batch sizes. More kit makers are opting for 1-gallon kits. Much of the fun of homebrewing is experimentation, and with experimentation can come mishaps. So, 1-gallon batches can feel much more forgiving than a big ol’ 5-gallon batch. But if you are of the go-big-or-go-home mentality – go for it!
This one is crucial as we enter the era of fancy, automatic, beer-making machines. If you have lots of money to invest in your beer making, you could always purchase a machine that does the work for you. However, if your goal is to learn the process, an automatic device would not be ideal. The kits I show here range from $40.00 to $2,499.00.
Also Worth Considering:
Beer Styles Offered
Most beginner kits come with a batch of beer in one of their most popular beer styles to start you. Before you make the big purchase, you may want to verify that either there is a beginner kit in your favorite beer style, or that you can opt for an affordable equipment kit and add a beer of your choosing in your order.
Will You Have to Siphon/Rack Your Beer?
It’s that step where you use gravity to pull your beer into another vessel for bottling, kegging, secondary fermentation, etc. Racking requires a long-ish cane (maybe tubing) and a way to stagger the heights of the fermenter and second vessel. It’s easy enough, but like any added step it gives another opportunity for contamination, oxidation, or loss of later head retention. If you are a particularly cautious beginner, you may want to opt for a kit that skips this step altogether.
Kits that skip racking: Mr. Beer kits, BrewDemon kits, More Beer 5 Gallon kits, and the automated systems (BrewArt, Brewie+, and Pico Brew).
If you have a reserve of clean 12 oz. glass bottles at home for reusing and find a kit with a capper, this won’t matter to you. But if not, you’ll want to be sure you aren’t caught without bottles on bottling day.
Kits that offer bottles and all: Mr. Beer Complete kits, BrewDemon Plus & Extra Kits, Craft a Brew Gift Packages, and Northern Brewer’s Limited Edition Gift Set.
Looking for ways to keep your fall and winter beers bold and inviting? Bring some coffee into the mix! Whether you intend to make a beer that only features coffee alongside other notes, or a beer that is big on java flavor, we’ll give you tips on how to achieve the beer you want.
Important tip: You can bring coffee flavor to your beer with coffee or without.
Dark beers like stouts and porters are already brewed with toasted/roasted malts to impart flavor and creaminess. Those deep-roasted grains often give stouts and porters coffee-like flavors. Roasted barley has long been a coffee substitute because of the similarity in aroma and body that the grain has to roasted coffee beans. So, if you’re hesitant to start testing with coffee, bringing in roasted grains with big coffee aroma is a smart move.
How strong? How much coffee should be used?
I know you loathe this answer, but the best thing to do is experiment with some batches while keeping an exact record.
If you decide you want to integrate the coffee early on in the brewing process, using two of our one-gallon fermenters to split a 2 gallon batch is a clean and clever way to get the job done.
If you would rather add the coffee in during bottling, simply split your bottles into groups with different coffee variables to test.
Using more coffee will mean more pronounced flavors and aromas, while using too much will leave you with a big batch of carbonated joe. Test, test, test.
Which beer styles do well with coffee?
Folks tend to think of stouts and porters when they consider a style that accommodates coffee well. These dark beers are already strong-flavored as it is because of all those roasted grains, so expect to use more coffee to strike the right balance. Otherwise, the coffee is likely to get muted by the beer’s other notes.
Do not be discouraged to branch out in terms of style. Cream Ales and even Pale Ales can be deliciously flavored with coffee. These beer styles will call for less coffee and some gentle finessing when it comes to when you add your coffee and which coffee you choose. You’ll want to be sure you don’t derail the beer from the style’s intended flavor profile. Also remember that coffee bitterness and hop bitterness are likely to butt heads, especially in a hoppier beer. This will mean striking a balance between your hop and your coffee of choice so that the notes don’t clash.
Coffee type will greatly affect the flavor, mouthfeel, head retention and hops usage in your beer. If you use a strong coffee, such as a French Roast or some espresso, you can expect a richer coffee flavor. Lighter coffee blends like Guatemala Antigua or Sumatra will give your beer subtler coffee flavor.
Be aware that darker roast coffees can provide a higher oil content from the longer periods of roasting that released those flavor/aroma oils. Those oils are sure to add richness and creaminess to the beer’s mouthfeel, but they can reduce head retention.
As previously mentioned, hops and coffee can both impart bitterness, so you’ll want to control your IBUs when working with a stronger coffee. When brewing with our hopped malt extract, you’ll want to find one with slightly lower IBUs (think five or eight IBUs lower) than the style you wish to achieve. If you are a fan of bitter beers, then ignore this bit altogether and brew what you enjoy.
Beans? Ground? Prepared Coffee?
Many brewers feel that using freshly-brewed espresso or coffee will add the best flavor to your beer. That’s how folks are advised to add their coffee to our Sunday Morning Coming Down Coffee Stout recipe, and it’s got excellent reviews. A fresh brew is sure to bring out the best in your bean of choice while eliminating the extra steps of sacking and sanitation that beans or grounds would require.
For those who prefer cold brew coffee and the less-acidic flavor that it imparts, creating a toddy for your beer is very simple. Steep your coffee grounds in a muslin sack in cold water for 24-48 hours. Then, remove the grounds and use the remaining cold brew to add to your beer.
Just be sure that your store your brewed coffee, espresso, or cold brew in a sanitized vessel before it gets added to your beer.
No matter what you choose, you’ll want the freshest coffee available. By that we mean no instant coffee or canned coffee. Freeze-dried coffees just cannot bring the intended flavor or aroma you’re looking for and have allegedly contributed off-flavors to beer in the past.
When do I add the coffee?
Coffee can be added at any point in the process: when you heat up your extract, when you move the beer to your fermenter, or when you are bottling. All of these will provide different coffee character. However, in our experience, adding coffee while bottling your beer yields the best results. With Sunday Morning Coming Down, we direct brewers to add a shot of espresso or coffee with the priming sugar before adding beer to your bottles. Adding your coffee early in the process may mean that the coffee characteristics dissipate by the time your beer finished, while some brewers may find that beer added during bottling is too strong for them. Testing will be required.
FYI: Using coffee in your beer should not increase fermentation or conditioning times.
If this blog has piqued your interest about brewing with a new ingredient, we’ve done our job! We wish you many delectable coffee brews in your future. Any questions or pointers you need addressed on your next batch can be passed along to email@example.com or over the phone at 1-800-852-4263.
TUCSON, Ariz., Oct. 29, 2018 – Mr. Beer began their campaign to make homebrewing accessible, affordable, and flavorful in 1993. Twenty-five years later, those just starting to make their own beer still recognize Mr. Beer as the ideal homebrewing kit to begin the hobby. Today numerous breweries across the United States are headed by brewmasters who started with a Mr. Beer Kit. Mr. Beer secured their position as the petite-but-powerful homebrew kit by making large improvements to their product and staying in tune with their brewers across their 25-year history.
As early as 1999, Mr. Beer improved upon their original two-gallon fermenter design. The first fermenter had a clear plastic body and stood upright. The model that replaced it resembled a little brown keg, keeping light off the fermenting wort and collecting sediment or “trub” from fermentation in its curved base. This smart advancement, now affectionately named the “LBK” for Little Brown Keg, is still Mr. Beer’s most popular fermenter. While many fermenters have been added to the Mr. Beer lineup since, the LBK remains a top-seller because of its lightweight, unbreakable design which assists in clarifying the beer and preventing skunking.
In 2012, the malt extract in every kit took a large leap in quality when Coopers Brewery of Australia acquired Mr.Beer. Coopers, the largest Australian-owned brewery, began providing Mr. Beer with hopped malt extract made with their own world class malt. Mr. Beer continues to be the only homebrewing kit with malt extract provided by a brewery.
Just 2 years ago, Mr. Beer recognized the growing interest in more intermediate homebrewing recipes, adding several “partial mash” recipes to their typically extract-only collection. As recently as last month, “steeping with specialty grains” homebrew kits were added to the Mr. Beer store in small one-gallon batches for new brewers who want “more hands-on experience with the ingredients that build their favorite craft beers,” said VP of Sales and Marketing Patrick Bridges.
Last month’s kit release also marked the occasion for the first glass fermenter ever included in a Mr. Beer kit in their history. Though the kit maker hasn’t turned entirely away from their durable and lightweight plastic fermenters, they see the increased desire for glass and the opportunity to better witness the beer’s fermentation.
Mr. Beer’s receptivity to the desires of both their loyal community of brewers and those eager to begin homebrewing has secured them their place as a household name for simple beer making kits. Encouraging homebrewing as an opportunity for creativity & experimentation, a hobby with community, and a chance to share with friends & family proved successful for Mr. Beer. The next 25 years will no doubt mean more shrewd product releases and modifications from the Mr. Beer team, all of which can be tracked from their frequently-refreshed homepage at www.mrbeer.com.
It’s that time of year again when we crave bold, boozy, and indulgent beers that warm us in the colder weather. Pastry stouts made a large impression last winter, with vocal critics and fans popularizing this new name for a recognizable stout sub-category that consumers were loving.
To be completely clear, “pastry beer” and “pastry stout” aren’t beer styles – you will not find them in the BJCP Guidelines. They are terms the craft beer community has formulated to refer to beers that resemble our favorite sweets and pastries. Sweet stout would be the closest BJCP style. Though pastry stouts do mimic sweets, they do not or rather do not have to contain pastry ingredients to qualify.
Flavoring a Pastry Stout
The best commercial examples come from breweries that are light-handed with the flavorful adjuncts they use to prevent the sugar bomb flavor that occurs when this beer type is taken too literally. Ideally, there is only a suggestion of flavor and the drinker has an experience stringing together the notes and finding the special flavor.
The sign of a truly expert pastry stout is that one that still resembles the classic stout style it was made after even with the added sugar content and flavorings. The goal of smart homebrewing is to keep some semblance of balance intact while tuning different flavors and aromas up. Beware the pastry stout that tastes like a busy, overwhelming home candle has overrun your palate.
The intention is to brew a stout that provides a dessert-like experience. Sip on a creamy German Chocolate Cake beer after your meal instead of treating yourself to a slice.
Make no mistake, we are all about stouts loaded with cocoa nibs, vanilla, coconut, chiles, cherries, berries, and all sorts of spices – we just advise you to not let your sweet tooth lead you to overwhelm your batch.
Our favorite Mr. Beer pastry stouts are:
Calavera Spiced Chile Stout – fashioned after rich Mexican hot cocoa
We add Poblano or Ancho chile, cinnamon, vanilla bean, and cacao nibs to this one.
Smitten Bovine Milk Stout – fashioned after a black forest cake
We add red tart cherries, milk sugar, and cacao nibs to this one.
Barley’s Chocolate Orange Stout – fashioned after those chocolate oranges you break into portions
We add fresh oranges and unsweetened chocolate to this one.
Brew for Your Sweet Tooth
There are frightfully smug blogs out there claiming that pastry stouts are sending the whole craft beer industry back in terms of progress because they aren’t leading craft beer drinkers forward with a more discerning palate, blah, blah. Mr. Beer is all about giving brewers access to the ingredients and ideas that excite them, and the flavors they crave. Please brew however you like and make all the pastry-inspired beer you want. We won’t judge. In fact, we encourage you to deconstruct one of your favorite sweets to bring to life with your next brew.
I know that you’ve seen these buzzwords emblazoned across cans and bottles in your local beer spot many times. In fact, I am confident that you are seeing more “wet hop” and “fresh hop” beers at this time because the hop harvest season just finished. Let’s unpack what the big deal is.
“Hop” Beers vs. “Hopped” Beers
I continue to see and hear “fresh hopped”, “wet hopped,” and “dry hopped” used side by side, so when I set out to get smart about hops, I assumed they were all processes for hopping your beer. Incorrect. Only dry hopping is a process.
So, if you want to get this right, there are fresh hop beers, wet hop beers, and dry hopped (or double dry hopped) beers.
Fresh & wet hop beers are beer that contain fresh or wet hops. (hop as noun)
Dry hopped beers are beers that have had a hop addition after the boil – they are named after the process of dry hopping. (hop as verb)
(Please, feel free to now correct people who are confusing the bejesus out of all of us by saying “fresh hopped” and “wet hopped” – k thanks.)
Fresh & Wet Hop Beers
Late August through September mark the hop harvest, when all those delicious hop cones are processed for the year. This is the beginning of the flood of fresh and wet hop beer releases.
Not that it would ever be an issue for an enthusiastic hop fan, but fresh and wet hop beers are meant to be enjoyed as soon as possible since the beer inside expires quickly. All the flavor and aroma those luscious cones impart can begin to break down.
Both fresh and wet hop beers are brewed during or very shortly after the harvest season to capture the aroma and flavor of the hop at its peak. The Brewers Association Style Guidelines define fresh or wet hop beer as beer “hopped predominantly with fresh (newly harvested and kilned) and/or undried (‘wet’) hops.” Fresh and wet hops are said to impart “green or chlorophyll-like” aroma and flavor to the finished beer.
Wet hops = newly harvest & unkilned hops; picked from the bine and placed in the kettle within 24 hours – brewers often have to have them overnighted
Fresh hops = newly harvest & kilned hops; picked from the bine and placed in the kettle within the week
Dry Hopped & Double Dry Hopped Beers
Hops are usually added during the boil to draw out the alpha acids that give that bitter hop flavor. Brewers might also use hops during the last 5-10 minutes of the boil to enhance aroma, though this technique can still cause you to lose aromatic oils.
Dry hopping means adding hops after the boil and after fermentation. Its purpose is to boost hop aroma without also boosting hop bitterness. Hop bitterness tends to emerge when hops are added during the boil, as the aromatics and oils are breaking down. When dry hopping, hops are left to soak in the finished beer for several days to several weeks. As for which hops to use? That’s another blog altogether.
Double dry hopped beer, often labeled with “DDH” tends to be a bit more ambiguous in its definition. Double dry hopping can mean either that a beer has been dry hopped twice (in two “charges”) or hopped with twice as many hops. Even if a brewery does not offer a single dry hopped version of a beer, DDH can be a descriptor when they double the quantity of hops per barrel that they would use for a single dry hopped beer.
Now that these terms are straight, go forth and select new hoppy releases with confidence. You’ll sound smart, and you’ll know what sort of hop aroma and flavor to expect.
TUCSON, Ariz., Oct. 6, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Mr. Beer has just rolled out a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Pinot Grigio making kit developed to be accessible for beginners yet yield delicious finished wine. Though Mr. Beer is known for beer kits, cider kits, and even root beer kits, this will be their first time offering a one-gallon wine kit.
Mr. Beer’s foray into winemaking kits demonstrates the same attention to simplicity for which they are known with their popular beer kits. The fermenter is glass, holds a small one-gallon batch, and features a spigot for easy bottling. Each kit comes with the corresponding grape juice, oak for the Cabernet Sauvignon, wine yeast and a careful collection of fining ingredients to ensure the color, body and aroma of each finished wine are excellent. Effortlessly-applied corks are also included. In less than 60 minutes, home wine vintners can expect to be finished with the initial process to initiate fermentation.
Though wine vintning will call for more waiting or aging time than Mr. Beer brewers are typically used to, the time spent actively preparing the wine is swift and efficient. Taste testing and aging the wine are welcome parts of the winemaking process, as each home vintner will age their Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Grigio to their tastes.
“Choosing the components for these kits called for taste testing from our whole team here,” VP of Sales & Marketing, Pat Bridges, shares. “The time spent tasting each wine progress allowed us to feel confident that we are offering up wine kits that will wow first-timers making their own wine.” Bridges is also confident that the small, glass fermenter will prove helpful. “You can watch your wine ferment, clarify, and change all in this small fermenter that will be easy to store, no matter your space,” Bridges says.
Mr. Beer’s wine kit comes in Cabernet Sauvignon for red wine drinkers and Pinot Grigio for fans of white wine. Individual refills for each will be released by November on the Mr. Beer website. The two kits will be available from retailers such as Target, Macy’s, and Bed Bath & Beyond in October. Prices will range from $49.99 to $59.95. Both kits are currently available at https://www.mrbeer.com/beer-making-kits/other-kits/wine-making-kits and on Amazon.
TUCSON, Ariz., Sept. 26, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — This month, Mr. Beer releases three new beer-making kits, which boast a one-gallon glass fermenter and feature recipes with extract and specialty grains. The new kits spotlight smaller batches with a bit more process for even more flavor.
The kit’s exclusive one-gallon glass fermenter allows a clear view of fermentation for curious brewers, plus a spigot for easy bottling without the need for a racking cane. At one gallon, half the usual size of Mr. Beer’s popular LBK fermenter, small batches mean frequent opportunities for brewing experimentation without the imposing responsibility of a larger volume.
This will be the first time Mr. Beer has launched a starter kit with a more advanced beginner recipe. To offer more contact with grains and hops for first-time brewers, Mr. Beer adapted extract recipes that call for the steeping of specialty grains – allowing for additional aroma, taste and body in the finished beer. Mr. Beer’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Patrick Bridges, says of the new kits, “Today’s brewer wants more hands-on experience with the ingredients that build their favorite craft beers, and we realized that even a small choice like bringing in specialty grains would allow for that experience without demanding more equipment, a larger time dedication or too much complication.” Bridges emphasizes the need to stay true to the Mr. Beer brand, saying, “This is a Mr. Beer Kit – we want to keep it accessible, flavorful and enjoyable.”
Mr. Beer is synonymous with simple and straightforward homebrewing, so as with all their kits to date, this starter kit brews beer in 60 minutes, is easy to follow and can easily be adapted to fit the brewer’s progressing abilities.
The initial kit offering includes three popular beer styles: Thunder Bay IPA, Shock the Moon Wheat and American Lager. More will be added throughout the year with the priority of including only the freshest ingredients. These one-gallon starter kits will be available at leading retailers such as Target and Bed Bath & Beyond in December. Prices range from $39.99 to $44.95. The kits are available now at https://www.mrbeer.com/beer-making-kits/1-gallon-kits and Amazon.
Malt extract, in particular liquid malt extract or LME, is known to create a darker finished beer because it is a concentrated product created with heat and low water content. It allows for the brewer to skip the time- and attention- intensive processes of mashing and sparging, since these processes are completed to create extract. A wort is made through mashing and sparging, then concentrated down to a thick syrup (for LME, powder for DME) by boiling off most of the water.
Many malt makers boil the wort under vacuum pressure to keep the boiling point of the water low, but the time, heat and reduced water content will darken the melanoidins, or primary coloring agents, in the wort. Therefore, even malt extract made with very light-colored malts will be darker than a comparable all-grain wort made from the same malt. This can cause a challenge when brewing very pale beers such as Kölsch with malt extract.
1. Do Not Caramelize Partially-Dissolved Malt Extract
As you pour liquid malt extract into hot water, it does not dissolve evenly or instantly. It instead needs to be stirred to combine with the water because it is thick like molasses. Small, caramelly blobs of extract can remain, even after attentive stirring. If the bottom of the pot your cooking in is hot, those small blobs can caramelize onto the bottom of the pot. Scorching extract onto the bottom of the pot is sure to darken the wort.
To avoid darkening your extract brew, be sure to turn off the heat before stirring extract into the water. You will want to stir until you no longer see small partially-dissolved blobs of extract in your wort, then continue to stir for about a minute for good measure.
2. Do a Partial Mash or Steep using DME
Dry malt extract undergoes similar processes to liquid malt extract, however even more water is removed, allowing it to stay fresher and store longer. Brewing with dry malt extract also provides a lighter finished beer than brewing with liquid malt extract. Many brewers choose to start with a very light-colored dry malt extract then mash or steep specialty grains until the proper color is achieved.
3. Be Sure Your Extract is Fresh
Fresh and properly-stored liquid malt extract is crucial for achieving a lighter finished beer. The older liquid malt extract gets, and the more it is exposed to heat/warmth, the darker the melanoidins in the extract become. If you want to be confident that your beer will stay on the lighter end of the spectrum, you’ll want to be sure the Best By date on your extract is far off and you are storing it in proper conditions.
Though even with all of these smart tips at your disposal, it’s important to remember that lightening your beer will not make it any more flavorful or refreshing. It’s a greater priority to choose the right extract for the style of beer you wish to brew, than for the color you believe it should have.
While homebrew or extract “twang” is a term in circulation, any cursory glance over a homebrew message board will reveal that some brewers believe in it, and some do not.
Some brewers claim to notice it in varying severities across different brews, but guaranteed cause-and-effect connections aren’t made. Simply put, the fact that this twang is not present in every extract batch indicates that it is not characteristic of extract brewing.
It seems common knowledge that when working with liquid malt extract (LME), freshness is paramount, as oxidation of the extract will create off-flavors. However, there are distinct brew factors that seasoned brewers will suggest as culprits for off-flavors before they blame the idea of extract twang.
Likely Culprits for Twang in Your Beer:
Be sure to locate the best-by date of the extract you’re purchasing and store the extract according to the temperatures and times given on the packaging. If not, you run the risk of oxidizing the extract, which could certainly produce an off-flavor.
Inadequate Sanitization Not sanitizing each utensil that touches your wort as you are preparing your beer will leave your beer vulnerable to infection and with it, a twangy off-flavor.
Lack of Temperature Control During Fermentation Pay close attention to the temperature range provided for your beer recipe. Also, remember that you are controlling the temperature of the beer, not just the room or space where the beer is being stored. Consider whether temperatures are fluctuating outside of the range during the day or at night.
Some have voiced their concern that water choice caused a twang-y finished beer. As in, the water they used was high in chlorine or very alkaline, and this is noticeable in the beer. For this issue, we always suggest using natural spring water, and avoiding distilled water or tap water that has a noticeable flavor/aroma.
Insufficient Time for Brewing and/or Conditioning Pulling the wort off the yeast too soon or not giving the beer enough time to age into the right flavors/aromas both occur relatively often with new, eager brewers. New folks sometimes figure that time ranges are very flexible and just want to get to the drinking part but end up with a mouthful of cidery beer.
Homebrewing, much like baking cookies at home instead of purchasing them at the store, means that your process must be tried, tested, and won’t be perfectly executed every single time. Still, the claim that extract will hold you back from brewing a commercial-quality beer or always cause a twang is simply not true. Too many extract beers have won competitions and wowed beer fans for extract to be cursed with a noticeably peculiar flavor. So check that expiration date, stay determined, and keep brewing.