My first foray into homebrewing occurred about 2 and a half years ago. I had decided to get a Mr. Beer Kit. Why you might ask? Because it was inexpensive, non-threatening and it promised to be easy. I didn’t have to invest much into something that I didn’t know I would enjoy. I’ve been a beer lover for a while and I thought, “Gee whiz, wouldn’t it be swell if I made a beer myself?”. Now there are homebrewers out there that will spit on a Mr. Beer kit or hit it with their shoe in utmost derision. But it’s served me well to get me to where I am today.
For those not entirely familiar, Mr. Beer kits become ubiquitous during the holiday season at different retailers as the “perfect gift idea for Dad”. I’ve seen them around for years. It’s an all inclusive extract brewing system that yields just over 2 gallons of beer. It comes with a fermenter keg, yeast packet, hopped liquid malt extract, sanitizer and plastic bottles with caps. All you need to supply is a small pot that you can boil 4 cups of water in, 2 gallons of bottled water and a mixing spoon of some sort. Also some sugar for priming bottles. It takes you about an hour to brew, then you set the fermenter somewhere to do its thing for 1-2 weeks. Then you bottle it and let them sit for another 1-2 weeks. Then refrigerate and drink. My first batch was an american pale ale which came with the kit. Now by my homebrewing standards today, I would say it was subpar. But at the time, I thought it wasn’t that bad. It was definitely drinkable. And things always taste better when you’re the one that made it. I was hooked. So I ordered more extracts from the Mr. Beer website and started accumulating other accessories that they sold (another fermenter, hop scale, muslin sacks, glass bottles, caps, capper, etc). Over the course of my Mr. Beer career, I brewed a nut brown ale, oatmeal stout, irish stout, doppelbock, an american lager (which technically was not a lager), a red ale and a honey ale. The Mr Beer website allows you to buy different types of extracts, hops and yeasts so that you can come up with your own recipes. Plus the site posted a lot of different recipes if you aren’t that creative. It was a good experience and I learned a lot about the basics of homebrewing. Some would recommend that you skip Mr. Beer and go straight to a 5 gallon two bucket starter kit, which you definitely could. The main advantages of Mr. Beer for the timid newbies is that it’s a little bit cheaper, a slightly less complex process and it only makes about 2 gallons. Volume to me is a big factor, even today, because if a batch does not come out well, you don’t waste as much. Also, depending on the volume of beer you drink, 2 gallons may allow the perfect turnaround time for you to brew more often, hence brewing a larger variety of beers in a given year.