Mr. Beer’s ubiquitous Mr. Beer kit are homebrew kits; kits for making beer at home. Mr. Beer has been producing them for over twenty-five years. There have been numerous improvements to these kits over time; all improving the ingredients and chances of brewing your own great beer.
The Mr. Beer company was acquired by the Aussie brewery Coopers in 2012. Coopers upped the ante of the beer kit with pre-hopped Coopers’ extracts. Coopers regularly adds improvements and new products to their portfolio.
Since the early 1990s, I’ve known dozens of people who received the Mr. Beer kit as a gift. It’s common for friends or family to give away beer kits to someone who they know likes beer.
It’s possible that some of these friends or family members may have even mentioned making homebrew beer someday.
However, I think, most kits probably sit in garage shelves for a long time. Some are occasionally used, I’m sure, but most are probably silently tossed away in the trash after an appropriate number of years.
I have been a craft-beer fanatic since the early 1990s. This was during the first “craft beer boom,” when we called beers microbrews and a brewhouse a microbrewery.
I even had kegs of craft beer at my wedding, way back in 1992! The first romantic weekend with my then-to-be bride was nestled amongst three budding craft breweries, in the far north coast of California. My friends grew weary of me championing this wave of good beer and some … not so good beer.
As the resident there that is a subjective expert in craft beer, a lot of homebrewers have shared their beers with me. This has allowed me to sample many home-crafted beers made with different processes and ingredients.
The results were mixed. The brewers’ passion was usually there, but the beers weren’t the best.
My early experience with brewing Mr. Beer from long ago left a bad impression that lasted years. There were some pretty bad beers out there, and I was reluctant to try Mr. Beer again.
Many of the bad beers had common and unpleasant off-flavors, and some even tasted like bandaids, diesel gas, “skunk,” feces, or even vomit.
Not all of the bad beers I’ve had have had these flavors. Some were just stale (think wet cardboard). Some were simply flavorless. Only occasionally would a beer be drinkable when I first started.
In my experience, the freshness and quality of the ingredients are paramount for the quality of the final product. Based on the common and stale flavor of the beer I tried, I’m fairly certain much of this beer was made from kits that had been left out in a hot garage for months. Based on these common off flavors, I believe most of these brewers also skipped the important sanitation steps.
Most of the instructions are extraneous anyway, right? Hah. Based on the beer I tried, many brewers probably used stale ingredients from poor sanitation practices, too.
Since I started homebrewing over a decade ago, I’ve been offered beer kits from many friends and acquaintances. I assume some of these kits were laying around in garages, some for months, or even years. I graciously decline, and offer one of my own finely crafted homebrew beers.
I’m not that much of a curmudgeon though. Is it fair to knock the Mr. Beer kit without having used one in a while? With a bit of bias, I embarked on a mission to see if I could make good, drinkable beer from the Mr. Beer ingredients and do a Mr. Beer review.
For my experiment, I chose to make an IPA using the Diablo IPA product. I picked up a Mr. Beer kit, plus some extra Mr. Beer extract, enough for four gallons of beer.
Full disclosure: I did not use the included Little Brown Keg (LBK) from the kit. I used the ingredients provided, but I have my own fermentation vessels more in tune to my liking.
I did examine the LBK though, and in my opinion, I think it’s reasonable. The two-gallon capacity wouldn’t work with my four-gallon batch planned.
I think the LBK, when cleaned and sanitized properly, would be a perfect fermentation vessel that’s capable of fermenting two gallons of wort (remember: we make wort, yeast makes beer).
In addition to the LBK, typical Mr. Beer kits contain almost everything you need to make beer. You will still need a few common kitchen items though, like a three-gallon pot or kettle, spoons, a stove-top or burner, etc. They’re all in the easy-to-follow instructions.
The instructions say to heat the extract tin in hot water, mix it with boiling water, add more water, add the mixture to the LBK, sprinkle yeast, and then to secure the lid. They suggest keeping the LBK at 68-76 °F for fermentation.
I think maintaining a consistent fermentation temperature is underplayed in the instructions. I also think the fermentation temperature range that is listed in the instructions could create off flavors.
Make an effort to keep the fermentation temperature between 66 and 70 °F, which is a common fermentation temperature range for ales. Keep it there for a minimum of seven days, all the way to two or three weeks. If the temperature rises a little after the first week, that’s okay.
My brew day consisted of heating two extract tins in hot tap water, then adding the sticky extract contents to two gallons of lukewarm, clean, treated, and filtered water. For novice brewers, I suggest purchasing three gallons of drinking water.
The wort is stirred and shaken until fully dissolved. This should be for three minutes. I then filled my fermentation vessel with two more gallons of filtered and room-temperature water and shook it for thirty seconds.
I sprinkled the two included dry-yeast packets (one from each can of extract) on top of the wort. I added an airlock (the LBK functions somewhat as an airlock), and placed the fermenter in my temperature-controlled fermentation chamber. I used a precision external temperature controller set and maintained a wort temperature of 67 °F (plus or minus one degree).
My kit didn’t have a hydrometer, but as an amateur brewer, I have many gadgets and brewing tools. Using the hydrometer I have, I measured the specific gravity at 1.048, which matched what was expected from the extract tins.
Fermentation was pretty typical with bubbles and foam. A regular party in a bottle. After ten days, I chose to add some dry hops because I wanted a beer I could drink.
Being a fan of the Amarillo hop variety, I added two ounces, knowing it would compliment the pre-hop character and bitterness.
At twenty-one days I transferred the beer to a keg, realizing about 3.75 gallons of beer leaving behind the yeast and other fermentation leftovers. I carbonated the beer with a CO2 tank to the same level you would expect to achieve using the included carbonation tablets and PET bottles. My final gravity was right on the expected 1.012.
After sitting at a chilly 38 °F in my kegerator for a week, the beer was finally ready to drink.
The beer was good. Not great. And not on par with the typical IPA I could make. Still, the beer was ultimately drinkable.
I found the body and mouthfeel to be a bit thin, bordering watery. Not at all unpleasant, but, just … OK.
The beer lacked hop depth, and was pretty simple. The Amarillo dry-hop added some very nice herbal, and slightly citrus smells, and was enjoyable to take in a big whiff. The bitterness was noticeably unbalanced, due to maltiness. The thinner body lends to a coarse and sharp bitterness.
Among my homebrew friends, the consensus, without knowing it was a Mr. Beer, was that it was okay beer, perfectly drinkable, but not a great IPA.
Overall, I call the Mr. Beer kit a success.
I have to say, brew day was a snap. Less than an hour, including setup and cleanup.
Would I personally use it again? No, but I don’t need to. I have everything to make beer, including malted barley and other beer-making ingredients.
Do I recommend the Mr Beer kit? Maybe. If you focus on the following tips, then go for it! I think you can produce a drinkable beer with minimal effort.
- Follow the instructions!
- Pay close attention to cleanliness and sanitation.
- Use good, clean, and chlorine-free water.
- Manage the fermentation temperature.
- Practice the same studious cleaning and sanitation procedures when bottling.
Disclaimer: I have no relationship with Coopers or Mr. Beer. I was not provided any products or ingredients to write this article.