My main goal here at Cryptobrewology is to introduce people to the wonderful world of craft beers and home brewing, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t explore the possibilities even for those who just want to give home brewing a try, and don’t necessarily have the intention of taking it to the next level. In this case, I’m talking about the hobbyist who might give a Mr. Beer home brewing kit a whirl, just for fun.
In many conversations that I’ve overheard, or have been a part of regarding Mr. Beer, the comments are pretty much the same, “I tried Mr. Beer once, but it tasted bad.”
Typically, when people give something a try and it doesn’t turn out as expected, they are all too willing to blame the product or the system they used, and not evaluate their methods.
Mr. Beer sometimes gets a bad rap. Prior to sitting down to write this I actually tasted a Mr. Beer West Coast Pale Ale I had brewed, and it tasted great. Not yeasty, not sour, or sweet. It was mildly bitter, with a fruity and mildly floral hop nose. It had all the hallmarks of a commercial ale that I may have bought at the store. No kidding.
The key factors that led to this great tasting batch of Mr. Beer are proper sanitization, yeast pitching temp, fermentation temp, water quality, and patience. Ignore these and you’re destined to make a lousy brew, so don’t blame Mr. Beer!
Key Factor One: SANITIZE
I can’t stress it enough. Sanitize, Sanitize, SANITIZE! Make sure your kitchen counters are clean, make sure your hands are clean, and make sure you use the One Step no-rinse cleanser – included with every kit and refill – to sanitize the keg and your tools. Before bottling make sure you follow the directions and thoroughly sanitize the bottles.
No rinse means “NO RINSE!” There is absolutely nothing left behind by One-Step that can harm you or the beer. Rinse with tap water and you risk contaminating everything you have just cleaned. Don’t rinse, just drain.
Key Factor Two: PITCHING and FERMENTING TEMP
The Mr. Beer instructions advise us to use cold water in the fermenter prior to pouring in the wort, and then topping off with cold water before pitching the yeast. There is a reason for this. First, the wort is very hot and you don’t want to compromise the plastic keg fermenter, so put cold water in first, as a buffer.
Second, the yeast should not be added to the keg until the temperature is just about 70 degrees fahrenheit. 85 is not just about 70. You can monitor the temperature with a SANITIZED Thermometer, that’s what I do, or buy a Brew-O-Meter from Mr. Beer that sticks onto the fermenter, that works.
Topping off with cold water brings the brew up to the full fermenting volume, and will also help drop the temperature of the wort to within pitching range. If you don’t have a thermometer, just feel the sides of the keg. If it is cool to the touch, not warm or hot, then you’re okay. If the keg feels warm to you it’s too warm for the yeast!
After pitching the yeast you want to keep the keg somewhere out of direct sunlight, and where the temperature is consistent, somewhere between 68 and 72 degrees fahrenheit is recommended.
Temperature is critical for proper yeast performance. Too hot or too cold and you can kiss your beer goodbye.
Key Factor Three: WATER
Bottled water or filtered tap water are recommended for a reason. They are filtered to remove contaminants and will ensure a decent quality beer. I watched in horror as a YouTuber demonstrating Mr. Beer showed me how to top off the keg with cold water using his sink sprayer! You’re just asking for trouble if you do that. Who knows what microbial monstrosities are hanging out in the end of that thing?!
It’s better to just buy a few gallons of bottled water and stick them in the fridge. Case closed.
Key Factor Four: PATIENCE
Sanitization, temperature and water quality are critical components to producing a good batch of Mr. Beer – well, ANY home brewed beer actually – but another important factor, something many of us DIY-ers struggle with, is patience.
Sure, you can have drinkable beer in as little as two weeks with any home brewing process. That’s because, generally speaking, the fermentation process is usually complete in 7 days, and it only takes 7 days for the beer to carbonate after bottling. It’s drinkable, but it can be a lot better.
What makes it better is aging. Beer left alone in the fermenter for two weeks will settle and clear out a lot. There will be less sediment in the bottles, so less muck to stir up while pouring.
Remember that beer I mentioned? Do you know how long it was in the bottle? I waited a tad over two weeks before bottling, so the beer had cleared out considerably in the keg. Once bottled, I waited one week before putting the bottles into the refrigerator to halt carbonation*. I tried one beer each week after that.
The first one was a little “bready.” That’s one complaint I often hear about Mr. Beer. The yeasty odor is common early after bottling in any home brewed beer.
The second beer was less yeasty, but it had a slightly sour character.
The third beer, my most recent, had been in the bottle for about three weeks. That’s FIVE weeks since the day I brewed it.
Patience is a must! Don’t pour out your beers after only giving them a couple of weeks to mature. Commercial craft brewers let their beers rest, or age, in the bottles for three or four weeks before they hit the market. The full flavor of the beer needs that much time to develop. By Drew Vics