I’ve done about 20 brews now with the Mr. Beer kit. A few of them with the standard directions, and then the majority with some optimizations. The Mr. Beer kit does some good beer if you use their setup, but you do end up with a beer that might often taste a little sweet, or a little heavy. You will also not get quite the hop taste, and you can’t take advantage of any yeast flavoring to match the variety of beer you are brewing. Finally, it’s definitely an un-filtered brew. Everything here will be specific to Mr. Beer, and can be purchased on their website. It won’t require a lot of extra work for you, and doesn’t involve using grains in any step. That’s for later.
First, Mr. Beer sells alternate yeasts on their website. The standard yeast is good, but is a lager yeast and somewhat bland. The alternate yeasts found here can improve the taste of the brew dramatically when used right. I’ll post later on describing methods for improving your yeast performance. Pick a yeast to target the type of beer your going to make, do a little google search to see what others do, and experiment. People do amazing things with yeast.
Second, hops. Unfortunately, with all extract brewing, you don’t have as much opportunity to experiment with what hops you use, or how you use them. I’ll save details on using hops for later in my posts about my hybrid Mr. Beer all grain setup. However, it is possible to add hops to your recipe if you want to increase the hoppiness or bitterness of your brew. Just buy another packet from Mr. Beer, and experiment. My experience doing this is that it generally doesn’t do good things for Mr. Beer recipes. That’s just my experience though.
Third, paying attention to aeration. Aeration is the addition of oxygen after fermentation. During fermentation and following, oxygen will allow the yeasts to add chemicals to your beer that are not good for flavor or finish. You want to try to minimize these effects. Mr. Beer recipes don’t suffer too badly from aeration, but I have noticed a difference when I take one specific step to reduce aeration in my brew. I bought this. The locking spigot makes it much easier to control outflow, and the tube allows you to fill the bottles from the bottom without splashing, reducing churn. It’s a simple setup and actually makes the process of bottling much easier in general. It’s a very smart addition to your setup that makes your whole day a lot more enjoyable.
Finally, sugar. Let’s talk about how to carbonate your beer. Each type of beer benefits from a different amount of carbonation. Some, like wheat beers require a little more carbonation to produce the desired taste, while others, such as pale ales and dark beers require less. The standard setup doesn’t allow you to easily modify the amount or type of sugar you use to carbonate your brew. Next post will tackle this, but in essence, you need a second Mr. Beer fermenter, and some tools to get the fermented wort from one to the other. It’s not that complicated, but provides a huge improvement if done right.