How Bad Could Mr. Beer Really Be?

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of discussions being started on Home Brew Talk by people using Mr. Beer homebrew kits.  The general consensus amongst most experienced homebrewers is that these kits are essentially on par with other single can, “no boil” kits that make mediocre, dried-out, cidery beer.  So what’s with their popularity?

I’ve never used Mr. Beer, nor have I ever tried a beer that someone else brewed using the system. Today I was forced to concede that my opinion is based exclusively on heresay. I’ve decided to change that.

Originally, I thought I’d just bypass all the stuff that I thought was causing their bad reputation (the “booster” pack, the pre-hopped extract, etc) and simply use unhopped extracts, a decent yeast upgrade and some hops of my choice.  The problem is that I don’t think I can evaluate their specific “system” objectively if I don’t go the whole 9 yards.  Additionally, the instructions for these kits don’t utilize a 60 minute boil, so a conventional hop schedule is effectively useless.  That being said, I didn’t really want to brew their standard intro recipe either.  After looking through their selection, I decided on their Bengal Tiger IPA.

Batch size: 2 gallons
ABV: ~6.0%
IBUs: 18 (<–  can that be right for a 6% IPA?)
1 can Cowboy Golden Lager HME
1 can Mellow Amber UME
1 pouch “Booster”
1 oz. Cascade hops
1 packet dry brewing yeast

I’m going to follow their directions to the letter.  I’m not going to deviate and use what I might consider a better idea.  My goal is to determine if utilizing their ingredients and their methods can result in decent beer.  I figure the worst that could happen is that the beer sucks.

I can live with that.

…to be continued.

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13 Responses to How Bad Could Mr. Beer Really Be?

  1. d says:

    bump on the Mr. Beer We are waiting with baited breath.
    I must (not the wine kind) admit I began as you put it down this rabbit hole with a terrible mrbeer kit. I didnt let it finish out before I hit the local home brew store and upgraded to a beginners pail ale kit.
    Now 1/4 barrel herms system and still looking for a clone on the Squatters Full Suspension recipe.
    Hex Bryg Firma (Kearns Ut)

    • Admittedly, I’ve become a bit more apprehensive about going through with this experiment. Although I feel like I owe it to science to follow through. I never got a chance to try the Full Suspension Pale Ale while we were at Squatters, but the Emigration Amber was quite nice. Glad to hear that homebrewing is a live and well in UT!

  2. Winston says:

    As a user of Mr. Beer (I just received one for father’s day) I have to say I think the stigma is undeserved. My first batch is now through with bottle conditioning; it is the kit that came with the system and I think it tastes great. It’s nothing complex but that’s what I needed for my first batch, success. It was just the Northwest Pale Ale HME with some Willamettes (bought at my LHBS) thrown in at the end and the end result is a refreshing, tasty beer. I look at many of the “real” starter systems and see $90 to &150 before you buy your first ingredients. My system cost my wife less than &50 with a starter brew included. If I had hated it, I was only out $50 and I could throw the whole thing in the recycle bin. Right now I have a non-Mr. Beer hefe fermenting in the keg and plans for another after that. I think the stigma comes from many experienced brewers looking on us Mr. Beer users like a chef looks at kid with an EZ-Bake-Oven. I don’t why you’re apprehensive, you won’t make bad beer, you just won’t make outstanding, award winning ones either (if you stick to just kits).

    • Ryan G. says:

      Admittedly, my apprehension is based on some bad experiences with other pre-hopped kits. However, your feedback is encouraging, and I particularly like your EZ-Bake-Oven analogy. Although, I did once make some pretty kickass cupcakes in one of those things!

  3. Erik says:

    I joined a local homebrew club and it was about 6 months before I took the leap into brewing, March 2009. A friend had a couple Mr. Brew barrels which he loaned me and I bought an ingredient kit, blonde ale, off another buddy. I brewed it, that went fine. At the end of the day, I kind of started wondering about their process. I had watched some of the other guys brew so I understood some of the process. Let it ferment in the barrel for 2 weeks I think. That was the first part of the process I didn’t like, I questioned the wisdom of their airlock design.

    After I had decided that maybe it was done fermenting (I mean who can tell?) I bottled it. Trying to put equal amounts of sugar into each bottle was ridiculous (not mention table sugar sucks, compared to corn sugar but they don’t say that in the instructions) and I had quite a bit of sediment at the bottom of the barrel that got transferred into the bottles. And the sediment only got disturbed as I tilted the barrel to get more beer out. I was a little peeved at the mess and aggravation by then. Let it condition for two weeks.

    Opened a bottle…. and it was cidery. Some of the guys in my club thought it was ok, and I was happy I did it, if only it got me brewing and was a good learning experience. I entered that beer into the Indiana Brewers Cup contest only so I could go to the awards dinner they have. Entered as a blonde ale, the judges decided it should be a belgian ale. That cider again. Get a little sediment mixed into the glass and it seemed more like a blonde ale. Weird confusing beer.

    I knew after that I could do the brewing process, that didn’t worry me. I also knew if I had “real” equipment I could brew really good beer. Boil pot, carboys, hydrometer, siphon etc.

    After 5 batches of 5 gallons each I decided I wanted the convenience of the Mr. Beer quantity, but the quality of glass carboys etc. Bought two 3 gallon carboys to supplement my 6.5 gallon carboy. Occasionally I’ll brew a 2.5 gallon batch to try something out (like I did with a black wheat ale that used cold steeped debitterized malt)

    There are many levels of brewing on the scale. Someone likes Mr. Beer, great, but with just a little bit more expense, you can have something that tastes much, much better I think. I know guys who think it’s foolish to spend the time to brew 2.5 gallon batches when it takes the same time to brew 5. But to each his own, live and let live.

  4. Jason says:

    Mr Beer is not very good at all. $50 for flavored water. Do your inlaws a favor and get them into one of the local beer making clubs. It’s a great social outlet and the folks are fun – -even before a few samples. No need to spend $50 except for the bottles of great beer they will bring home..

  5. Steve says:

    With all the expertise in the comments above you folks can take the fun out of just trying something at a basic, entry level. A point to begin with. Have made a few batches with Mr Beer system. I have had success at this ‘primordial’ level. I am having fun. I may down the road upgrade to a more sophisticated setup but for now I am enjoying the product and its brew. Not every local’ has the clubs or the retailers to assist or educate beginners. In some cases the old adage applies, ‘You got to start somewhere, why not here?’ Don’t be so quick to shoot the Mr Beer system down.

  6. I Have been using Mr Beer for a long time since 2002, using two kegs and find it is a great beer,and a cool hobby,my friends are always looking forward to trying the next batch and are always giving a thumbs up,I have to say that i think the people who rush the process and are not patient are the ones that are not satisfied with the product,MR BEER gets a five star rating from me //12/29/13 be patient and have fun//Karl

  7. James says:

    I enjoy my Mr Beer and have never produced a cidery or weak flavored beer. I’d have to say that those who have had bad experiences are beginners who didn’t take the time to do a little reading and research. People get a Mr Beer for Christmas and suddenly they are a expert brewmaster. Take the time to learn.

    • Ryan G. says:

      I’m inclined to agree with you. There’s a learning curve to everything. If you’re making good beer with your Mr. Beer system, I say Godspeed to you, good sir!

  8. Bob says:

    Bought Mr. Beer kit at local supermarket. Used to make wine so I thought I’d give Mr. Beer a try. Did everything to the letter – cleaning, mixing, waiting, bottling etc. Tried beer. Yuck. Not even sure what is so bad about it – I guess cidery might be one way to put it. It isn’t exactly undrinkable, but no one at home here is touching it. Guess its headed for the recycle bin…

  9. Erick says:

    I have been making beer with Mr. Beer for about a year and a half now and have only brewed about 8 batches. i’d say 5 out of 8 batches turned out well. One of the batches turned out not so great, which just happened to be my first batch and I had followed their fermentation and bottling directions to the letter and the beer came out sub par after some more research on home brewing online I had learned to ferment and condition the beer a bit longer than they suggest. I’d say give it a shot if you are thinking about getting into home brewing but no need to bother with it if you are an experience home brewer.

  10. Ray B says:

    I must say that I enjoyed brewing with Mr Beer PRIOR to the sale to the new owner Coopers. I brewed some so so batches with the old Mr Beer system and I brewed some that I had to convince people were actually Mr Beer and not a Briess extract with steeped grains or something like that. Their equipment is great to use and makes it easy to brew even for the newest of brewers. Now days the equipment is still great, the recipes, suck! Since Coopers bought Catalina Products Mr Beer brand out, I feel as though the quality has gone way down hill. I have never tried a Coopers or the new MrBeer (Coopers) refill that I liked.

    For ease of use and getting in to brewing, I recommend the kit. Do NOT be discouraged by sub par beers. Learn to brew and quickly move on to all grain or partial mashes and you will be one happy camper. Take care and happy brewing!!

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