Let's Talk Beer and the Best Beer Making Kit for Beginners (and why I chose the one I did)

Update: I posted this in 2013. It's now November 2016 and although my husband went on to brew with a little more advanced version kit, he still uses this one as well. He loves it and yes, it's still in use! Thumbs up for a kit that has more than paid for itself. The only thing I don't like about it is the refills are rather expensive. If you get a good deal on refills; buy up!

Mr. Beer Premium Gold Edition Beer Kit
Today's post over morning coffee is coming from my very overwhelmed, scrambled brain.  It comes from spending numerous nights and more hours than I probably should have, studying all the options for a beginner beer making kit.

Originally I was thinking of getting my husband this for Christmas, but at that time my brain was still scrambled from all I was learning, and I had spent enough on gifts anyway.  I decided to continue 'thinking about it' until his birthday in February.

Everyone will have a different opinion on a good starter kit and why they feel the way they do.  And everyone is entitled to it.  However, after spending all this time debating, I finally made my decision and purchased a starter kit for my husband.  Because it was such an overwhelming process and made my head hurt, I wanted to share my experience of decision making, and why I ultimately chose the one I did.  Perhaps it will help another reader out there who is also looking for a basic, affordable kit.

My husband loves beers.  I use the plural form because loving beers and not beer means he enjoys taste-testing, reading about new beers, trying beers from around the world and enjoying them.   Not just throwing back a few beers on the weekend to get buzzed.  He loves stout ales and Belgian beers the best I think, but by the beach or poolside, he'd opt for Kalik and for a night sitting and talking with the guys he'd grab a Guinness.  Me?  I don't like beer.  I don't drink beer.  I have no interest in beer.  So, you can see why my head was spinning when I was trying to choose a beginner's beer making kit!

After reading through hours of posts on beer connoisseurs' message boards and reviews, I learned of some of the best equipment and ingredient companies.  I read hotly debated discussions about quality, size, brand, ingredients and more.  Every ingredient, brand, kit, supplier or equipment item that someone loved, someone else hated.

In the end I did find 3 'kits' I was seriously considering.  They were for beginners and intermediate brewers and usually included 'everything but the pot, bottles and caps'.   (Like this; Brewers Best Beer Home Brewing Equipment Kit)

Here is actually one of the kits I was almost ready to order;  knowing I also needed to invest in a good stock pot, decent thermometer, bottles, caps, and a couple other items.  A good starter kit I (he) could build on as he got better at brewing.

 Brewing Starter Kit

Then I had a moment of clarity.
  • I don't have much money to spend
  • I don't know if he will LIKE brewing his own beer
  • I don't know if he will have the time to take up another hobby
  • I don't want to waste money purchasing a good kit he may never actually use
  • These beginner/intermediate kits have items he doesn't really NEED and still are missing a few he does

In the end, I went with the Mr. Beer Premium Gold Edition Beer Kit.
  • Includes 2-gallon fermenting keg with lid and tap assembly, two standard refill brew packs, eight reusable plastic 1-liter bottles
  • Includes eight reusable plastic caps, eight labels, Brewing with Mr. Beer brewer's guide, and 4-step brewing instructions
  • Lightweight, shatter resistant keg is made from FDA compliant plastic and imparts no taste or flavor migration
  • Brew pack offers two distinct and popular beers for 2 batches (4 gallons) of home brewed beer
  • Keg's wide mouth allows for easy cleaning; hand wash only; avoid using scouring pads or abrasives during cleaning; keg measures 9.5 x 13 x 9 inches
Why people didn't like it
I researched the reasons people didn't like it and there were only a few reasons;  mainly, sometimes people had leak issues, others complained it didn't make a full 5 gallons like other standard kits made (I think this is a good things for beginners!  Who wants 5 gallons of bad beer?), and lastly; some didn't like the flavor of the beers.  Interestingly enough, those that didn't like the flavor usually were drinkers of uh, less than highly thought of beers to begin with or had been 'crafting their own beers for years' and were snubbing their noses at such a basic kit.  One complaint I thought held merit; the beer was sweet.  Others suggested this was because regular baking sugar was used. 

Why I liked it
Affordability!  Not knowing if this was something my husband wanted to continue or would have a strong interest in, this little hobby kit is the perfect introduction!
The size is great because if he was to brew a standard 5 gallons of beer and it was really, really bad?  What a waste! The smaller size of this kit was a plus.
The kit sells for $35 - $64 depending on where you purchase it.  For roughly $40 I don't have to feel bad if he used it once, didn't care for it or didn't have time for it and it was sent to the back of a closet.
On the other hand, if he found he was interested in this process and wanted to go from the 'Easy Bake Oven' style brewing to 'a real kitchen' style brewing, we could THEN purchase the better kit for beginners and intermediate brewers, knowing it was a smart investment.
Again, 40 bucks wasn't much to be 'out' to see if this was something he might be interested in.

My total for the kit (which comes with 2 beer ingredient packs) and an extra Irish Stout Refill pack came to a grand total of $61.  Basically I chose a quick and easy beginner brew kit to 'test the waters' and hopefully spark an interest in what could become a life-long, enjoyable hobby for him. 

Mr. Beer Classic American Light Refill Brew Pack
Mr. Beer American Porter Refill Brew Pack
Mr. Beer Patriot Lager Refill Brew Pack
Mr. Beer Octoberfest Lager Refill Brew Pack
Mr. Beer American Ale Refill Brew Pack
Mr. Beer Bavarian Weissbier Refill Brew Pack
Mr. Beer Canadian Blonde Refill Brew Pack
Mr. Beer Aztec Mexican Cerveza Refill Brew Pack
Mr. Beer Czech Pilsner Refill Brew Pack
Mr. Beer St. Patricks Irish Stout Refill Brew Pack

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