Q: Please tell us about yourself and how long you have been brewing.
A: I am a recently retired Electrical Engineer, and I enjoy making things and experimenting. I grew up in England where beer is closely woven into the culture, from the hops growing in Kent to the pub on every corner. My earliest experiments with brewing were as a teenager where we made ginger beer based on a yeast and dried powdered ginger culture. This was so popular that the soft drink manufacturers went public to try and shut it down. I also made elderberry wine. As a college student, brewery tours were very popular (we could legally drink at 18). I remember visiting one where the brewing vats were open to the air - foam everywhere.
My first beer brewing experience was using extract kits from Boots, the pharmacist. That required boiling the hops, stinking up the house, and I did not have care for the sterile environment needed, so it was not very successful. Brews were alcoholic,but funny tasting. I tried again in the 1980's after coming to the USA, but again was not successful due to the lack of sterilization and proper fermentation vessels.
About 18 months ago, my daughter gave me my first Mr. Beer kit as a Christmas present. It sat on the shelf for about 3 months, then I figured I should try it. I was so pleased with the results that I ordered a few more refills. After a few, I decided that this was a good game and I needed a constant supply, and therefore needed more brew kegs. Over the next 12 months, I bought another 3 brew kegs on sale at various places so I can have several going at once. I also stocked up on kits from Mr.Beer when there were sales. I have also found a local brew ingredient store for when I need hops, yeasts or malt quickly. I still get the Mr. Beer Hopped Extract though, due to the great selection.
During this process I have made all kinds of interesting beers: dark, light, wheat, hoppy, mild, spiced and fruit. I have found the Mr. Beer Brewmasters are a very responsive and useful source for my detailed questions. I like to experiment - it is rather like a Chemistry Set, but for adults. I tell people that it is so easy, with almost no smell or mess, and you get good results. You can mix and match any hopped extract, unhopped extract, and yeast and make almost any kind of beer you like.
Is it good? It passed the beer drinker test. I took tastings to work parties and one co-worker said he would buy the Nut Brown Ale if available.
Q: What is your favorite beer?
A: I think I have several favorites depending on the mood: Sam Adams Lager, Yuengling Traditional Lager, Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat, and several more. I also go to the local beer and wine store when they have the "Beer Classes" to sample a lot of different things that I might not buy otherwise.
Of the Mr. Beer Recipes, it is hard to pick just one. I have liked most that I’ve tried, but I like the Wheat, Pilsner and Aztec beers, especially when I add 0.5 oz. extra hops in there. I also have the 1776 as the most frequent brew recipe. I recently made the Diablo and added dry hops to it. I think it is really good despite my not generally liking extremely hopped beers. I still have not been able to make a good Sam Adams clone yet, though I have fun trying.
Q: Who would you most like to share a beer with?
A: My 2 brothers in England. I do visit every few years, and my youngest brother is very much a beer (and food) aficionado.
Q: What's been your biggest beer disaster so far?
A: In my earlier brewing, the recipe called for too much priming sugar in 12 oz. bottles. They burst! If I use glass bottles now, I store them in a plastic container in case of a problem. Also, I was recently brewing with fruit and the bits clogged the spigot, so I had to pour it off into another container and bottle from there. Maybe next time I will try to bag it…
Q: Any tips for new brewers?
- The Mr.Beer kegs are sturdy and work well. If for some reason there is leakage between spigot and keg, this is easily resolved by using a garden hose washer on the outside as well as the one on the inside.
- The Mr.Beer kits are a little under hopped for my tastes. This is easily remedied by adding hops into the boiled water with the malt, or for more aroma, adding dry hop pellets in a muslin bag into the wort a week before bottling. Still, you can always add hops, you can't take them out so - experiment.
- Do leave the fermenting 2 weeks or more, and do leave the beer to mature a couple months for best taste. I usually try it after a week to see and then leave it and sample it over a long period to see the changes. Generally you will find that the extra few weeks makes a big difference. The lighter beers like American Light or the Canadian Blonde are OK with only a week fermentation and a couple weeks in bottle.
- Don't skip on the sterilizing. I always do it and never had any issues.
- Have fun with it - it is tough to go wrong. Even if the result does not exactly match the expected style, it is usually quite drinkable.
- If in doubt - ask the Mr.Beer Brewmaster!