I finally got around to opening the Mr. Beer Homebrewing kit my beloved gave this past Christmas. It’s certainly a good way to familiarize yourself with the basics of homebrewing with minimal hassle. However, at the same time I’ve been making good strides through The Complete Joy of Homebrewing What I really enjoy about this book is that Charlie Papazian (the author) does not skimp on the details. He’s not afraid to dive into a bit of chemistry or horticulture to support what he’s talking about.
The book starts out with Papzian’s own beginner’s guide for the reader to make their first batch. His process was a bit more complex and involved than Mr. Beer, but honestly having read the book first I felt a bit “cheated” with Mr. Beer, like I missed out on a few key learning opportunities to experience for myself – i.e. determining if it’s time to bottle by using a hydrometer as opposed to simply tasting if the beer is flat (ready) or sweet (not ready).
The other thing that left me a bit uneasy with Mr. Beer was the amount of dextrose (corn sugar) used for fermenting known as their Booster product. While it is an acceptable practice to lighten the body and increase the alcohol content, corn sugar is generally used for economical purposes to speed up the fermentation process. A more “natural” method is to use dried malt extract to provide it’s own sugars. As Papazian says,”You will always make a far superior beer by eliminating and substituting or minimizing the amount of any refined sugar” and “[corn sugar] does not contribute to a true malt beer character.” In all fairness however, Mr. Beer does provide numerous recipes that utilize unhopped malt extract as opposed to dextrose. I will certainly choose one of those on my next batch.
All in all, I’m having a lot of fun with this and brainstorming ways to take it up a notch (…or two …or three). lt’ll be a few weeks before my first batch is ready for consumption. I’ll keep you posted.