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Old 01-27-2008, 01:42 AM   #1
ArcaneXor
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Default Decision time - advice requested

Dear fellow brewers,

this is going to be a bit long - please bear with my frustration.

After four batches of disappointing Mr. Beer brews, I have become a bit disillusioned with home brewing. None of the batches were outstanding, and one was downright undrinkable, despite altering the provided instructions to follow a more traditional brewing procedure (i.e. rehydrating the yeast, using longer fermentation times and carbonation times, using dextrose instead of table sugar, etc). I have been crazy about cleaning and sanitation, using Oxyclean and StarSan, respectively.

I am willing to explain this away due to poor quality ingredients and the fact that the Mr Beer keg is more prone to infections with its spigot and lack of a proper airlock. What I am worried about it, however, is that the room temperature in my house here in Florida simply doesn't get cool enough to prevent off-flavors (it's always around 72 degrees in winter and closer to 78-80 degrees during summer). Getting a second fridge or dedicated temperature control is not a realistic option for me at this time.

Until tonight, I was ready to throw the towel and give up on the hobby altogether. Without knowing what has been causing my misfortune, I did not want to take the gamble and invest another $200 in "real" brewing equipment that may not solve anything. But, after a couple of delicious Sierra Nevada Pale Ales, I decided to give it one more shot using a compromise approach: small test batches using real equipment and ingredients.

Basically, I have a couple of 1 gallon glass carboys (formerly cider jugs) sitting around that I want to experiment with. These small batches will allow me to test whether or not the Mr. Beer was the culprit without spending as much money on new equipment. While I will need airlocks, siphoning equipment and a hydrometer, I won't need a dedicated brewing kettle, Better Bottles and some of the other, more sophisticated equipment. I already have plenty of bottles and a bottle capper.

What I would appreciate your help with is:

a) selecting a couple of extract/steeping grain recipes that are fairly foolproof and likely to do well in my warm abode, and
b) any tips you may be able to give me on pitfalls to avoid when it comes to brewing small batches.

Some commercial beers I enjoy are any type of Koelsch (probably not a good choice for me since that required fairly low fermentation temperatures), Belgian Wit (Hoegaarden and the Blue Moon one), Pale ales (Sierra Nevada, Bass) and the occasional fruit beer (Raspberry and Blackberry). I am not a huge fan of IPAs and really don't like stouts and porters.

Your advice is greatly appreciated! Cheers!

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Old 01-27-2008, 01:56 AM   #2
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First and foremost, if you are using Mr. Beer kits (the ingredients) you will probably NEVER be happy with the end result. At the very least go buy some extract and some hops and try out a recipe that was not put together by Mr. Beer. As for the temp, yes you are a bit on the high side but Ii believe the Mr. Beer kit to be more the culprit than temp. Try placing the fermenter in a pan of water and drape a towel over the fermenter and point a fan at it. It will make at least a 5º difference.

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Old 01-27-2008, 02:00 AM   #3
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There are a bajillion recipes for pale ales out there.

But they are pretty well scaled for 5 gallon batches, so you are going to need a scale.

With a scale you could get a bunch of DME and 1 ounce each of a couple or three different hops and comeup with 5 diffrent one gallon batches of pale ale pretty easy.

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Old 01-27-2008, 02:05 AM   #4
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I have one of those party buckets one of those 16 gallons ones. In the summer with 100+ temps, I rotate in and out frozen bottles of ice, keeps my beer in the right range.

Depending on how much equipment you have already, you can add a bigger fermenting bucket, and go from there. Or another option is to find some used equipment cheaper. I don't think you need $200 worth of equipment to brew it. I started by doing 2.5 gallon boils into a bucket fermenter topped off with water. I'm still a kit extract brewer doing full boils into a 6.5 gallon carboy. I took my sweet time to get here today. My first brew was in 2000. And just now do I feel I'm ready to go All-Grain.

I wouldn't give up. I can't tell you the problems with your beer, but I can tell you if this is a hobby that interests you, I know it's possible to do it.

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Old 01-27-2008, 06:30 PM   #5
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Thanks, everyone!

I just ordered ingredients and the necessary equipment for a couple of recipes out of John Palmer's book (the Cincinnatti Pale Ale and an ESB). I am looking forward to giving "real" brewing (even if it is extract) a try

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Old 01-28-2008, 04:26 AM   #6
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I understand the frustration with the Mr. Beer products. My G/F gave it to me for a Christmas and i was really sad with the first batch. I actually took the bottle to the LHBS and let the owner try it. He said nothing was wrong with and said that it was just the way it was. He sold me some stuff to make a simple ALE that is now fermenting and tomorrow im off to buy a big pot and a glass carboy to make a proper 5 gallon batch. Now that i have the basics down and know what i have to do i feel that i can tackle a bigger batch.

Good luck and cheers.

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Old 01-28-2008, 03:04 PM   #7
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What ever you do DONT GIVE UP! I bought a Mr. Beer several years ago and hated everything about it. I didnt like the "beer" it produced at all, ended up giving it to my cousin (he makes wine) and it now sits in a barn collecting dust. I have gotten into just doing extracts (on my 6th batch right now with #7 next weekend) and i love the results. The beer tastes great and even my friends are asking for it.

SD

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Old 01-28-2008, 03:17 PM   #8
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from what i understand, belgian yeasts tend to do well at higher temperatures. i plan on using them a lot this summer, as my apartment is not air conditioned.

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