I have been brewing for about 3 years now, and I have never moved past the Mr. Beer system. The Mr. Beer system is easy to use, and I have had great success with many of the recipes on their site. I don't drink (or have enough people around to drink) the amount of beer that a 5 gallon system would produce, and I don't really see the benefit in doing complicated all grain brews. A friend of mine does all grain, and just this past fall he did an all grain pumpkin, and I did the Pumpkin Lager listed on the Mr. Beer site. We actually both agreed mine came out better. That could be due to a lot of things, but the point is that the Mr. Beer system can work just fine. It is a high quality, food grade fermenter, and despite trying a number of other malt extracts based on things I read in forums, I have decided to stick with Mr. Beer malt. A number of tips such as allowing for longer fermenting times, using specialty liquid yeasts, using all malt (no Booster) and adding grains will certainly improve the beer you can make with Mr. Beer. I have actually been very happy with company service too. Their brewmaster is quite knowledgeable and returns emails very quickly.
Too many people write off Mr. Beer based on the fact they try to make this hobby accessible to people with possibly limited budgets and maybe limited time. I particularly recall a review that I found on the internet that bashed Mr. Beer that some of you may have seen. The reviewer stated that he read the directions verbatim and made a barely drinkable mess. At one point he contended that the Mr. Beer instructions did not say anything about sanitation. Funny, my Mr. Beer directions have that as a first and crucial step. They have a fine product that builds a good base for learning this craft versus some of the other quickie systems such as The Beer Machine (drink beer off yeast?!) The system has sold over 500,000 units, and I think it is doing a great service for this hobby. I encourage anyone reading this board interested in trying out the hobby to give Mr. Beer a try. Just get some Light Malt Extract (or Mr. Beer's Pale Export Unhopped Malt Extract) to replace the Booster with your West Coast Pale Ale kit, and you will be hooked.