Newbie Brewing

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Before I bought my first Mr. Beer kit, homebrewing was not something I had given much thought to. I mean, I drank in my younger days, but not after I got married. I enjoyed a nice cocktail every once in a while, but rarely did I ever drink beer. This was mostly because I knew nothing of craft beer, nor the variety of different styles. My drinking was limited to Budweiser and Asahi, as I was stationed in Japan at the time. Many years later, a friend of mine introduced me to craft beer, and to the concept of homebrewing. Around my 30th birthday, I saw a Mr. Beer kit and thought, why not? I have not looked back since.

My very first batch of homebrew shortly after pitching the yeast.
I quickly picked up another kit, and a couple of two pack refills from Sears on clearance so that I could continue brewing. I scoured the internet for resources so that I could make sure I did everything absolutely right. I followed the instructions to a "T". I even kept it in a cooler so I could better monitor and control the temperature. The only thing I did differently was that I made use of a second Mr. Beer Little Brown Keg (LBK) so that I could batch prime the beer. I did this with a simple tube rather than a bottling wand. At the time I didn't know any better and I let the beer just drop into to the bottling bucket, in the end I oxidized the beer and ended up under carbonating it too. The beer was still drinkable, but nowhere near the level it should have been as I found out after tasting my later batches.

Batch priming with my "improved" setup.
For my next batch I learned from these mistakes and made sure that this would not happen again. I also took my Classic American Light Hopped Malt Extract that I got in a refill and made a Mr. Beer's Horses Ass Ale. All it cost me for the extract, Cascade hops, a muslin hop sack and a cup of honey was about $25.00 to brew an entire case of beer. The fermentation kept producing a lot of heat, so I had to keep cooling it down to an acceptable range. I once again followed all the instructions, and batch primed using a bottling wand this time to ensure that the beer was not oxidized. This beer turned out great, and I mean leaps and bounds better than Budweiser or other common beers. My next batch further played on the Horse's Ass Ale, with more honey and sugar added. This turned into an amazing beer, that if given the chance I will brew again.

My take on the Horse's Ass Ale. Very clear amazing beer, but a little on the sweeter side.
Not all of my beers have been resounding successes, though. The first was marginal, and the next two were amazing. My last complete batch was an absolute failure, which I will detail out in another article. The trick is to never stop learning. If you have a failed batch, so what? You are not a true failure unless you refuse to learn from the mistakes that were made. By doing this, you can continually learn and improve your methods ending with a great glass of beer.
Bio:
Serving with the United States Marine Corps, Kyle has spent the past 12 years stationed throughout the US and overseas. Originally from Georgia, he left the service in 2013 after spending almost 10 years on active duty. Next year Kyle will complete his time in the reserves. A meteorologist while serving in the Marines, he will complete his degree next spring and wants to apply his background in science to homebrewing.
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Great article! It's easy to become disillusioned when your first couple of batches don't go exactly as planned, but as long as you're learning from the mistakes, you'll come through all the more experienced. Make sure to take plenty of notes throughout the brew day too. This really makes a huge difference when you're tweaking a recipe or simply repeating it. Take notes on all your measurements, but also on things that happened in the process of brewing, like how long it took to get to boil, how long it took to cool off, if you stirred the mash a little more, etc. You never know what could make a real difference, but if you don't write it down you sure as hell won't remember what made the difference.
 
I highly suggest instead of the mr beer kit refill your next batch, try the 15 min pale ale recipe here in the database. Just scale it down by half for your mr beer kegs.
 
I remember from my old Mr. Beer brewing days the little brown keg ie:LBK held 2.13 gallons. My progression went from all extract, to extract with steeping grains and hops to full wort boils. Eventually I built my first mash tun and continued using LBKs to ferment in and as bottling buckets.
Now that you'll have more time to pursue your brewing I'm sure your beer will always come out tasting good and you will get to explore the many different types of brewing processes too. Thank you Kyle for your service and for putting your brewing experience into words for others to learn from.
 
@beernutz I have actually changed the name of my brewing to Semper Pandoxare Brewery, literally translated it means "Always Brewing Brewery" lol.
 
@MadHomebrewer I am working on it. I will soon be doing my first extract batch, most likely a witbier as that is one of my favorites. I now have a 5 gal setup so no need to scale. Thanks for the suggestion
 
Audiacious, love the brewery name, sounds like you are in a upward brewing path to making better beer, and we should all learn from our mistakes, like not walking away from the mash pot as it is within 10*F from hitting your target temp only to come back and find that it is now close to 20*F over mash in temp. Stay the course, Semper Fi, thanks for your service. Y.a.t.Y.a.s.
 
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