Monday, March 04, 2013

The Problem with Mr. Beer

I am a fan of Mr. Beer.  I have made no secret of the fact that I started home-brewing after receiving a Mr. Beer kit from my sister for Christmas of 2008. I got hooked so quickly that my wife got me a second fermentor for my next birthday which was less than a month after brewing my first batch of beer.

If you look back in the SheppyBrew Brewing Calendar for 2009 and 2010, you will see a crazy amount of brewing, all done in Mr. Beer fermentors. By my count, over those first two years, I did 62 batches of beer at 2.4 gallons a pop. I started with the super simple Mr. Beer recipes. I moved to other extracts with steeping grains and then to partial mashes. Finally, I stepped up to all-grain brewing . All of this in the Mr. Beer fermentors.

During all that time, I only made a couple bad batches of beer, and those were not Mr. Beer's fault.

I love Mr. Beer. At this point, I have not used Mr. Beer ingredients in a very long time, so lots of my love for Mr. Beer is nostalgic. They got me started and I have a feeling I never would have progressed to where I am today as a home-brewer without Mr. Beer.

Khazad-dûm Black Lager in Mr. Beer Fermentors.
Usually I now use my 6 gallon Better Bottle Fermentor, but I do still use Mr. Beer fermentors a fair amount. The smaller size is great for experimentation. If I want to try two different yeasts, I can brew up a batch and split it in two Mr. Beer fermentors. When I did Gringo Cerveza Jalapeño Ale, I split up the batch, putting peppers in half and not in the other. Heck, I still do my lagers in two Mr. Beer fermentors because it is easier for me to keep the fermentation in lager temperature ranges.

The problem with Mr. Beer, though, is that there is a perception out there that you are not a "real" home-brewer if you use Mr. Beer. I still find myself defending Mr. Beer quite a bit. And to be fair, using a Hopped Malt Extract (HME) as your "recipe" is the absolute simplest form of brewing. You really could compare your first few Mr. Beer batches with microwaving a pre-made meal and calling that cooking. What those "real" brewers who attack fail to realize is that you can take the process whereever you want to. Most of the Mr. Beer brewers that I know don't just use the can of Hopped Malt Extract.

And actually, I know of quite a few Mr. Beer brewers who have won medals in competitions using those HME's.

And then, the other problem with Mr. Beer is that if you really end up loving brewing, you will probably out-grow Mr. Beer. Home-brew shop owners should love Mr. Beer, because it gets so many people started in the hobby, and lots and lots of these people end up upgrading their equipment to more expensive stuff. It gets people hooked.

I do have some advice for any new (or even not-so-new) Mr. Beer brewers out there.

First ... never ever EVER be ashamed of being a Mr. Beer brewer. From time to time you might have "real" brewers try to belittle you for using Mr. Beer equipment. These people are just victims of the stereotype, so don't take it personally. If you want, you can educate them, or if you want, just ignore them.

Second ... you probably don't want to use the little packet of yeast that comes with the kit. It is a fine yeast, but you don't know how long it has been sitting around and they don't really give you enough for a proper fermentation. Just as an aside, when I went to GABF with Mr. Beer (another reason I love Mr. Beer is that they gave me free tickets to my first GABF), they told me what that yeast is and it is one that I buy from my LHBS and use in a couple of my beers.

Third ... don't think you are stuck using only Mr. Beer ingredients. As I mentioned, I got all the way to all-grain brewing in Mr. Beer equipment.

Finally ... mostly maybe ... check out the Mr. Beer forum at I learned an incredible amount about brewing from that forum, and I would say most of it is applicable for all types of brewing ... not just Mr. Beer.

So, anyway,  I am glad I got that off my chest. Feel free to agree or disagree with me in the comments below.

Go Blackhawks!


  1. Yup I also started with Mr. Beer and was ashamed when I went into the homebrew shop and told them I was brewing Mr. Beer. But they responded back with one of my favorite quotes, "you gotta start somewhere".
    I think I would have jumped right into brewing all grain or even extract with steeping grains, I would have gotten burned out and stopped brewing all together.
    I learned a lot from the Mr. Beer forum as well and credit the guys on there for most of my brewing knowledge.

  2. Hey Scott ... thanks for leaving a comment. I was a little shy about sharing my Mr. Beer start with the guys at my Homebrew Shops too. Turns out they all have a great attitude about it, so I didn't have anything to worry about.

    Lately, I've actually heard interviews with a couple of my LHBS's on the radio here where they actually brag about how they welcome Mr. Beer brewers.

  3. I'm still at the Mr Beer extract stage, because it's quick and easy, and I still love it. I'm finally feeling comfortable enough to start adding other LME's and hops, but only moderately. I have run into the cold shoulder when I mention Mr Beer at my LHBS. Even the store owner refused to bring in the kits and cans, stating "it would cost me the same as it does you", which I don't believe for a second. I'm not the most comfortable walking into my LHBS for the very reason that it feels like it's for the 'big boys', and if I thought it would work I would open my own HBS specifically for the new kid on the block who knows nothing but is eager to try.
    The forums are my second home. The guys are friendly, and helpful. You need to stop in more often.


  4. Hey, Paul, thanks for leaving a comment. I would not hold it against your LHBS owner that he doesn't want to carry Mr Beer ingredients. They are quite frankly a bit expensive and I don't think he would sell enough to make it worth it for him. And the absolute worst thing he could do is carry something that will just sit on the self and get old. Any liquid extract is much better fresh than old.

    My advice to you is to embrase the opportunity to learn to develop your own recipes with LME / steeping grains and your own choice of hops.

    I will try to stop into the forum a bit more. Cheers!

  5. I didnt even know about this. thanks for the write up on mr. beer kit.

  6. Hey Sean.... thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  7. Shep, Nice write up! I agree with you to never be ashamed to say that you have brewed with Mr Beer. It has been responsible for many people starting in homebrewing and moving on to opening their own breweries!

    Also there are some really good brewers such as the that started with Mr. Beer and continue to use the fermenters to brew small batches of his own recipes.

    Right now I think Mr. Beer is floundering a little bit. I think that since they sold to Coopers they have had a lot of issues with both the product being consistent and internal management struggles as witnessed with their recent forum upgrade debacle.

    All and all I think Mr. Beer and the new company BrewDemon are a great place for people to start when considering getting into homebrewing.

  8. Thanks for the comment, Leigh.

    To be honest, I have not used Mr. Beer since they made the switch to the new style HMEs after the sale to Coopers.

    I also have not really been very active on the forum. I heard they had problems upgrading, but did not witness the mess myself.

  9. Well Said Eric!


  10. Thank you, anonymous.
    Of course, I've "heard" some mixed reviews as to how things are going since Coopers bought them out. Since all my beers have been all-grain for a long time, I have not really stayed up on how things are going. I've never used the new-style HME's or anything ... probably never will ... although a half an hour brew-day sounds pretty good to me sometimes.


  11. Nice write-up. I have never used a Mr. Beer kit, but I am considering using the fermenters now. I have been a brewer more than 10 years and have been all-grain since day one. There are, unfortunately, a lot of people that have prejudices in brewing. Mr Beer stuff is only one of them. There are people that have opinions about plastic and buckets, aluminum pots, extract brewing, leaf vs pellet hops, batch vs fly sparging, and the list never ends. What people fail to realize is its all about the brewer and their skill. A great brewer can make good to great beer with nearly anything for equipment. Conversely, you can give a poor brewer thousands of dollars worth of top equipment, and they still wont turn out something drinkable. Tiger Woods could go buy three clubs from a Goodwill store and destroy me using a set of Pings on any course in the world. It isnt the clubs.....or the fermenters, folks.

    To hate on a particular piece of equipment is totally missing the point, and in my opinion, shows a lack of understand and maturity in the hobby.

    Thanks again for the write-up. It needed to be said and should be read more broadly.

  12. Really good point about the brewing prejudices, Steve.

    You're right ... it is much more about the brewer than the equipment. I actually only use the Mr. Fermentor rarely now, but I do have (around) two gallons of beer in one now. Again, it is a great size for experimentation.

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  14. I know that this is a bit late, but things are calmer at Mr. Beer now. Changing ownership is hard, but we are through it. Staff did go through some changes, but it is solid. Thank you for your kind words about Mr. Beer though. It is greatly appreciated. We have recently added grains to be used in partial mash recipes so we are constantly changing to meet the ever growing needs of homebrewers.

    Take a look when you have a chance and see what has changed at Mr. Beer. I would love for you to try something new.

    Rick Zich
    President-Coopers DIY/Mr Beer

  15. hey Rick. Thanks for leaving a comment. I have to admit, Mr. Beer hasn't been on my radar for quite some time. I still have a couple of Mr. Beer "keg" fermentors, but have not used them in a LONG time. I just stopped by the Mr. Beer website and hardly recognize it. You sure do offer more than you used to. Pretty awesome.

  16. I ran across this site while looking for an alternate "Mr. Beer" company to do business with. My last two orders with them were not handled to my satisfaction. I've spent approximately $500+ in the past six months with them. The customer service is not what is was prior to it being bought by Coopers. Apparently, the customer is not always right.

  17. I ran across this site while looking for an alternate "Mr. Beer" company to do business with. My last two orders with them were not handled to my satisfaction. I've spent approximately $500+ in the past six months with them. The customer service is not what is was prior to it being bought by Coopers. Apparently, the customer is not always right.

    1. I'm sorry to hear that, Toby. To be honest, I have not even thought about using Mr. Beer for several months. I do all my beer-shopping at my Local Home Brew Shop now. So, I cannot speak to Mr. Beer at all.

      Rick Zich, President-Coopers DIY/Mr Beer left a comment up above too ... and it links to his Google + account. If you are having a specific problem with Mr. Beer, I encourage you to reach out to him. Who knows how much good it will do, but it won't hurt.

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