Right around late July/early August, I get a little antsy knowing the release of my favorite fall beer styles are on the horizon.
Living in the Midwest, the summers are usually VERY hot and humid. And while I like drinking and brewing lighter, more refreshing beers made for the summer, it’s really the fall styles I’ve grown to love.
Could it have something to do with the fact that fall is my favorite season?
I mean, you’ve got football, leaves changing colors, and the right temperature where a hoodie and shorts are the perfect combination.
Oh, and the beer? Pssh…it’s like buttercream icing on a cake!
Besides, how can you argue with college football Saturday’s and NFL Sunday’s along with your favorite fall style homebrew in your hands?
Brewing Fall Beer Styles
You know where I’m going with this…
Whether you like it or not, fall is on the way.
That means it’s time to wrap up the summer brews and start thinking about what you’ll make when seasons start to change.
For those new to brewing, this can feel overwhelming at first. With so many options, it’s hard to choose the perfect beer.
But that’s what makes homebrewing what it is – there are no limitations to what you can do!
It’s what makes small batch brewing even more fun and interesting. More variety, more experimentation, and less hassle (in my opinion anyway).
Don’t worry – if you’re having trouble trying to figure out what fall beer styles would suit you best, we’ve got you covered!
Below, you will read about 5 of the best (and most popular) fall beer styles available for you to brew. This should start to swirl some ideas in your head about what you’ll whip up next.
Style #1 – Oktoberfest
Once the leaves start changing colors, the sweet taste of Oktoberfest is right around the bend.
Originating from Bavaria and known commonly as a Märzen, this annual beer is a perfect fit for the fall. It’s medium to full malty body and beautiful amber color makes it one of the most sought after beer styles around this time of the year.
In order to brew this traditional style in its proper form, you would need the proper equipment, as it needs to be lagered. Many homebrewers start brewing this style in the early months of the year (March/April) so that it can lager and mature to produce the crisp bite and mouthfeel it is known for.
Of course, you could always mimic the style as an ale. The product produced won’t be as authentic, but it’s close enough.
That means you can brew this now and still enjoy it by the time October hits your calendar!
The whole “pumpkin craze” is either a “hate it or love it” kind of relationship. Either you go all in or you avoid this style like the plague.
For many, however, fall means pumpkin spiced beers will be in full force. And if you’re anything like me, you’re a sucker for a good pumpkin beer!
What’s I love most about this style is the versatility. From a lighter bodied ale to a dark and thick porter or stout, there are plenty of ways for you to come up with something unique and flavorful.
While many pumpkin beers utilize real pumpkin (either in the mash or racked to secondary), the key to a great pumpkin beer comes down to the spices you use. If you’re formulating your own recipe, remember to start off easy. You can always add more spice in, but you can never take it out!
While many red and amber ales are brewed throughout the year, there is something special about them in the fall.
Maybe it’s the fact that the red, brown, and orangish hues line up with the colors of the leaves changing?
Or could it be the perfectly balanced toasted malt profile and creamy mouthfeel making it one of most popular styles of the season?
All I can tell you is that I’ve brewed some amazing red’s in the past, and they are now a must-have style in my fall lineup!
But it gets even better…
You see, there’s another thing to note about red/amber ales in the fall: the range of bitterness is quite wide. From mild, roasty, and toasty to thick, malty, and hoppy, it’s easy to brew up something that suits your palate.
Regardless of your favorite twist on the style, one thing is for sure: red and amber ales make a great partner at a bonfire on a cool fall night!
For many homebrewers, Mr. Beer was their introduction into the world of brewing. It’s also one of the most gifted kits around, but it bears one question that has been swimming in my mind for awhile now:
Can one of these kits actually make decent beer?
Looking for an answer, I went on a furious online search to look for as many Mr. Beer reviews as I could find.
But there was one problem – none of them really “stuck out” to me. I couldn’t find anything comprehensive that covered it from top to bottom, beginning to end.
That’s when I decided to give the elusive Mr. Beer kit another try.
Wait a second…did I just say another try?
My First Mr. Beer Experience
About 16 years ago was when I first heard of Mr. Beer. It looked so simple and I was excited at the potential of having a beer I could make on my own.
Being under legal drinking age (college age, but still under 21 at the time), I was able to purchase the kit myself.
I wanted to get brewing so badly that I made my batch the moment I took the kit home.
Fast-forward a few weeks later. I cracked open my brew that I was so proud of, only to be thrown off by an awful flavor.
Looking back, I now know why – I didn’t read up on homebrewing and didn’t understand the process.
I also didn’t understand how important it was to sanitize everything (and do it thoroughly)!
When I really started to get into homebrewing roughly 2 years ago, I started with extract kits and worked my way up to an all-grain setup.
Mr. Beer and I didn’t get along, and that bad experience made me want to avoid it like the plague.
But after having some experience under my belt (and more knowledge), the idea of trying another brew with a Mr. Beer kit seemed fun.
Not only that, but I wanted to provide beginners with a fully detailed review. No b/s either – I wanted to put it all on the line.
And so the idea to give Mr. Beer another try was born!
My All-In Mr. Beer Review
If you’re thinking about taking the plunge into the world of Mr. Beer, make sure you read this entirely. Don’t do what I did before and jump in head first without understanding some basics (don’t worry – I cover many of these below).
I have to admit – when this landed on my doorstep, I was pretty stoked to rip it open and take a peek at the entire setup.
The complete kit came packed with everything necessary to brew beer:
2 gallon Barrel Fermenter w/cap
Spigot w/screw on nut and rubber seal
American Lager malt extract
Yeast Packet (under the lid of the can of malt extract)
Brewmax Booster Packet
(11) 22 oz. plastic bottles with caps
Mr. Beer Branded stickers (for bottles and fermenter)
*Note: The carbonation drops are not pictured as they were damaged during shipment. Things happen, so I wasn’t too upset about it. I never contacted Mr. Beer for a replacement and ended up just using table sugar instead to condition the beer (instructions contain chart for table sugar amounts to use in each bottle).
In all honesty, I could’ve used the carbonation drops (the package was ripped open and a few were loose and jostling around in the box). However, I just stuck with the table sugar as it was easy to do. Besides, purchasing carbonation drops when you can use table sugar isn’t very cost-effective in the long run. More on that later.
A couple days after my Mr. Beer kit arrived, I was ready to brew.
After pulling everything out of the box (repackaged after taking photos above), I started to assemble the spigot onto the fermenter.
It’s a simple process:
Rubber seal goes onto threaded side of spigot (flat side facing spigot and beveled edge facing barrel).
Insert threaded end into front hole on barrel.
Screw the nut onto the thread until you get a snug fit.
Once that was done, it was time for a quick rinse of the barrel and a leak test to ensure that no leaks were coming from the spigot (or the barrel itself).
In order to proper test for leaks, Mr. Beer recommends filling up the barrel with at least a gallon of water and setting it to the side for 10 to 15 minutes. During this time, you’ll be keeping a watchful eye for any noticeable leaks.
For the best test possible, make sure that you wipe down the outside of the barrel and around the spigot before placing it on a hard surface (e.g. your kitchen counter) for the duration of the test.
Important: Do NOT skip this step! I was glad I didn’t, because I ended up having a leak.
After messing around with the spigot a bit and running a few more tests, I was able to get things situated.
To take things a step further, I held the barrel over the sink at a downward angle (spigot facing down) to put added pressure on the spigot. While doing this, I remained focused on the seal around the spigot to make sure no water was coming through.
At this point, I was confident I was in the clear.
Again, don’t get lazy with this. You don’t want to get through the entire process only to end up with a mess on your hands (not to mention the beer you will lose).
Now it came time for what I feel is the most crucial piece to making good beer: sanitizing!
The kit came with a packet of No-Rinse Cleaner. While I have StarSan on hand, I wanted to follow the instructions and stay as true to the process as I could.
Since my barrel already contained a gallon of water from the leak test, I emptied some water through the spigot to give it a quick internal rinse.
I then added room temp water back into the barrel to get the volume back up to 1 gallon (the suggested amount via the instructions).
Once that it was good, I emptied half a packet of sanitizing solution into the barrel and, using a spoon, mixed everything together until the sanitizer was fully dissolved.
I quickly popped on the lip and gave the barrel a good shake for roughly 30 seconds (over my kitchen sink, since water did escape through small grooves on the threads of the barrel under the lid – more on that in a bit).
The sanitizing solution sat in the barrel for another 2 minutes before I gave it a good 30 seconds of vigorous shaking again, just to make sure everything was covered. Could’ve done with less, but you never want to be too careful.
Another important reminder: Don’t dump the sanitizer just yet! You’ll need to reallocate it to another large bowl to sanitize the rest of your materials!
Once the barrel was sanitized, I ran the solution through the spigot into a bowl, which included the following items:
Similar to the sanitizer in the barrel, I let these items soak for a few minutes. During this time, I grabbed my small stockpot, a small bowl, a gallon of spring water, and my malt extract.
On the stove, my stockpot was ready and waiting for water. I poured 4 cups of spring water and added the Booster packet (just a packet of sugar basically), which helps boost the overall ABV. This isn’t necessary, but it came with the kit and hey, who can argue a little higher ABV percentage?
After mixing the Booster in with the water until it dissolved, the stove was turned on to heat the water up to a boil.
To help loosen up the malt extract and make it easier to pour, I removed the label around the can and had it sit in a bowl of hot water in my kitchen sink.
With the water at a fast boil, I killed the heat on my stove (if using electric, move it away from the heat source), opened the can of malt extract (using the sanitized can opener, of course), poured it in, and gave it a good stir (roughly a minute or so).
At this point in the process, the wort was ready for the barrel fermenter.
Following the Mr. Beer instructions, I had the sanitized fermenter filled with a gallon of cold spring water. The hot wort was carefully dumped into the barrel with more cold spring water added to bring the volume up to 2 gallons.
To prepare the best environment for the yeast to get active, I took my sanitized mixing spoon and vigorously stirred the wort to aerate it.
Using the sanitized scissors (are you starting to see a theme here?), I cut open the yeast packet and pitched the yeast directly on top of the wort.
The barrel was then sealed and stored in my basement (which averages around 65°F).
And just like that, brew day was complete!
According to the Mr. Beer Instructions, the recommended fermenting duration is 3 weeks and bottle conditioning for another 3. In my opinion (and previous experience), fermenting for 2 to 3 weeks is suitable and conditioning for 2 to 3 weeks also works.
However, letting it ferment/condition on the longer side of the scale certainly won’t hurt anything.
My beer ended up sitting in the fermenter for 3 weeks (life happens and I got busier than usual).
Guess that meant it was time to finally bottle this stuff up!
I gathered the following:
(11) 22 oz bottles and caps
Small plastic bucket
The last half packet of no-rinse sanitizer
I collected water in the small bucket and poured in the sanitizer crystals, stirring it slowly until it was completely dissolved.
To make sure the spigot didn’t get any contaminants on it during the fermentation process, I took a small glass, filled it with sanitizer solution and held the glass up to the opening of the nozzle for roughly one minute.
Once that was wrapped up, I dumped my plastic caps, measuring spoon, and plastic funnel into the bucket with sanitizer and carefully filled up each bottle about halfway with the solution. Bottles were capped and shaken quite vigorously for about 30 seconds or so.
Similar to the sanitizing process of the barrel fermenter, I let the solution soak in the bottles for about 2 minutes.
Being the cautious guy I am, I gave each bottle one more good shake before dumping out the sanitizing solution back into the bucket along with all of the caps. Doing this ensured the caps would remain sanitized until the bottle was filled and sealed.
The process of filling up each bottle was pretty straightforward:
Place bottle opening at the bottom of the spigot, tipping the bottle back towards you at an angle so that the fill doesn’t stir up any oxygen (oxygenation = off flavors in the final product).
Press down on the spigot to release the beer.
Let it flow until you have about 2 inches space between the top of the beer and the cap.
Measure out 2 teaspoons of sugar and dump directly into the bottle (I used a sanitized funnel and spoon for this process as my carbonation drops were tossed out due to damage).
Grab a cap, twist to seal, and repeat until complete.
One thing to note: I was only able to fill 10 of the 11 bottles due to trub (the yeast cake that settles to the bottom) taking up more space than I thought. This reduced the overall volume of beer in the fermenter. This was somewhat expected, so I wasn’t surprised. 220 ounces of beer was still a great yield!
I also pulled a small sample of the beer, just to get an idea of the overall profile (the beer will be flat). While it wasn’t the best beer I’ve made, it wasn’t the worst. It was drinkable and tasted similar to other similar beers in its style class.
The day that every homebrewer waits for finally arrived.
It was time to finish what I started and evaluate this beer. I was eager to see if it was better than the beer that I made 16 years prior with what is essentially the same kit.
Note: Before I dig into this, I should mention that I waited 2 weeks for the beer to condition. It’s at a point where I feel that it’s good enough to fully evaluate. Any less would’ve been too green. Another week or two wouldn’t hurt anything and would only help the beer taste even better (I’ll try to provide an update after they’ve been in the bottle for 3 to 4 weeks and record the difference).
I put one of the bottles in the fridge overnight to try the following day.
Upon opening the beer and pouring it into my mug, I immediately noticed the amount of carbonation. It was stellar! The head wasn’t very large (as shown in the photo below, but I also poured this slowly into the mug).
The rich golden hue is very comparable to beers in this style (i.e. Bud Light for those domestic folks new to homebrewing/craft beer).
However, the one thing that I was impressed with the most was the clarity! The beer was very bright (meaning no yeast in suspension) and just looked great overall!
I shouldn’t be too surprised on this since the beer was made from a malt extract. Even then, I would expect to see some cloudiness due to the yeast, but it looks like it settled nicely to the bottom of the bottle.
Before giving it my first taste, I gave the mug a quick sniff to see what the aroma was like. I mostly got hints of bread, so I wasn’t sure what the flavor was going to be like.
Upon first taste, I immediately noticed the crispness of the beer itself. The carbonation made it very refreshing. There was also a slight hint of apple, which can be attributed to this style.
It can also mean that the beer is young and that it needs more time to condition.
That said, as I mentioned above, I will be providing an update on the flavor after 3 to 4 weeks in the bottle.
Overall, the apple was fairly faint, which some yeasts can produce during fermentation. It was still a very drinkable beer.
I have to admit, I was quite surprised that I was able to produce something that was worth drinking from a kit that many homebrewers often “look down” upon (which is ironic considering a lot of them started this way).
The Final Verdict
I’m happy to report that this batch of Mr. Beer didn’t turn out anywhere close to the batch I made nearly two decades ago.
I’m glad I gave this kit and process another shot. It made me appreciate the product that initially got me and so many others into the hobby of homebrewing.
To quickly sum up my final thoughts, here is a quick breakdown of what I enjoyed and what I think could’ve been better:
What I Enjoyed
The process wasn’t time consuming and very condensed. During brew day, I went from pulling everything out of the box to wrapping up the process in a little less than an hour (my current all-grain process is at least 4 hours from start to finish).
Doesn’t require a lot of equipment or space.
No need for a big investment. It’s perfect for anyone who isn’t sure if they will enjoy brewing beer and doesn’t want to spend a ton of money to find out.
Using extract means a more predictable beer.
Instructions are straightforward (which is perfect for a new homebrewer).
What Could Be Better
The spigot assembly and plastic barrel could be better made, but at this price point, small hurdles are to be expected. It still serves its purpose.
I’m not the biggest fan of the plastic bottles, but again, they serve their purpose. Might be worth investing in a bottle capper and glass bottles down the line if you plan to brew more frequently.
The No-Rinse Sanitizer is average. Unlike Star-San (which sanitizes on contact), the included sanitizer needs remain in contact for a longer duration.
What I Recommend
Use spring or purified drinking water. Tap water contains a variety of potential contaminants that can throw off the flavor of your beer. Your water profile actually matters quite a bit more than you might thing!
Make sure to sanitize EVERYTHING, including the yeast packet and scissors to cut it open. This is common practice, but something the instructions do not touch on.
I had a lot of fun reviewing this Mr. Beer kit. In fact, I may even consider picking up a refill kit when I feel like making something quick without having to pull out all of my all-grain equipment.
While I definitely enjoy making my own recipes, it’s nice to do something that is tried and true, yet still gives you that homebrew feel.
Is it going to turn you into a brewing expert? Not even close, but as I mentioned above, it’s a good way to determine whether or not this is something you want to dive deeper into.
Even then, you can tinker with these extract brews to put your own spin on things. It’s homebrewing, remember? ANYTHING is possible!
When it comes to the hobby of brewing beer, the deeper you get into it, the more you will find yourself oogling over the latest home brewing gadgets.
For a beginner, that might not seem like the case. You’ve got all you need to brew great beer, right?
After you get a few batches under your belt, the feelings of being overwhelmed begin to subside. You start to branch out and learn more about beer. More gadgets and equipment begin to stack up. It’s not that you really need them, but they help give you an edge you’ve desperately been looking for.
Oh, and they make your life easier, your beer better, and brew days more efficient!
Can you really argue with that? I didn’t think so…
Cool Home Brewing Gadgets
With so many different brew gadgets on the market, it’s hard to decide what’s worth your money (and what isn’t).
That said, we’ve got a list of 9 brewing gadgets that we think are some of the best in terms of adding efficiency, saving you time, or helping you improve your process to make the best beer possible!
Whether you’re looking to buy a fellow homebrewer a cool gift or looking to advance your own brew game, these 9 home brewing gadgets are sure to make someone happy!
#1 – Ss Brewtech Brew Bucket
Ss Brewtech is one of the most dominating brands in the homebrewing industry, and for good reason – their products are built for maximum durability and toughness.
While they make a lot of great products, one of their best innovations is their line of Brew Buckets.
More than “just another fermenter”, Brew Buckets are made with 304 stainless steel for durability and easy handling. The stainless steel design is more sanitary than plastic, yet safer than hauling around those pesky glass carboys.
What makes it great: The Brew Bucket has a conical base with a strategically placed spigot that sits between the point where the “bottom” of the bucket end and the cone-shaped base begin.
The result – a clearer beer during transfer to secondary or your bottling bucket!
If that wasn’t attractive enough, these things are much easier to clean and last longer than their plastic or glass counterparts.
And while a Brew Bucket will cost more upfront than a glass carboy or plastic bucket, you won’t need to buy another one for YEARS!
Whether you’re cranking out 5 gallons of beer or frequently brewing smaller batches, one thing rings true: you’re going to need bottles.
And if you need bottles, you’ll need to clean/sanitize them. If you’ve done this before, you know how much of a pain it can be.
Oh yeah, and all that water getting all over the place? Have fun cleaning that up too.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could clean/sanitize your bottles and place them somewhere to dry off hands-free?
That’s where a bottle tree/drying rack comes in handy!
Why it’s useful: A lot of homebrewers will agree that cleaning and drying bottles isn’t the most exciting task. Besides, things can get messy (and slippery) if you’re not careful.
A bottle tree/drying rack helps alleviate the mess by allowing your bottles to dry hands-free. The unique design tips your bottles so all sanitizer solution drips out of the bottle and down to the drip-catching tray.
In the end, you’re left with a nice, clean, and spot-free bottle that’s ready for beer whenever you are!
With any beer (craft especially), it’s all about hops, hops, and more hops. With such a wide variety to choose from, you have the freedom to create an assortment of beers with unique flavors and aromas.
Pretty cool, until you find your favorite hop strain on sale and want to load up.
Think about it – if you’re buying a couple pounds of hops and don’t plan to use them within a reasonable amount of time, you need to store them properly.
Poor storage = bad hops. That’s just a waste of your time AND money.
The goal: long-term storage and minimal exposure to oxygen.
The solution: a vacuum sealer!
Why it’s worth it: Buying hops can get VERY expensive, especially if you’re brewing large batches or hop-heavy IPA’s. Many homebrewers will buy hops in bulk to help minimize their costs.
Of course, buying in bulk requires the need for a long-term storage solution.
A vacuum sealer allows you to store your hops safely while minimizing the chances of any 02 causing damage. Use one and you’ll get the best of both worlds – fresher hops at a lower price point!
One important (and fun) part of the brewing process is determining your OG (original gravity) and FG (final gravity) of your beer. After a few calculations, the difference between the two will give you your final ABV percentage.
While a hydrometer can help you do this, there a slightly more efficient tool that can help you obtain gravity readings without much work.
That nifty tool is known as a refractometer.
Why it’s cool: Refractometers use the reflection of light to determine the volume of sugar in your wort. They require a MUCH smaller sample too – just a few drops of wort onto the glass and you’re set.
I’ll admit – they aren’t necessary and you might like your hydrometer as-is, and that’s fine.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t say they are pretty damn slick!
If you want to track your ABV and ensure fermentation is near completion, you need to monitor changes in gravity with a hydrometer.
Unless you’re using a refractometer like I mentioned above in #4, you’re going to need to pull a sample of beer.
The Beer Thief makes this process a breeze.
Why it’s useful: The Beer Thief is a long plastic tube with a spring end that opens when pressure is applied. This allows your wort to fill the plastic tube, making it easy to sample your beer and take a gravity reading.
The way it works is simple:
Sanitize the Beer Thief inside and out.
Open the lid to your fermentation bucket.
Place the Beer Thief inside at an angle and press the bottom against the side of the bucket.
Slowly slide the Beer Thief down to fill up the plastic tube.
Place a sanitized hydrometer inside of the tube to take your gravity reading. You can also dispense your beer into a sanitized glass for sampling.
Once finished, return remaining beer back to the vessel by pressing it gently against the side of the bucket at the top.
Overall, a very cool and handy home brewing gadget to have sitting around! And considering the price, picking one up is almost a no-brainer.
Removing labels from bottles can be sort of a cumbersome task. Some come off with ease and others require a bit more elbow grease.
I touch more on how to remove labels from beer bottles here. While those steps work great, I came across an interesting gadget that I think would be helpful in the process.
It’s called the Labelnator.
What it’s all about: The Labelnator is a unique product in that it’s designed to scrape labels off of beer and wine bottles.
I haven’t used this personally, but after discovering it recently, I might consider picking one up. According to most of the reviews, a lot of people seem to have great luck using it after their labels had a chance to loosen up after a long soak.