For many years, I’ve chosen to go buy my beer at the store like a sucker. But that all changes today as my Man Crates BYOB (Be Your Own Brewmaster) Micro Brew Kit has just arrived on my doorstep. My objective is to write a thorough and honest review of this product. Let me be upfront though, as someone who truly loves all beer (even Natty Light!), that’s probably not going to happen. I’m going to like this beer and be very proud of it—as long as it doesn’t kill me.
I also must admit that I’m new to the DIY home brewing game, so I am assuming this takes about three hours and I’ll have a nice frosty beer in my hand in no time.
(Checks instructions…oh no.)
Let’s get started.
The setup and preparation
At first glance, after opening the box (sadly, it didn’t fit in a crate), there are a lot of moving parts to this, but it’s all clearly labeled. We’ve got:
- Micro Brewing Instruction Manual
- 1-Gallon Carboy
- Air Lock
- Bottle Caps
- SMaSH IPA Kit
- Pump Siphon
- Bottle Capper
- Bottle Filler
- Carbonation Drops
The opening steps are pretty self-explanatory. First, I must make sure everything is properly sanitized as contamination is the ultimate enemy to any home brewing experience. If a loose goldfish cracker falls into your mix, chaos could ensue. Or, maybe I’ll have a bold, new flavor. No, seriously, sanitize any equipment that will have contact with the beer. This can take some serious time, so fire up the Netflix while you’re at it.
Once everything is clean, the fun can begin. First, I boil 1.2 gallons of water in the biggest pot I could find. Thanks, Aunty Beth for that wedding gift. The Centennial SMaSH IPA Kit then springs into action. It contains the hops, barley, yeast and malt extract. The malt is really something—so dense and gooey and sweet smelling. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about trying a shot of that syrupy nectar, or at least putting it on an English Muffin…but instead, I dabbed a little on my wrist like it was Drakkar Noir. So intoxicating.
Timing becomes crucial during the heating process, so remember to set your timer for 60 minutes and add the hops at the appropriate times. And, of course, stir like the wind! If you don’t, that malt extract could burn at the bottom of the pot. Did I feel a bit like a wicked witch as I stirred my giant boiling cauldron, giving a hearty laugh while whispering “It won’t be long now, my little pretty beer”? You bet I did.
PRO TIP: The next step of moving the beer from the pot back into the Carboy (why do they call it this?) is a little tricky. So, if possible, find a friend or loved one to assist. You don’t want to lose any precious cargo on the transfer. The Little Bubbler Carboy is designed with extra room just in case your beer is extra robust and has a huge head, but I think my beer will remain humble.
Storage and fermentation
As a resident of Southern California, this is where it got a little tricky. In the summer, storing it in the garage was simply not an option, way too hot. So, after sealing the Carboy and filling the airlock with 1 tbsp. of water, into the kitchen cabinet it went, where hopefully the central AC would provide enough coolness for the magic to happen.
And then came the waiting, and you know what the late great Tom Petty had to say about that. This is a good time to drink up some ordinary pedestrian/not awesome beer and save the bottles for when your beer is ready.
The recommended wait time for this phase was two to three weeks before bottling, so I split the difference and went with two-and-a-half weeks.
Bottling and the home stretch
I assumed the bottling process would be much harder than it was. I envisioned attempting to pour the huge Carboy into the bottles with my bare hands as I swayed under its weight and spilled it all over the kitchen. But luckily, there is that syphon. I submit that the pump syphon is a highly underrated invention. Where would we be without it? Without bottled beer, obviously. I was able to bottle 10 beers pretty easily. Then, I drop in the carbonation drops and pop the caps on with the capper, which was when I felt a bit like Wayne and Garth impersonating Laverne and Shirley. It’s a dated reference, but consider that I’ve had time to think about it. With everything bottled up, it was two more weeks of waiting to be precise—like some cruel groundhog bogarting my prize.
But alas, the day finally arrived and there was beer. And it was good. Somehow there was a rich golden color, hints of orange and a nice, even-sized head. It tasted like it could have been any IPA from the tap of my local bar. But truly, it was better than that and for quite a few reasons.
Top 5 reasons to brew your own beer
- Cut out the middlemen: Driving to the beverage store, waiting in line, spending extra money on the mark up and getting a derisive look from the clerk who may not like your beer selection…who needs that? Brewing your own beer can save money.
- Feel like a mad scientist, just for a moment: Anytime you are surrounded by tubes, thermometers and large boiling pots, it’s very easy to imagine yourself as Dr. Jekyll (if the beer turns angry).
- You will appreciate beer in a whole new light. Once you’ve put in the work and seen the results, you can’t help enjoying beer even more than before.
- Impress your friends. Plus, it’s an excuse to throw a little party and invite them over for a tasting.
- Pride. There’s really nothing like creating something special from scratch.