Chapter 3

Malt Extract and Beer Kits

Beer Kit Woes


Perhaps you've been to a homebrew supply store and seen some of the many commercial beer kits that are packaged for the beginning homebrewer. Usually these kits are composed of an attractively labeled can of hopped extract, a packet of yeast, and easy instructions - Just Add Sugar and Water. And if you follow those instructions you will be disappointed with the results. My first beer kit was a bitter disappointment due to the lame instructions on the can. The instructions said something like, "Add 2 pounds of corn sugar or table sugar; Boil if you want to; ferment for 1 week at room temperature; and bottle after that." The result? Sparkling pond water.

You don't need a kit to make your first batch. (And for heaven's sake, don't buy one of those of beer-in-a-bag-type kits.) Brewing beer is not mysterious, it's very straightforward. And despite the many different names and packaging, many kits taste the same. The reason is the yeast and the instructions provided in the kit. A study was carried out several years ago which discovered that many malt extract manufacturers were adulterating their extracts with corn sugar or other simple sugars. Everything is good in moderation, but when the kit starts out as half sugar and then instructs the brewer to add a couple pounds more, the resulting beer will not measure up.

In the time since that study was published however, homebrewing has grown greatly in popularity and has become much more aware of the necessity for high quality ingredients. Malt extract producers have responded to the new awareness in the marketplace with renewed pride in their products. There are a lot of good extracts and beer style kits to choose from these days.

Beer Kit Rules
1. Don't follow the instructions on the can to add cane or corn sugar.
2. Don't use the yeast that came with the can (Unless it is a name brand and has a use-by date code).

The reason is that the yeast that is supplied with the can may be more than a year old and has most likely experienced harsh shipping conditions. It may have been poor quality yeast to begin with. It is better to buy a name brand yeast that is more reliable. For more information on yeast, see Chapter 6.