Mr. Beer #1 is in the fermenter!
For anyone who hasn't heard of it (I wasn't THAT familiar with it beforehand), Mr. Beer is a basic home-brewing kit. It comes with a barrel-shaped 'fermenter' with a spigot attacked, and their revenue model seems to be focused on selling a wide variety of reasonably priced (but not cheap) "malt extracts" that save you the trouble (and, from what I hear, 64000-btu-necessary) process of making wort from your malt and hops.
And I received just such a kit for a birthday present! You know who you are, thanks! :-D
The kit starts with a mysterious "sanitizing" powder, which you are instructed to use to sanitize the inside of the fermenter, a bottle opener, a measuring cup, and a spoon. Although the package has some safety warnings (and it contains 'carbonates'), they call it a no-rinse sanitizer, meaning you are to leave it inside the very fermenter that will hold the brewing beer.
It occurs to me that a) the measuring cup will only come in contact with ingredients that will later be boiled, and b) they do NOT suggest sanitizing the top of the Malt Extract cans, which contact the malt extract, and will be added after boiling (albeit only shortly).
So, onto beer #1:
8.5 quarts Target 'purified water'
1 can Hopped Malt Extract, West Coast Pale Ale style
1 package 'Booster'
And my variation from the recipe:
1 cup brown sugar
I mention boiling but not what I boil: They instruct you to boil 1 quart of water with the 'Booster' pack - a pack labeled only 'Corn Solids', and which is accompanied by warnings that you should pour very slowly to avoid 'clumping'. Boy are they not kidding! It must be corn starch - which clumps worse at higher temperatures. I ignored instructions and stirred it into pretty warm water, and had to add more water to bring down the temperature and reduce clumping.
Their handy little chart suggests how much each sugar source will increase the alcohol-by-volume of the results of a batch of beer: Each can of Hopped (or unhopped) Malt Extract will contribute 2.3%; the Booster pack, 1.4%; and the cup of sugar, 1%. So, by their predictions, the result will be 4.7% ABV.
I was going to add 2 cups of sugar to give it a healthy 5.7%ABV, but they also warn that "2/3rds of the ABV should come from malts, to avoid a cidery flavor." OK, well I'm over that limit, so hopefully it won't be too bad!
They suggest 7-14 days for fermenting, and 7-14 days for bottling. So, that means I should be putting it in bottles around St. Patrick's Day, and emptying the bottles starting in April.
Let's hope it goes well!