For my fourth batch of homebrew, I decided to give a Brew House kit a try. If you're unfamiliar with these, they describe themselves as "premium all grain beer kits" from Canada. But this isn't all-grain brewing; it's no boil brewing. You get a four gallon bag of wort brewed to high gravity (~1.080) and add two gallons of water, and pitch yeast. To prevent spoilage, the bagged wort is acidic, which you rectify by adding potassium bicarbonate (included) to raise the pH. This is the big idea that allows you to avoid the use of extract and its corresponding problems (e.g. dark color, extract twang).
Supposedly these kits make the best beer short of all-grain brewing, plus are as simple to use as no-boil canned beer kits from the likes of Cooper's and Mr. Beer. This raises an interesting conundrum. You'd think ease of use would be a great selling point, but I don't want the process to be too easy. I mean, if I want easy, I'd just buy beer. On the other hand, it does seem silly to want to go through extra steps of steeping grains and boiling wort if it still produces inferior beer. (Though at this point, I can't vouch for the quality of the Brew House kits.)
Fortunately, The Brew House kits are hack-able, allowing brewers to put their own stamp on the beer. You can swap yeasts. You can add less top-off water to produce stronger beer. You can boil hops of steep grains in the water before topping off. The manufacturer's website gives a few interesting recipes, and I found a few more here.
- I paid nearly $45 for the kit. Your mileage may vary, but these are very heavy and thus very expensive to transport. Again, this is a kit designed to make six US gallons, or 4-5 gallons of bigger beer, but it's still pricey.
- If you don't have a really big pail, you'll need to use a blowoff. Even then, I don't know if you can make six gallons of this in a 6.5 gallon bucket. I found that others have reported violent fermentations, so be careful.