Brewing process takes less than three hours
Comes with bottles and caps
Easy brewing process
Instructions are outdated
Siphon is hard to use
We purchased the Northern Brewer Craft Beer Making Gift Set so our reviewer could put it to the test in her kitchen. Keep reading for our full product review.
Do you love beer? Do you like trying new things? Then it’s time to brew your own beer! The Northern Brewer Craft Beer Making Gift Set provides a fun, immersive experience that all beer lovers will enjoy. The instructions are thorough, the steps are easy to follow, and the brewing process only takes a few hours. After that, you just sit back and watch your brew ferment. Keep reading for our full review to see if this is the type of kit you’re after.
Setup Process: Just clean and go
There isn’t much that goes into the setup process. Northern Brewer suggests giving the instructions a once-over to make sure you have everything you need and that you watch their video tutorial so you’re familiar with all of the included parts.
From there, the first thing we had to do was clean the included equipment. The kit comes with Northern Brewer’s own no-rinse cleansing solution, so we used that to wash all of the parts that would touch the wort (the beginnings of your beer) after we boiled it. We recommend making the cleanser either before you start brewing or while the wort is boiling; that way, you won’t have to worry about it during the cool-down process.
Once you’ve accounted for all your equipment and you’ve got your cleansing solution ready to go, it’s time to start brewing! The kit comes with just about everything you’ll need, with the exception of a few kitchen staples. Specifically, the kit comes with the following: a glass jug for fermenting, a three-piece airlock, a mini auto-siphon, 3-foot siphon hose, a bottle filler, cleanser solution, 12 glass bottles and caps, a bottle capper, two Northern Brewer pint glasses, and recipe kit.
Northern Brewer’s Craft Beer Making Gift Set comes in two styles: Chinook IPA and Kama Citra IPA. We went with the former, and our recipe kit came with the following: steeping grains and a mesh bag, a 1.5-pound container of Northern Brewer Gold malt extract syrup, 14 grams of hops, a yeast packet, Northern Brewer carbonating “Fizz Drops.”
The rest of the supplies—including a large bowl for the cleansing solution, a large pot or Dutch oven, scissors, a thermometer, and a spoon for stirring the wort—we collected from our kitchen.
Since you’re supposed to put the wort in an ice bath after it’s on the stove, having a sink plug and a lot of extra ice will also be helpful.
Brewing Process: Easy with a few fixable problems
After you’ve finished cleaning your equipment, you’ll find that the brewing process is quite simple. The first step is heating up water and steeping your grains in the mesh bag that comes with your kit. Northern Brewer suggests tying it to the handle of the pot you use, but our pot was too tall for this. Instead, we tied the bag to a butter knife and let that rest on the edge of the pot.
After your grains are steeped, you bring the liquid to a boil for 45 minutes and then add a few ingredients. When you add the hops, take special care to make sure the pot doesn’t boil over. We didn’t have any issues with this, though. Next, you add the syrup, let it boil some more, and then add some more hops. Everything is pre-measured, so it’s a simple process.
The process—from getting everything set up to readying it for fermentation—took 2.5 hours.
Once you’re done making your wort, it’s time to cool it down. An ice bath in your sink is best for this, and it’ll probably take about a half-hour to cool down to 60 to 70 degrees, which is the target temperature.
The next step is to move the wort into the fermenting jug. You can’t just pour it in, since there will be a decent amount of sludge on the bottom. That’s where the siphon comes in. Ideally, you should be able to give the siphon a few pumps, and the liquid should flow into the jug with ease. Our siphon was pretty uncooperative, though—much unlike the one in the tutorial video. It would start flowing, but then it would stop, so we’d have to keep pumping. This made it hard to keep the sludge out of the siphon, so we had a ton of it transfer over into our fermenting jug.
We had one more minor problem with the filling process. You’re supposed to fill the jug to the 1-gallon fill line, but there wasn’t one marked. We solved this by adding a gallon of water to the jug and marking the outside with a permanent marker, but just remember to check your before you start!
Once you have your wort in the jug, you’re supposed to rock it back and forth to aerate it and then sprinkle the yeast on top. Putting the airlock together is simple, and then you just have to store it somewhere that’s not in direct sunlight. The beer will then sit for two weeks, fermenting until it’s ready to be bottled.
In all, the process—from getting everything set up to readying it for fermentation—took 2.5 hours.
Bottling Process: The siphon is a little tricky
Bottling your beer with this kit shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. The siphon is a little hard to get working, but once you have it flowing it should keep going. The thing you’ll want to watch out for the most is the sediment at the bottom of your jug. Since we struggled with the siphon so much during the brewing process, we ended up with a ton of sediment in our jug. If this happens to you, just make sure to keep your siphon away from the bottom of the jug.
After you clean your equipment and bottles, you’ll want to have the jug with your beer in an elevated position. That way, the siphon will work easier. Then you give it a couple pumps and use the bottling wand to fill the bottles all the way to the top. When you take the bottling wand out, you’ll have the perfect amount of headspace left in your bottles. Then add the carbonation drops, stick a cap on, and seal it with the bottle capper. It’s a lot easier than it looks, and it doesn’t take much strength at all. After that, you’re supposed to let your bottled beer sit for another couple weeks so it can condition. Just as before, you’ll want it in a dark place.
Northern Brewer says that the Chinook IPA should be reddish-gold in color and have a heady hop aroma and flavor and that’s exactly what we got.
The bottling process shouldn’t take you more than 45 minutes, and it really is pretty easy—as long as you have a cooperative siphon.
Final Results: A well-balanced IPA
The first thing we noticed when pouring the Chinook IPA was that it wasn’t very foamy. After a sip, though, we found it was perfectly carbonated. Northern Brewer says that the Chinook IPA should be reddish-gold in color and have a heady hop aroma and flavor and that’s exactly what we got. If you’re a fan of IPAs and bitter grapefruit flavors, you’ll love this beer.
Price: Mid-range and worth it
As far as 1-gallon beer brewing kits go, this one is on the expensive side with an $80 price tag. You can find a lot of other 1-gallon kits for closer to $50. The difference? The Northern Brew Gift Set comes with some extra bells and whistles, like limited edition bottles and glasses. Plus, the beer tastes great, and we think that alone is worth paying extra for.
Competition: Plenty of other options for beginners
Mr. Beer American Golden Ale Complete Beer Making Kit: This 2-gallon kit retails for roughly $50 (view on Amazon) so you’ll get twice the amount of beer for less than you’d spend on the Northern Brewer kit. The difference here is that Mr. Beer’s included equipment is largely plastic and the taste of the final result isn’t quite as good. That said, the brewing process is much easier and there’s no need for a siphon because it sits in the same container until you bottle it. If you’re looking for a kit that’s inexpensive and easy, this is a great option.
Northern Brewer Brew Share Enjoy Homebrew Starter Kit: If you want to make a lot of beer, this 5-gallon kit (view on Amazon), is the one for you. You’ll have an easy time with the brewing process, although you’ll need to set aside a solid four hours to do it. The price is steep at $170, but we think it’s worth it if you’re brewing with friends or family. Just remember to take into account the price of bottles, too, since the kit doesn’t come with any.
- Product Name Craft Beer Making Gift Set Review
- Product Brand Northern Brewer
- Price $79.99
- Yield 1 gal
- Equipment warranty 1 year
- What’s Included Step-by-step instructions, cleanser, two Northern Brewer pint glasses, 12 beer bottles and two carriers, bottle filler, capper, 20 caps, auto-siphon and tubing, blowoff hose, bubbler, airlock, and recipe kit.