I was fortunate enough to get a Brewin’ Box Black IPA one gallon kit to give a whirl. I have brewed two gallon kits before from Mr. Beer, but this was my first one gallon kit. I was thinking a one gallon kit would give me a good idea of how it would be for apartment brewing, meaning brewing for those without a lot of space to ferment and store homebrew beer. The Brewin’ Box Black IPA is listed as their flagship black IPA recipe. Let’s take a look at the kit and the brewing process. At the end of review, I will share my thoughts and overall review!
The box arrived via USPS Priority Mail. It was clearly marked by who it came from with a nice Brewin’ Box sticker on the side. The wonderful smell of hops immediately greated me as I cracked open the seal! The contents were will packed , and there was even an extra goodie in the box, some Oatmeal Stout Beer Soap! I don’t know if this was just part of the tester’s kit, or if it will be a regular addition to the boxes. There was a cool wax sealed note from the guys in the box as well. Great touch. I hope they keep this in the future shipments for brewers, as it sets them apart from the mass produced kits.
The kit included Brewin’ Box step-by-step recipe specific home brewing directions, Dry Malt Extract, Steeping Grains & Muslin Bag, Chinook & Cascade Hop Pellets, Dry Ale Yeast, 8 Carbonation Drops, 8 Bottle Caps (bottles not included), and One Step No Rinse Cleanser Packet. Everything was very clearly labeled with what it was, and what steps it is used for. Nice job on that part!
Since I have been homebrewing, the directions on some things have become “optional” to me, but for this test I followed them step-by-step whenever possible. There were a few steps that I couldn’t follow as I didn’t have their equipment kit, but for the most part, I followed them as canon law. They were very comprehensive, totaling 34 steps for the brew process. What I loved about the instructions was the teaching aspect of them. Under some of the steps were some great little explanations of why things were done, and what was happening.
So overall, the brew day took just over 2.5 hours with setup, brewing, all the way to pitching the yeast. It may have taken a little more time for me than it would otherwise because I was stopping to take pictures along the way. I heated the mash water for the special grains at the beginnning. I was very particular with my temps as you can see. It maintained pretty well without any insulation. I hit it with a little extra heat in the last few minutes to keep it close to the 150 as possible. Note the silicon gloves for holding the bag coming out of the wort. these gloves are GREAT for any brewer! I did deviate from step 9, I didn’t throw away the grains. I did keep them and use them the next day for my spent grain cookies that I made!
The brewing process was not difficult. I saw this as a great introductory action for those getting into brewing. This process reminded me much of my roots in homebrewing, from when I was just starting out with the Mr. Beer setup. Each step was well laid out for me with times for each hops addition. I was sure to follow the timing explicitly. I did notice that with the string of hops additions, I had to figure out the best way to cut the package to add the hops. By the second or third addition, through trial and error, this became an easier process. It may have been more difficult as I was trying to take pics while doing it!
After brewing the wort down for the hour boil, there was a good deal of boil off, and the wort was a nice dark concoction. I chilled it in the sink as prescribed and used my Little Brown Keg for Mr. Beer, as it was the smallest fermenter that I had. This is a good one to use, as it is translucent and I could monitor the fermentation along the way. Upon adding my wort to it, for the top off, I had to top it off with a little more than a half gallon of water to reach the 1 gallon mark. Honestly, I was surprised at the amount that boiled off in the hour, but that could be from the size of the pot that I used and the total surface area on the top. You can see how much water was needed in the picture that shows my fingers marking the needed volume to raise it up to the gallon mark.
I pitched the yeast and the final dry hop. I took a gravity reading to be able to test the alcohol level. It rang in at 1.057 after a solid mixing of the newly added water and the wort. I then sealed the fermenter and put it downstairs where the temp stays around 65 degrees. The fermentation with the dried yeast produced a decent krausen in the 8 days time that I let it run. Before bottling, I did check the gravity to be sure we were at a good place for bottling. My final gravity rang in at 1.018, giving me an abv of 5.1%, which is right in line with the 5-6% range the guys said it should come in at.
My beer no longer had any sign of active fermentation after the 8 days, and the gravity looked good. So off to bottling! Oh my! Bottling just 8 bottles is a super quick process! I grabbed some sanitized bottle, sprayed down my caps with some Star San, and dropped the carbonation drops into the bottles. I had a little bit of wort left over, not enough for a 9th bottle, so I had to try the uncarbonated beer…and it tasted pretty good! Now to let the bottles sit for the prescribed two weeks.
Tasting and Overall Impressions of the Brewin’ Box Kit
The beer carbonated well. I drank it for the first time two weeks to the day from bottling. If you want, you can see the check-ins of this batch here on Untappd. I have asked that each person that tastes it be completely honest. They are all people who have tasted my beers in the past, and I have always told them to not hold back on the comments… without blunt statements of what people like or don’t like, changes can never be made to improve things. The beer poured with a moderately sized head. The coloring of it was on the tan side. The body was dark, smelled nice and roasty with some floral notes in the smell. It was quite tasty. I found it to be crisp with a nice level of carbonation.
When the first wave of tester boxes went out with information, people seemed to be stuck on the price. I visited a few brew shops, and found this kit to be at or below the cost of other commercial one gallon kits, and Brewin’ Box had shipping included. This makes sure they are on par, or ahead in that case. The ingredients were of good quality. I loved that they smelled fresh as soon as I opened the box. I do worry about the hops losing some kick with the packaging that they are in. Maybe a heavier duty vacuum bag would help seal in the goodness. It should be noted that the kit is best when it is prepared fresh, so don’t order it months in advance of a gift giving or a chance to brew it.
I do give my stamp of approval for this one gallon Black IPA kit from Brewin’ Box. I think they have the right approach for the small batch brewer. They do a great job with education along the way too! Bravo!