The fact that I hate beer either makes me the worst person to do a review of the BEERMKR countertop home brewing system or the best person to do such a review.
On the one hand, I can’t tell the difference between “good” beer and “bad” beer because IPAs, stouts, lagers, and what have you all taste gross. So I’m not the best judge of BEERMKR’s end product.
On the other hand, my particular dislike for beer means I know nothing about hops or grains. It also means I have never tried to make my own beer. So if a device promises to render that process idiot-proof, well, then I’m probably the right idiot.
Avid Spoon readers will know that I included the BEERMKR on my 2020 holiday gift guide. So you already know I like it. For the TL;DR set, despite some of its quirks, I actually had fun making beer with this, and that’s probably because I got all the benefits (beer) with hardly any work.
And brewing beer at home the old fashioned way takes lots of work. The traditional process involves buckets, hoses, bottles, bottles potentially exploding, babysitting, sterilizing… All that is to say that it’s complicated! And all those complications have turned a lot of people away from making their own beer.
BEERMKR solves this by putting everything in two pieces of hardware: a (big) countertop brewing/fermenting system and a slightly less big BEERTAP, which sits in your fridge and dispenses beer.
One of the keys to BEERMKR’s ease is the fact that it replaces buckets and bottles with a one-gallon plastic bag/bladder (equivalent to 12, 12-oz bottles). Snap it into the brewer/fermenter to make the beer. Then once that’s done, transfer the bag to the dispenser.
We’ve actually written about how BEERMKR works (and shot videos of it) a few times over the years, so I don’t want to get too bogged down with the mechanics of the system. Like the machine itself suggests, let’s get to the fun part!
BEERMKR sent me a test unit along with the ingredients for two different beer recipes: A stout and an IPA. All of the ingredients are separated out in pre-portioned packets. In the accompanying BEERMKR app, you select either a BEERMKR’s recipe or you can DIY it if you’re a pro. Because I’m a n00b, I used the BEERMKR recipe for the Chubby Stout.
With my recipe selected, the BEERMKR app used a series of videos to guide me through the set up of the machine: how to install the bag, how much water to add, where to put the grains, what to expect in the first phase, etc.
After you do all that, you push the single, solitary button on the machine, and congratulations! You’re well on your way to making your own beer. From there BEERMKR takes over, keeping your beer at the right temperature, agitating it, and literally doing all the work. When it came time to pitch my yeast, BEERMKR sent me an alert and showed me some more videos on how to do that. Easy peasy.
The app fills you in at each step along the way, telling you what temperature the beer is at, the different stages of fermentation, and the resting (FWIW, I never knew beer had to rest). Once I pitched my yeast, I just sat back and watched on my app over the following nine days or so as the beer came together.
When it was done, the app sent me an alert. I removed the plastic bladder holding the beer, placed it into the BEERTAP, screwed in the CO2 cartridge and waited a day for the liquid to carbonate. Which… didn’t exactly happen the first go-round.
BEERMKR is still very much a new product. As such, there are several kinks the company is working out. My beer didn’t actually fizz up all that much because there were leaks in the CO2 lines. But the BEERMKR customer service team is super attentive, identified the problem quickly and sent me some clamps to tighten up the hoses. (A service rep even Zoomed with me to make sure I installed them correctly.)
Once the clamps were in, I waited another 24 hours, then I was able to enjoy a frosty, chocolatey stout. Or, at least my neighbors did (you know, because I hate beer).
One downside to the BEERMKR’s bag system is that it removes the need for bottling. That means that in order to share my beer, people had to come to me. This might be a bummer for hardcore brewers who like gifting their beer, but it was fine for me.
The biggest complaints I have are that during the fermentation phase, the machine gets loud twice a day as it does some kind of vibration something. I couldn’t control the timing of this vibrating, so it wound up waking me up in the middle of the night because it is loud. This is an issue the company said it is fixing in the app, so by the time you get yours, it might not be a problem. I fixed the issue by moving the machine into the garage.
The app also had some other quirks about updates on different stages of my beer, but those didn’t impact the end product and they too are being addressed in updates.
But look. The point is, I had fun making beer! And I hate beer! If I loved beer and knew what I was doing, I would probably have had even more fun because BEERMKR lets you add whatever kind of flair you want to your beer. Want to throw in some raspberries or dandelions or cinnamon? Go crazy! Toss it in the grain bin and let that new/crazy flavor soak in.
At $499, the BEERMKR isn’t cheap, but what’s good is that unlike the now-defunct PicoBrew, it doesn’t rely on some proprietary pod system, so you’re free to go hog wild with your brews. But also homebrewers I know said that the price was good for what it does, given all the time and work it saves you.
BEERMKR didn’t make me love beer, but it made me love how easy it was to make beer.