Skip to main content

Midwest Supplies Schwarzwald Black Lager Review

03-18-01Four months ago I was contacted by a rep at Midwest Supplies about their recipe kits. They allowed me to pick one kit to receive for free in exchange for a review. They held up their end of the bargain, now that I have finally kegged the beer, it’s time for me do to the same.

Schwarzwald Black Lager pours a nice black color with a fluffy off-white head. I have the carbonation turned up a bit high on my kegorator for this style, but I like my beers a little higher on the carbonation side. The nose is a mix of sweet, caramel-like, malt and roasted flavors. There isn’t any hops to speak of but a crisp lager nose is there.

On the first taste you get hit with some nice malt flavors. There are some great caramels and toffees in there which are then followed by the roasted flavors that give the beer its color. The roasted flavors come in and really lift this beer up. It was edging on being too sweet and roasted flavors do a great job of cutting out sweetness. There are some light coffees and general roasted grain in there.

For a beer that to the untrained eye looks like it could be thick and malty, this beer stays away from it. It is very light in the mouthfeel and all of the flavors stay in restraint. This is a very drinkable beer that is perfect for late winter/early spring. I want to thank Midwest Supplies again for including me in this. I have ordered from them in the past and I will do so in the future. They carry a great line of beer kits along with whatever else you would need if you are getting into brewing or if you are an experienced brewer.

Gift ideas for a beer lover

Christmas is just a few weeks away and I thought it might be a good idea to put up a few gift ideas for the beer lover out there. There are  thousands of different products out there to suit any beer lover. My suggestions are from things that I own, use, and drink. I know the economy is puttering along right now, so all of these suggestions come in at under $30.00, which should suit almost any budget. So lets get started.

#1:  Beer a Day calendar

12-06-01What beer way to celebrate beer than to look at a new beer everyday. Not only does it let you learn about a new beer, but it gives tasting notes, some food pairings, and a random beer fact. I had one of these last year and it put a few ideas in my head on beers that I wanted to try and styles that I wanted to homebrew. And do you want to know the best part? This daily giver of joy can be found on Amazon for under $12 bucks. That should make your wallet smile a bit

#2 Beer of the Month Club

I was briefly a member of a Beer of the Month Club at one point last year. The main reason I stopped was becasue I was moving and it got a tad bit pricey. Most BotM Clubs give you the choice of how many months you want to join for and how many bottle you receive. Most of them send out about 12 bottles a month, but there are those who give you a full case each month. The nice thing is that all of the clubs focus on mircobrews (probably becasue they run out of macros). They start at around $20.00 a month and move up from there. Some also allow you to go month to month while others make you get a subscription. In either case, just do a bit of researching to see what fits into your budget.

#3 Mr. Beer Kit

12-06-02On of the first articles I ever did on this site was about my Mr. Beer experiences. Mr. Beer is perfect for the beginning homebrewer. It allows you to get an idea about the processes involved in making beer and gives you a sample of what can be done. Mr. Beer makes making beer very simple and allows for a lot of variety. I really enjoyed making beer with these kits. At one point my roommate and I owned four of them and we were pumping our 2.5 gallons of beer every half week to week. Needless to say we had a lot of friends.

Mr. Beer is having a sale for the holiday season where you can get the whole deluxe kit for $29.95. The kit includes bottles, fermentor, sanitizer, and a ingredient kit to make your first batch. Not a bad deal and if you decide you don’t like homebrewing, you didn’t drop a lot of money on something you are not going to use. Check it out here.

#4 Spiegelau Beer Glasses

12-06-03Every beer drinker should have a proper glass to drink out of. I recently received my first pair of Spiegelau glasses courtesy of the Beer Tap TV and I don’t think that I will ever drink out of another glass again. They are sure thin and they give you a more accurate idea of what the color of the beer is. The idea behind it is that the thicker the glass, the more distortion that it causes when looking at the beer. They also have a nice wide top to let you get your whole face in there to smell a beer. This is the same company who makes those nifty Sam Adams glasses. You know the ones that make their beer better becasue of the glass design. Who knows if that is true, but it is a good story and a really cool looking glass. You can get a set of two for $19.59 from here.

#5 Any Michael Jackson book

12-06-04Any beer lover should own a book by Michael Jackson. Not the King of Pop, but the King of Beer. While Mr. Jackson has moved on, his books provide a powerful reminder of his love and passion for great beer. He is widely credited with being the first journalists to write about beer and helped open a whole generation to the great beers of the world. Michael Jackson’s Great Beer Guide and Ultimate Beer are two of my favorite from him, and both are coming in at under $20.00 right now.

I highly suggest both books and I be you will find a ton of beers that you did not know about, but now want to try. I know that I did.

I’ll be posting a homebrewer gift idea post very soon, so check back. And just as a shameless plug, you might want to think about Beer Tasting Notes that was made by the same people who bring you this website. It helps fund this site and will also help you keep track of your beers.

What do I need to homebrew?

One of my buddies just recently asked, “what do I need to have to be able to homebrew?” He actually brewed his first batch of beer tonight after he got his starter kit in the mail. I thought that I would take a few moments to go over the very basic things that you need to have as a new homebrewer. I am going to leave out a few things that typically come in a beer kit, becasue, as a new brewer you simply don’t need or shouldn’t be worrying about them. If you don’t want to read my explanations, simply scroll to the bottom of the page for the final list of necessary equipment.

Boil Pot

11-13-02The first thing that you are going to need is a pot to boil your wort in. A basic definition for wort is the liquid that contains all of the sugars that the yeast will eat. Your pot can really be any size, most people will say that you need to have something big enough to boil a few gallons and I would agree with that. I started with, and still use my 20 quart pot, and have had great success with it. You can find a stainless steel, 5 gallon pot for 20-50 bucks depending on where you shop. My local Big Lots has them on sale right now for $20. You can read my entry on brew pots here as there are a few other (aka cheaper) options out there, but I am going to stick with stainless.


11-13-01The next thing you have to have is something to ferment in. Most beers are brewed in a closed fermenter. What this means is that once the wort and yeast are combined, there is no other air introduced to the container. Just think of a water bottle, once you put the lid on no extra air can come in. Some brewers do open fermentation where the beer is put into a container with no lid or cap, and is left alone. This is fine as long as nothing falls into the beer, there is minimal air movement, and you are willing to risk airborne critters entering your beer. In either case, the beer needs to be in something rated food safe. If it is a glass carboy you have no problems, and if it is a plastic bucket, just double check to make sure it is food safe.

So we have something to boil the wort in and somewhere to put it once it is done boiling. Now we need a way to get it out of there once the fermentation is complete. Actually, let me back up for a second. Most brewers like moving their beer from one fermenter to another after the fermentation has completed. This does a lot of things for you if you are going to be storing the beer for a long time, but if you are ready to go right to the bottle, you don’t need to worry about a second fermenter. Remember I am going for a basic list here, so no secondary.

Siphon and bottling equipment

Getting back to moving that beer out of the fermenter and into the bottle, we need something to do that with. There are two options a siphon (aka a racking cane) or an auto-siphon. What both of these devices use is basic physics (pressure) to move liquids from a high pressure to a lower one. There is a little more to it, but that is the general gist. A siphon you must start and then work it into your beer. To be honest I’ve never used one. An auto-siphon is slightly more expensive (about $5 more), but well worth your time and effort. You simply pump it and the liquid starts flowing. Pretty easy. Along with your siphon or auto-siphon you are going to need a tube to transport the beer to where you want it.

Our next few things kind of go hand in hand. At the end of the tube from your siphon you want to have a bottle filler. A bottle filler has a spring loaded tip that only allows your precious beer to flow out of it if the tip of it is depressed (on the bottom of a bottle). They run in the 2-5 dollar range. Just make sure that you are getting one that is spring-loaded. Obviously we are going to need some bottles as well. To top off the bottles we need to have bottle caps and also a capper that crimps the caps onto the top of the bottle.

Sanitize brother, Sanitize

There is the equipment side of things. The other necessary thing that you have to have, repeat HAVE TO HAVE, is some type of sanitizer. It can be as simple as bleach or as cool as a non-rinse sanitizer. In any case it is absolutely necessary. You can have the best equipment in the world, but without sanitation, you can’t make good beer (and possibly not even drinkable beer). Yikes. This is because there are tons of microscopic  critters out there that like beer as much as we do. If they get into your fresh wort, they will compete with your yeast in eating the sugars. These critters can make some terrible smells and tastes if given the chance. So just kill them when you have the chance, all of them.


So a quick recap of things absolutely necessary to homebrew:

  • Boil kettle: size doesn’t matter but a 3-5 gallon one will serve you well
  • Fermenter: because you need somewhere for your yeasts to live
  • Siphon: so you can get your yummy beer into a bottle
  • Bottle filler: you need to fill those bottles in some controlled fashion
  • Bottles: what else would you drink your beer out of?
  • Bottle caps: you want your beer to be carbonated don’t you?
  • Bottle capper: those caps need to stay on the bottle somehow
  • Sanitizer: other little critters like beer as much as we do, don’t give them a chance to have it

Well there you go, all of the stuff you need to make beer, other than the ingredients of course. I’ll cover that in our next into to brewing post. Thanks for reading and let me know if there are any questions that you have. This is in no way a complete list of things that you could have, but this is the necessary list of things. There are plenty of other products out there that will make your homebrewing experience easier and more satisfying.

My intro to homebrew: Mr. Beer

As I have said in previous posts, my homebrew experiences started with Mr. Beer. Two of my roommates came back to the apartment one day with a new toy to play with, a Mr. Beer kit. They got the deluxe one with the bottles and one kit of ingredients. Being college kids, it was great, we could pay $12 or so for a case of beer, about 2.5 gallons. They tore it open and began “brewing.”

I wasn’t involved in the process becasue I had to work that day, lucky me. I came home, the kitchen was a wreck, but the Mr. Beer container had soon to be beer in it. Two weeks later they bottled and a week after that, we were ready to drink.

Holy shit, the stuff was terrible. Either the sanitation was not followed or something just went wrong, in either case, I was turned off. They made a few other batches that were better, but still not great. Also note at this time my beer taste buds were young, so it could of actually been some good brew (but I don’t think it was). (more…)