Unsure newbie needing guidance: Kegland Helles Fire Munich Larger

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ndrew

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G'day, all! I've yesterday taken my first tentative steps into the world of brewing with this kit from Kegland: Extract - Helles Fire Munich Lager - Recipe Kit

Being an insufferable nerd and never satisfied with following the instructions, I've put a few twists on the instructions:

  1. Using Wyeast 2633 Octoberfest lager yeast
  2. Fermenting under pressure in my Fermzilla All Rounder at 15PSI
  3. Fermenting at 18ºC rather than the ~15ºC recommended
I pitched my yeast yesterday at 1500hrs after (I think) a successful brew afternoon. Paid meticulous attention to hygiene (guess we'll find out how meticulous in time!). Here's what it looked like going into the fermenter fridge:

6D809333-E48F-41E0-8592-18F404501334_1_105_c.jpeg


I'm an utter newbie, but it looks a little dark, but there you go. 22 hours later, there's not a lot of activity in the fermenter:

IMG_0869.jpeg


I thought, perhaps naively, that a heat mat would be OK, but I reckon it's a crap way of going about things now. It's struggled to maintain temperature sitting underneath the fermenter. Have stuck it against the fermenter now to see if that helps until a heat belt arrives.

Anyway, from my viewing online, I expected to see a bit of bubbling or something happening in the wort by now, but all I see is a line of what I presume to be yeast hanging out at the bottom of the fermenter.

What have I cocked up?

Thanks in advance for your advice,

- Andrew
 

Half-baked

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Hi ndrew, congrats on your first steps down the rabbit hole, by the look of things you’re getting right into it!

I know some are happy with lager results from fermenting under pressure but I’m a traditionalist and like to do it slow and cool.

If brewing cool, that wouldn’t be enough yeast. I’m not sure if much is known about pitching rates for lager yeast that’s warm and under pressure, so not sure if you’ve underpitched or not. (How old was the yeast?)

22 hours without any activity would suggest you’ve underpitched, but it might just be that brewing under pressure you can’t see when the growth phase (active fermentation) has started. (Where you would typically see airlock activity.)

So the short answer is you might not have pitched quite enough yeast, but it probably won’t make much difference to the overall beer.

However… if I were you I wouldn’t buy liquid yeast only to ferment it warm. You won’t be able to appreciate the subtleties of the yeast strain. If you want to ferment warm I’d just use two packs of dry yeast, or if you wanted a really good beer, ferment at 10c and make a big yeast starter
 

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If I were setting out to make a Helles, apart from the kit and the DME (if they are in date Muntons is excellent, but over the years I have learned to look before using them).
I don’t think I would have made any of the choices you have. W 2633 is a great yeast but hardly what you would choose for a Helles.
I remain unconvinced about the benefits of pressure fermenting, it’s a practice employed by a few mega brewers to turn beer around faster, they aren’t the brewers whose beers are held in the highest regard. They tend not to apply pressure early, generally not until about half way through the ferment. Even then only a a fraction of the pressure some home brewers are using.
Best tasting Lagers are brewed cold, not hot. If you are a new brewer, I suggest you follow the manufacturer’s instructions (i.e. 8-10oC for the yeast you have).

The colour is a matter of concern, I know Muntons, both that kit and their DME, there is no way it should be that dark. Have you boiled the extract and scorched the hell out of it? or gotten creative in any other ways?

Based on having been brewing for over 35 years, about 25 of that all grain brewing, getting brewing qualifications nearly 15 years ago. What have you "cocked up", well I think most of it!
Like doing anything new, the first couple of time its a good idea to learn the basics and practice the simplest processes as you build a knowledge base.
Remember there is a lot to learn about brewing, way better to make some good basic beer than to spend money on equipment you don’t understand how to use, good gear makes brewing good beer easier but you still have to do the basics right.

Sorry if it sounds like I'm having a shot, that isn’t my intent. If you want to plan another brew feel free to ask questions first, even if you want to run through some ideas, PM me and I'll help if I can.

People making good beer tend to keep brewing, judging by the amount of second-hand brewing gear being offered here (on AHB) there are lots of people who aren’t impressed enough with their beer to keep brewing - lets change that.
Mark
 

Grmblz

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Ahhh, the old trying to run before learning to walk syndrome (we've all done it :rolleyes:)

Both ^ ^ replies offer sound advice, I'd be inclined to view this brew as a lesson learned in what not to do, with luck it will be drinkable, but if not don't get discouraged, just go again and take up Marks ^ offer of a bit of one on one tuition, or post a "what do you think of this idea guys"

Pressure fermenting is a debatable topic, but one thing most would agree on is to get the basics down first, otherwise you have nothing to compare with when you start doing it.

After sanitation, temperature control is arguably the most important variable to have control of, stratification of hot air in a sealed environment (fridge) is a real thing, ideally a fan will continually circulate the air, whether cooling or heating.
A fairly cheap easy solution is 250W 220V 12VThermostatic Incubator Heater PTC Fan Heating Element Electric DC | eBay mounted in the fridge, wire the fan up so that it runs continuously, and use an inkbird Inkbird ITC308 Digital Wired Temperature Controller AU Plug Dual Stage Heat Cool Controller for Beer Brewing Homebrew Aquaiurm Hatching Reptiles Greenhouse Freezer Fridge Sous vide: Amazon.com.au: Home Improvement or similar controller to switch the heating element and fridge compressor, tape the temp probe to the side of the fermentor with a piece of neoprene or similar foam over it for insulation, this will measure the wort temp rather than the air temp.

Welcome to the rabbit hole, and I hope you view the comments as attempts at assistance rather than criticism.
 
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ndrew

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Thank you all so much for your thoughtful replies. Far from being concerned at the criticism – this is fantastic feedback! It's wonderful to have access to such a supportive community like this.

My expectations going into this brew were low: given I'd never done it before and my general approach to hobbies winds up being "all the gear and no idea" (at least at the start! :p), I was going to be happy even if it was a flop. It's heaps of fun though, which is the main point of the exercise.

Today's update is that I've (1) increased the temperature for the last 24 hours to 22º and (2) changed to a directly applied heat belt rather than my crappy heat pad. There's a fair amount of activity now, it's producing a fair bit of CO2 and there is a slight fruity odour in the fridge. The colour seems to have improved somewhat, too:

IMG_0893.jpeg


My hypothesis is that I didn't let the yeast warm up enough before pitching, and I pitched the yeast then into wort that was too cool for it to wake up. That, and perhaps as you say, Half-baked, I underpitched for the temp and volume of wort. Anyway, live and learn! I'm keeping notes along the way of everything I've done for future reference.
Hi ndrew, congrats on your first steps down the rabbit hole, by the look of things you’re getting right into it!
I've... done a lot of online shopping. Send help 😂
I know some are happy with lager results from fermenting under pressure but I’m a traditionalist and like to do it slow and cool.

If brewing cool, that wouldn’t be enough yeast. I’m not sure if much is known about pitching rates for lager yeast that’s warm and under pressure, so not sure if you’ve underpitched or not. (How old was the yeast?)
The yeast was "best before October 2021", so I was hopeful it was still good. The fact that we've got activity in the wort now leans me toward operator error rather than equipment failure!
However… if I were you I wouldn’t buy liquid yeast only to ferment it warm. You won’t be able to appreciate the subtleties of the yeast strain. If you want to ferment warm I’d just use two packs of dry yeast, or if you wanted a really good beer, ferment at 10c and make a big yeast starter
Great to know! I reckon the next lager will have to be done "properly" at cool temperatures. It'll be an interesting comparison!
If I were setting out to make a Helles, apart from the kit and the DME (if they are in date Muntons is excellent, but over the years I have learned to look before using them).
I don’t think I would have made any of the choices you have. W 2633 is a great yeast but hardly what you would choose for a Helles.
In my naivety, I don't think I really "set out" to make a Helles... or anything specifically, rather, I just wanted to have a crack at something that'd taste alright and be easy to drink. Not having a clear objective/goal in mind is something I will address for the next batch. Learning lots from this first experience, for sure.
I remain unconvinced about the benefits of pressure fermenting, it’s a practice employed by a few mega brewers to turn beer around faster, they aren’t the brewers whose beers are held in the highest regard. They tend not to apply pressure early, generally not until about half way through the ferment. Even then only a a fraction of the pressure some home brewers are using.
Best tasting Lagers are brewed cold, not hot. If you are a new brewer, I suggest you follow the manufacturer’s instructions (i.e. 8-10oC for the yeast you have).
I think I've got a bit excited from watching a bit too much YouTube and a bunch of dudes (allegedly) getting really good results in a short period of time with pressure fermenting. When I bought the fermenter from KegLand, adding the pressure kit wasn't a massive additional spend, so I thought, "why not?"

As Grmblz says, though, walking before you run is possibly sage advice...!
The colour is a matter of concern, I know Muntons, both that kit and their DME, there is no way it should be that dark. Have you boiled the extract and scorched the hell out of it? or gotten creative in any other ways?
No other creativity as such. Steeped the carapils at 70º for 30 minutes as directed. Soaked the Muntons tins in hot tap water for a good 20 or so minutes to soften up the extract, but then poured it straight into the fermenter when the time came.

It certainly did look muddy, but the colour looks to have improved today which is heartening. It'll be interesting to see how this one progresses. I'm learning lots!
Based on having been brewing for over 35 years, about 25 of that all grain brewing, getting brewing qualifications nearly 15 years ago. What have you "cocked up", well I think most of it!
Like doing anything new, the first couple of time its a good idea to learn the basics and practice the simplest processes as you build a knowledge base.
Remember there is a lot to learn about brewing, way better to make some good basic beer than to spend money on equipment you don’t understand how to use, good gear makes brewing good beer easier but you still have to do the basics right.
I'm not too fussed if this one turns out to be undrinkable muck; it's all a learning experience! And even if that means going right back to the start and having another crack! Here's hoping the whole lot isn't cocked up!
Sorry if it sounds like I'm having a shot, that isn’t my intent. If you want to plan another brew feel free to ask questions first, even if you want to run through some ideas, PM me and I'll help if I can.

People making good beer tend to keep brewing, judging by the amount of second-hand brewing gear being offered here (on AHB) there are lots of people who aren’t impressed enough with their beer to keep brewing - lets change that.
Mark
Not at all taken as having a shot, I really appreciate you sharing your experience! I'm a little... impetuous... with my hobbies at times. Might have to pump the brakes a bit and practice my patience with this one! 😂 Thank you very much for the offer – I will definitely flick you a message before round two!
Ahhh, the old trying to run before learning to walk syndrome (we've all done it :rolleyes:)
This is how I live life 😂
Both ^ ^ replies offer sound advice, I'd be inclined to view this brew as a lesson learned in what not to do, with luck it will be drinkable, but if not don't get discouraged, just go again and take up Marks ^ offer of a bit of one on one tuition, or post a "what do you think of this idea guys"
100%. I'm very much looking at this brew as a learning experience and I'll take a few pointers from it for next time.
After sanitation, temperature control is arguably the most important variable to have control of, stratification of hot air in a sealed environment (fridge) is a real thing, ideally a fan will continually circulate the air, whether cooling or heating.
A fairly cheap easy solution is 250W 220V 12VThermostatic Incubator Heater PTC Fan Heating Element Electric DC | eBay mounted in the fridge, wire the fan up so that it runs continuously, and use an inkbird Inkbird ITC308 Digital Wired Temperature Controller AU Plug Dual Stage Heat Cool Controller for Beer Brewing Homebrew Aquaiurm Hatching Reptiles Greenhouse Freezer Fridge Sous vide: Amazon.com.au: Home Improvement or similar controller to switch the heating element and fridge compressor, tape the temp probe to the side of the fermentor with a piece of neoprene or similar foam over it for insulation, this will measure the wort temp rather than the air temp.
I've got an InkBird ITC-308 controlling the fridge and (now) the heat belt. That seems to be holding it at stable temperatures (whether the temperature is appropriate or not is another matter altogether!) The temperature probe is in the thermowell in the middle of the fermenter.
Welcome to the rabbit hole, and I hope you view the comments as attempts at assistance rather than criticism.
Thank you! Constructive criticism is extremely valuable assistance – you guys have been fantastic. I'll report my progress as the fermentation progresses.

Cheers,

Andrew
 

MHB

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One BIG take home for today, keep lager cold!
Read the manufacturer’s instructions and follow them, they and you are the only people with a vested interest in your beer turning out well.

We brew lager cool in no small part to suppress esters, that’s those fruity notes you are smelling.
Mark
 

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@ndrew apart from what others have said, I'd check your spunding valve. It's a bit hard to tell from that pic, but it looks like it could be maxing out? You shouldnt exceed the max range of the gauge, as you could damage it, as well as risks due to not knowing what pressure you are actually at.
 

ndrew

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@ndrew apart from what others have said, I'd check your spunding valve. It's a bit hard to tell from that pic, but it looks like it could be maxing out? You shouldnt exceed the max range of the gauge, as you could damage it, as well as risks due to not knowing what pressure you are actually at.
I’m sitting at about 14PSI, just under the max. We’ll see how it goes from here! :)

—Andrew
 

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I don't check this forum often, but this post caught my eye and I couldn't walk past it. MHB and the others are on the money. There is something not right with the ingredients KL sent you. Either the wrong kit tins or the carapils was something... darker, or they sell a kit that is not, Hell. That is no Helles colour. Helles (Hell) translates to either light (colour) or pale or bright. The current lightening up of your brew is due to light reflecting from the yeast that is in solution. While we are on the yeast, nothing wrong with your choice IMO, but October 2021, means it was packaged in around October 2020. Given it's June 2021 that means you had a rather sad packet of yeast. Essentially, your yeast were not very viable, as roughly (I mean roughly) you have lost 20% viability per month since Oct 20 if they were kept in a normal fridge since then. So if they were at 100% then, they were at around 26% viability (or 26% were still capable) by the time you pitched them. Thats if they were held the entire time in ideal temperature conditions, which postage excludes, so we'll say sub 26%. So explains a slow start and WILL result in a sub par beer. To be honest it is a good thing you went for pressure and warmth, otherwise you would had not gotten much attenuation at all. The warmth has allowed yeast growth (reproduction) that will allow a beer to result, though at the cost of flavour.

Not to worry as you are learning and by WTFing your first one, you have put yourself in a good spot to learn from this. Many lessons at once by the looks, but remember them. If you want to learn the basics, intermediate and later higher levels, then heed MHB's advice over most. My advice is try an Ale at low psi or no pressure for the next few brews until you get the hang of the fermentation aspects of brewing. If you only like lagers, then cooler temps (at least sub 15C, but sub 12C is better), learn about yeast propagation or buy more yeast packs and avoid the hype of pressure fermentation (there is a time and place, which IMO is at the end of ferment [last 2-5 SG points] to obtain self carbonation). As was said earlier about walking, but I'll expand: babys first learn to suckle, then see, then comprehend, then push, then crawl, then stand, then fall, then walk, then run. You'll get there, but you can't skip any one of the above, or you will never know what you missed, when it counts.
 

MHB

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One of the thoughts I had was, by applying pressure early (before fermentation kicks off even) what will that do to the yeasts ability to reproduce. Over pressure is generally not recommended during reproduction and as JOAB noted, the yeast was pretty old to start with.

I would be letting all the pressure out, at least until you have an active ferment. Not that I would be fermenting under pressure at all.
Mark
 

yankinoz

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We brew lager cool in no small part to suppress esters, that’s those fruity notes you are smelling.
Mark
[/QUOTE]
Mark, as you'd know, pressure fermenting supposedly suppresses ester formation, and some of those megabrewers do it at unusually high temps. I read somewhere that's the secret of VB, which is a good argument for not doing it. I haven't tried it. My best Octoberfest (at nomal; pressures) peaked at about five months cold conditioning. In this case it myhbe didn't work.

ndrew, going high on temp and pressure-fermenting is a bit like putting on heavy gloves to pet a porcupine. (I didn't say echidna because they're harmless that way.)
 

MHB

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Yes that’s the aim, but if you look at the research (that goes back to the 1970's, so hardly new) into pressure fermentation. It was mostly about the suppression of VDK's (mostly Diacetyl) the results were that you could pump out an "acceptable" lager 7 days faster, so 14 days rather than the normal 21 day minimum. This reduces the cycle time to 17-21 days.
Excessive pressure caused other problems, mainly with Sulphur metabolism (burnt match smell) and increases Acetaldehyde. What the R&D regarded as excessive pressure is in the >80kPa range. Best was to start applying pressure at about half way through the ferment...
Very few brewers regard it as being worth the effort.

Carlton also ferments beer in 6 story high fermenters so yes there is a lot of pressure on the yeast in the bottom of the cone. They are wrapped in Ammonia cooling jackets and as far as I know they don’t add any hops until after Lagering (they have a CO2 hop extract plant on site)
The also don’t make any beers I want to drink,
Mark
 

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Mark, I've been watching a bit of this bloke's Brewtube channel and see this an example of a beer I'd like to one day make:


So, yes, he's doing all grain and is a fair bit further down the road in the brewing sophistication/knowledge/understanding than me... But he's also a random YouTuber with I don't know what qualifications or not. Anyway, point is, being the impatient bloke I am, the quick turnaround appeals.

What's the takeaway from the style of brewing he's doing there? Is it actually not as good as he's claiming it is?
 

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I couldnt comment, unless you can arrange to put a glass of his beer in my hand.

The kit and DME you chose are among the best in the world and if they were fresh (in date) and brewed properly should make an excellent Helles (style) pale lager.
Before brewing any beer its a good idea to look up what makes the style what it is and use ingredients fit for the job. The yeast you chose is very good at making October fest style beers, if I were making one of them it would be first choice. For a Helles - not so much. Smart money would be to go to the Wyeast website and look at the recommended yeast for a Helles, choose one of them and brew the beer the way they recommend, they are telling you how the yeast will work to make the best beer possible with that yeast.

As a starting out brewer its best to uses good simple ingredients and processes, until you understand how they work. Even the pressure fermentation, at best (if you want to make good beer) you might get a 28 day cycle down to 17-20 days, that isn’t a big enough saving in time to reward and drop in beer quality to my mind.

If you want to brew an hoppy IPA, first learn to make good Lager, or better yet good Ale (much easier, faster and less demanding on equipment and knowledge) then take the hops from your favourite IPA and brew it in a Lager. But not first up, just too much new stuff going on, if you taste the beer and whant to change something, you won’t know what to do as you won’t know how the parts interreact.
Learn the basics first!
Mark
 

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Squirted a sample out of the fermenter for a cheeky peek at progress. Certainly smells like beer, which is a good start. Also looks lighter in the tube than in the fermenter with a bit of light through it.

Gravity looks to be around 1.022 from a 1.050 start, so we're about halfway-ish on the recipe's projected FG.

BAABF43F-C958-4B77-9C25-A05BF2D78630_1_102_o.jpeg
 

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Looks like beer, but does not look like a Helles, by a long way. Doesn't mean your beer isn't drinkable, but it's not a Helles.
As mentioned above, Helles (Hell) translates to either light (colour) or pale or bright.
Personally, I've never fermented under pressure, and don't see the need for it for me. I'm not a slavish follower of fashion. I prefer to brew my once a year Lager/Pils with a truckload of cultured up yeast, ferment at no more than 10ºC, and lager for at least 6 weeks as low as my fridge will go.
To brew a Helles first up, and expect great results, probably will not happen. It's a style I'd only think of brewing once I got the basics down pat. first.
Again, as mentioned above, start with baby steps, and work your way up.

Just for fun, here's a link to one of my favourite numbers from one of my favourite bands.
 

ndrew

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Looks like beer, but does not look like a Helles, by a long way. Doesn't mean your beer isn't drinkable, but it's not a Helles.
As mentioned above, Helles (Hell) translates to either light (colour) or pale or bright.
Personally, I've never fermented under pressure, and don't see the need for it for me. I'm not a slavish follower of fashion. I prefer to brew my once a year Lager/Pils with a truckload of cultured up yeast, ferment at no more than 10ºC, and lager for at least 6 weeks as low as my fridge will go.
To brew a Helles first up, and expect great results, probably will not happen. It's a style I'd only thin of brewing once I got the basics down pat. first.
Again, as mentioned above, start with bay steps, and work your way up.
Thanks, Philrob. I reckon "success" for this first batch looks like "learn lots" (tick) and "isn't absolutely horrible and undrinkable" (time will tell). I've got a Coopers kit lined up to try next. See if I can't make something that resembles their Dark Ale following this recipe.

Cheers,

- Andrew
 

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I've got a Coopers kit lined up to try next. See if I can't make something that resembles their Dark Ale following this recipe.
tut!tut! @ndrew, the difficulty level on that recipe is EXPERT! :eek:
Had no idea you had to be an expert brewer to open a can of goop 😂

A suggestion would be to use their mild ale or green label pale ale, not their red label sparkling ale for the "commercial yeast" propagation.
It's generally accepted that alcohol stresses yeast, so the lower abv of the mild/pale will yield healthier yeast than the stronger sparkling ale, also check the dates, the fresher the better obviously, and I'd go for a fresh pale over an old mild.

Coopers dried yeast is pretty good, but won't give you that classic Coopers taste, it'll still be a good beer just not a replica of their Dark, depends whether or not you want to faff around with a stir plate, "what dya mean you don't have one yet?" ;)

I like the Coopers recipes, especially those that specify specialty grains and hop additions, they've recently released Voyage advanced recipe packs for an all in one box solution, they're a great stepping stone from can & kilo to more advanced brewing, and good beer can be made from them despite what the all grain die hards will claim.
My guilty secret, I keep their Dark Monk on tap, and despite tweaking and generally mucking about with it over the years I now just use their bog standard recipe, anyone with a liking for dark ale loves it, and despite my love of all beers, especially Belgium's/stouts, even some fruit sours I just like having it there, call it my security blanket, and none of my mates know it's a can job.

fwiw, if you haven't already, join their club (instant discount) and wait for around the 12th of each month (subscribe to their news letter for notification) and you can get free shipping as well.
 

ndrew

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tut!tut! @ndrew, the difficulty level on that recipe is EXPERT! :eek:
Had no idea you had to be an expert brewer to open a can of goop 😂
Yeah, I thought that was a bit of a piss-take to be honest 😂 I've been scanning the recipes and deciding for myself how hard they sound. I'd rather have a crack and get it not 100% right than not try it at all.

A suggestion would be to use their mild ale or green label pale ale, not their red label sparkling ale for the "commercial yeast" propagation.

Coopers dried yeast is pretty good, but won't give you that classic Coopers taste, it'll still be a good beer just not a replica of their Dark, depends whether or not you want to faff around with a stir plate, "what dya mean you don't have one yet?" ;)
Guess a stir plate's going on the next order, then! Damn it, @Grmblz 😂

I've (perhaps unfairly) assumed the supplied dried yeast is going to be a big downgrade on a good quality liquid yeast, but like y'all have said – you've got to give it a shot to establish a baseline and find out what you like before tinkering. There's usually some Coopers Mild around the house... I'll likely give that a shot as my starting point. Thanks for the tip!

fwiw, if you haven't already, join their club (instant discount) and wait for around the 12th of each month (subscribe to their news letter for notification) and you can get free shipping as well.
Yep, on it already! Why wouldn't you take the discount? Bought their "Return of the Red IPA" ROTM kit last week too. That looks like a good bit of fun!
 

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I've (perhaps unfairly) assumed the supplied dried yeast is going to be a big downgrade on a good quality liquid yeast, but like y'all have said – you've got to give it a shot to establish a baseline and find out what you like before tinkering.
Ahhh, the old dried v liquid yeast, next year I will have been home brewing off and on for 50yrs (longer if you include watermelon rum in my mom's stocking aided and abetted by my dad, don't ask, I come from a strange family) over that time I've observed many improvements in the hobby, going from bakers yeast to capturing the stuff from the bottom of Guinness bottles (huge improvement)
10 or 15 yrs ago I would have agreed with the liquid is good and dried is crap sentiment, but recent advances in the production of dried yeast, and more importantly the many strains now available have narrowed that gap considerably, to the point imho that for the majority of homebrewers dried yeast with it's convenience, reduced infection rates, and predictable pitching numbers is preferable rather than dealing with liquid yeasts.
To be clear, I maintain a frozen yeast bank (mainly for financial reasons) and do use liquid yeasts but for the vast majority of my ferments I use dried yeast.
There's a lot of snobbery/one upmanship in this hobby, and the whole liquid v dried yeast, all in one v 3 vessel, and all grain v extract wort arguments will likely continue, end of day what works for you and produces the beer YOU! like is what you need to find, but please don't think that modern dried yeasts are somehow inferior to liquid ones, there ARE differences of course but for day to day brewing of non exotic beers it's hard to go past dried.
Usual caveats apply of course, a sachet of dried yeast under the lid of a can of goop stored on a shelf in a shed for 6 months in an Australian summer isn't going to be great (although better than a liquid stored in similar conditions)
@MHB Would love to hear Marks opinion on this.
 
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