In the past, brewing beer using kits and malt extracts may have been said to produce an inferior beer when compared to all-grain brewing. Indeed you will still hear and read that many believe this remains the case.
Whatever the reasons for this preconceived notion that all-grain brewing is superior to kit and extract brewing, the end result of either can be great, average, or down right terrible.
The beer kits and malt extracts available to brewers today are of the highest quality and can produce excellent beer. A great example of this is the success of Black Rock Home Brewing at this years Beervana where their porter named, Insomnia, was voted to be one of the best beers at Beervana in a couple of the sessions. Black Rock have even been kind enough to provide everyone with the recipe to make this beer themselves as well as a number of other recipes you can make using their kits and extracts. You can find them here.
Although you may think that brewing using kits and extracts may limit the range of beers that can be brewed, as illustrated by Black Rocks recipes, you can mix different kits and extracts together in a variety of ways to create a wide range of different beers. Add to this the variety of yeasts and hops available today and the only limit is your imagination.
For example; should you wish to brew a milk stout you could start by selecting your favourite stout kit, supplement it with a creamy or dark malt extract (based on your preference) and add lactose for the body and sweetness typical of milk stouts.
Brewing from kits and extracts doesn’t mean you are unable to use grains should you wish to do so. Grains can be steeped to provide additional flavour and complexity to the kit and/or extracts you are using. The grains used in steeping are used to provide flavour and not fermentable sugars. Thus crystal/caramel malts and roasted malts are normally used when steeping. If you are interested in using steeped grain in your next brew, John Palmers free online book How to Brew, has a good guide to brewing with extracts and steeping grain.
Whether you brew from kits and extracts or are an all-grain brewer, the fermentation of your beer is just as important as the quality of the wort you are fermenting and will often be what makes the difference between your beer being great, average, or not so great.