I have mixed feelings about a fresh wort kit, as its not *quite* all grain, and it's not *quite* a kit.
I first heard of Fresh Wort Kits (FWK) when I was transitioning from extract to all grain. That's mostly because I was researching no chill cubes and FWKs were discussed - they seemed to mostly be available or originate in Australia. I'd not seen them in the UK.
I'd seen Rob of The Malt Miller (TMM) fame start to do them - they seemed fairly niche, ostensibly a middle ground between all grain and canned/bagged kits.
Prehopped Kits without fail seem to have a taste which I can only put down to the condensing process on the hops. I've never tried a non hopped kit and gone through a boil with it, so I'm not an expert in this matter.
Cost comparison wise, a decent two can kit is going to set you back £19-21 and a fresh wort kit such as this from TMM is £31. So what does an extra £10 buy you? First off, you're fully hydrated - so 23L of wort. You also get a very neat plastic jerry can which I quickly looked for a plastic code on, I saw the number 15, which if assuming that's not the year of manufacture is made of cellulose acetate butyrate and not reuseable as a no-chill cube. Perhaps Rob can clarify if that's the case - it'd certainly be a benefit if it's suitable plastic for reuse. You don't get yeast, so you can use one of choice. I went for a mangrove jack liberty bell ale M36 yeast.
Referring back the Australian FWK, cost wise they're AUD 49-59 on average - about £28-35 depending on the hopping it seems. So pretty much on parity with TMM.
In terms of what you need to do, it is however much simpler. Clean & sterilise the fermenting bucket and anything touching the beer as well as the jerry can. Tip it in, add yeast of your choice and, erm, you're done.
No boiling kettles, balancing temperatures etc. I left my kit to acclimatise in the house for a few days, so when it went in the fermentation chamber at 18'C, I noted that it was at 22'C as the front room it was acclimatising is south facing. This gave the yeast a good head start (especially since I'd stored the packet in the fridge and just bunged it straight in cold) and I had a good layer of krausen within 24hrs.
Trying the kit in its pre-fermented form, it tastes excellent, no hint of canned flavour and is, essentially, the same as I would brew myself, but without 4.5hrs of cook and cleaning time.
So what's the purpose of this kit really, when it boils down to it? When I announced this to the brewing group, most were non-plussed - it's beer after all and mostly they brew with me because they like drinking it. They'll try anything at least once, usually many times if it gets them drunk. But two of them said "the pleasure is in making the recipe and refining it" which I agree with. But the purpose of this beer is to get a great tasting beer, for minimum effort and it definitely ticks the minimum effort box.
At present I'm away a lot of the time, so when I'm at home I want to spend my time in the presence of my family. Unfortunately the summer also brings a number of events that some quality ale in a keg goes down nicely. The events are very close together, so I need a lot in a short space of time, so this fits in nicely in bulking out the offerings.
It's still in the fermenter at this point, so I'm not going to be able to give a finished review, but it really was a 5 minute beer, two minutes of which was just waiting for the starsan do its magic. It was fitted in between a walk in the woods and cleaning the bottles for THBF. At the end of it, I felt I'd missed something important, it couldn't have been that easy could it?
Financially it certainly works if you're putting in an order with TMM anyway (be it either an AG or multiple FWK), but availability is thin - Rob says they're very popular they tend to sell out quickly and this has been my first time I've seen one in stock when I'm placing an order. If you're thinking of moving from canned to AG, this is a good middle ground to see the difference in taste.
NB the wife was not happy lugging it over the threshold when I was at work.