Monday, September 16, 2013

The birth of an ale - the answer to "how long does it take a make beer?"

I've never been a believer in the adage that good things come to those who wait.  To get something, you need action first.  Yet some things have a delayed payoff, and beer is one such thing.  You simply can't rush it.  If nothing else, brewing has taught me patience.

"Oh, you brew!  How long does it take?"  This is another question I'm often asked.  My short answer is generally that it takes 4-6 weeks from brew day to drinking day.  Times may vary, depending on the beer style and strength.

From grain to great beer in just 40 days

The timeline below is an example of my process, showing for the rough times required throughout the beer making process.  This is for a standard strength ale.  Lagers will take longer and higher gravity beers may require more time to mature.

Day 1: Make a yeast starter and purchase other ingredients

Day 2: Yeast starter is working, boosting up the amount of healthy yeast for fermentation

Day 3: Brew day (for all grain brewing, 4-5 hours)
 - Mash for an hour, requires heating the water and draining and sparging (roughly 2-2.5 hours)
 - Boil for an hour, required collecting wort from the mash, bringing to a boil and adding hops (1.25 hours)
 - Cooling the wort, required ice and a good process, if you can manage under .5 hours, you are doing well.
 - Aerate the wort and add the yeast.
 - Clean up.

Days 4-10: First week of fermentation.  Take a gravity reading (if you want) at the end of the week.  Fermentation should go through its vigorous stage during this first week.

Days 11-24: Fermentation commences, and with a full three weeks in primary fermentation, the yeast has time to "clean up" after themselves.  Patience will result in a cleaner beer.

Day 24: Prepare bottles for bottling.  For me this includes rinsing the clean bottles and placing into the dishwasher on the sanitize setting to run overnight.

Day 25: Bottling.  Boil the priming sugar for 10 minutes and cool.  Rack the beer to the bottling bucket, fill and cap the bottles.  Clean up.   Realistically, this will take up to 2 hours.
 - Boil and cool the sugar.  Also boil the caps to sanitize. (20 minutes)
 - rack beer to the bottling bucket (15 minutes)
 - Fill and cap - (30 minutes)  For 4 gallons, I filled 22 12oz and 10 22oz bottles in about 30 minutes.
 - Rinse off and dry the filled bottles (I don't want any leftover beer residue on the bottles). (10 minutes)
 - Label the bottles.  This doesn't have to be fancy...just something to identify the batch, so you will remember what it in the bottles.  (5 minutes)
 - Clean up (20 minutes)

Days 26-39: Waiting while carbonation is formed in the bottles as the yeast eats up the priming sugar.

Day 40:  Chill and drink.

Hmm, so that is how it works!