Ask Mr. Wizard

How fast can an all-grain batch be ready to drink


D.C. Barber • Sacramento, California asks,

What is the fastest time an all-grain homebrewer such as myself who bottle conditions his beer can brew, ferment, and have drinkable beer? I have been asked this question quite often by novices and I usually tell them 2.5 to three weeks. I then state that in order to do this a brewer must have a very active yeast slurry and a refrigerator.


So you wanna know just how fast you can be sippin’ your suds after brewing and you’re afraid that your friends will be afraid of your beer if you tell them that it is 10 days old vs. 45! If the novices to whom you give advice are fellow brewers, I would tell them that a bottle-conditioned ale can be ready to drink in as little as two weeks but the beer may be very yeasty and have green flavors that will change over time. Most brewers, including myself, feel that a rushed brew is one that is just waiting to cause problems. When I speak to non-brewers who ask such questions I tend to leave out the many short-cuts that are sometimes used in brewing and tell them the story that includes longer fermentation and aging times. An explanation that leaves people with the idea that beer can be brewed and ready to drink in a few days takes away much of the romance and craft appeal to specialty beers. On the other hand, push can turn to shove and very drinkable beers can be made in short periods if you have the right tools. For instance kegs help decrease turnaround times in the brewery. At a Saturday mud football game a fellow brewer brought a keg of porter to offer to the participants. We all were impressed with the rich, chocolatey flavors and clean yeast character in the beer and not one of us noticed anything off with the beer. When asked when the beer was brewed, our friend replied “last Monday!” Three days of fermentation, one day to settle the yeast at a very cold temperature, and one day carbonating in the keg was all the time available to make the big game. There are some very well-known microbreweries in this country that have pushed their beers to keep up with the fast growth rate in the specialty-beer market. Some have pulled the feat off without a hitch and others have produced products of variable quality under the pressure of time. Homebrewers would be best advised to take this sound advice: “Serve no beer before its time.”

Response by Ashton Lewis.