Tuesday 16 March 2010

Stepping Up Production, a Dilemma.

So, after a particularly heavy night at Beer Club, I am faced with the need to step up production due to the club's burgeoning membership. The problem, as usual, is the time taken from brew to drinking.

Assuming it will be bottled (which most beers for beer club will be), a typical kit will spend 14 days fermenting, 2-3 days in the bottling bucket, a week warm conditioning and then a minimum of four weeks cold conditioning before it even becomes drinkable. That's 7-8 weeks from brewing. Kit beers taste even better when allowed to condition for 6-12 weeks so that'as anything up to four months.

As I wibbled earlier this year, I've been making lager which requires a three week lagering (obviously) period between fermenting and bottling and it then requires the full 12 weeks conditioning. The Brewferm Gold I brewed first thing this year is unlikely to be ready until mid May at the earliest. Not only does it take an age to be ready but it ties up a fermenter for five weeks. These days I have four FV's (fermenting vessels); two standard fermenters, one bottling bucket (fermenting vessel with little bottler attached) and a wine fermenter which doubles as another bottling bucket and a cider fermenter.

I've released my inner nerd and knocked up a spreadsheet which enables me to schedule my brewing and maximise my productivity but it is still only going to give me drinking beer mid May. I seems my options are either to buy a fifth fermenter so that I can double production in the short term or to invest in a 10 gallon all grain set up which finances dictate will probably occur in September. I've just put a request on my local Freecycle/Freegle board and we'll see what happens but an extra fermenter looks like the only option in the short term. Running out of beer would be, frankly, disastrous.


  1. How about getting other people in the beer club to bring beers or doing some sort of side by side tasting of homebrew against shop bought? That might take the demand of your beer slightly and make it last a bit longer.

    Everyone says that AG beer conditions a lot faster than kit beer, but I haven't seen this myself. I've noticed that the AG beer I make doesn't reach it's best until 6 weeks in (at least). I havent brewed anything that is suited to being drunk young, to be fair, but that's just a quick observation for you.

    I'm planning an extended conditioning period for the beer I've currently got fermenting ... hopefully this will reduce the time it needs in the bottle.

    I'm jealous of the space you have though! :P I have a single FV and a single conditioning vessel that doubles as a bottling bucket. The other half would'nt allow anything above that!

  2. To be fair, Chunk, mine isn't going to be ecstatic when she finds out I bought another one today. I blame the cider that I've got on for her!

    How's this for a efficiency. Sterilised a bucket this morning, got in at 5-ish, emptied and rinsed it and got the brew on in less that half an hour.

    To be fair, beer club does fund my brewing and I wasn't having a moan about that. I just need to make sure the next one is at my place because the next beers ready are all in barrels.

    Interested in what you say about conditioning speed of AG though, I dare say I'll find out myself in due course.

  3. In my experience the AG stuff does condition much quicker - generally I do a 2-week primary and then straight into the keg/bottles. Drinking usually starts 5-7 days after that - so less than 3 weeks from brew day.

    @Chunk: Agree it might not be at its peak as quickly as that, but it's very drinkable nonetheless. Depends on the beer too - the more aromatic hoppy beers I tend to like are definitely best fresh (about 4-5 weeks is optimum for me).

  4. I have a knackered fridge you can use as a hot box/fermenter if you add a little ceramic tube heater like this http://bit.ly/abZQhW

  5. Thanks Pete. I've got two brewfridges already, I'd never get the third past the OH. One's lagering and the other is conditioning a St Peter's Ruby Red kit. Had a sample of it this evening, surprisingly impressed.