As a homebrewer, ever been in a situation where you have a big party in two weeks but with no brew to share? Keg has kicked and need beer on draft fast? Maybe you’re part of an event with your local homebrew club and you need to provide 5 gallons of beer in two weeks?
I’m sure many homebrewers face this situation, and like professional breweries, planning brewdays based on which kegs / fermenters become empty or based on demand can be challenging. Moreover, homebrewing wisdom dictates that our craft takes time and good beer needs time to condition. On many homebrewing forums I usually see the reccomendation of two weeks or more in primary and two to three more weeks for bottle conditioning an ale.
Many homebrewers think that time is needed to brew good beer and while this may certainly be true, there are exceptions to this rule and one can drink a very good ale in under two weeks. If professional breweries can do it, why can’t we? Critical factors to keep in mind:
Choosing the type of beer is very important. Basically, the lower the ABV the faster the turn around. This means that barleywines and imperial stouts are out of the question. Pale ales, Bitters, and other session ales work perfectly for this. Lagers also may not work since these brews need time to properly ferment (i.e. diacetyl rests) and lager.
Selecting the right strain is probably the most important aspect to making a fast beer on the homebrew level. You want to choose a strain that will attenuate fast and have a high floculation rate. A high floculation rate means the beer will clear quicker in the bottle or keg. Unfortunately, higher floculating yeast tend to have lower attenuation rates so plan your brew accordingly. For example, instead of mashing at 154°F, mash at 149°F to maximize fermentability. A favorite strain of mine for this purpose is S-04 or Wyeast 1099 (Whitbred). I have also heard that White labs WLP002 english ale yeast is great choice for fast fermenting beers.
The expression “time heals all wounds” will not be true here if you don’t have a very healthy fermentation. This means adequate numbers of healthy yeast. Your pitch rate will want to be a bit higher than what Mr. Malty suggests. Prepare your yeast in a big starter or step the starter if needed. If the starter is not on a stir plate, add pure oxygen every once in a while. Prior to pitching the yeast you want to sufficiently aerate your wort. Shaking the carboy will not dissolve the needed oxygen yeast need to grow during the initial lag phase. Use pure oxygen if you can.
Correct Mash Profile
You want to make a wort that the yeast will ferment fast and well. This means using limiting the amount of dextrin type malts (crystal) and mashing low. This will help dry out the beer. If you are brewing extract, use the most fermentable extract you can find such as extra light DME. Make sure to provide plenty of yeast nutrient during the boil.
Sorry to homebrewers that enjoy bottle conditioning, but force carbonation of your beer by kegging is crucial to pumping out fast beer. In addition to a floculant yeast strain, adding finings to the keg, such as gelatin will clear the beer even more.
The recipe below was done in twelve days. The beer took only 3 days to ferment but I racked to a keg on the fourth day. The beer then carbonated for eight days. To carbonate quickly I pressurized my beer at 30 psi on the first day but lowered the pressure 5 psi every day after. The first pint was all yeast but the rest was crystal clear! The only thing I did not follow from above was addition of dextrin malts but I purposefully wanted a less attenuated beer.
Toasted Amber Ale:
- 5 pounds of Maris Otter (Crisp)
- 2 pounds of Mild Malt
- 2 pounds of Munich Malt
- 1 pound of Victory Malt
- 1 pound of Crystal Malt (60L)
- 8.0 oz of Crystal Malt (20L)
- 8.0 oz of Crystal Malt (120L)
Mashed in at 154°F for one hour and heated to 168°F for mashout. Vorlauf and recirculate as usual. First runnings: 1.081. Second runnings: 1.025. Collected a total of 6.7 gallons of wort at 1.046. Realized that my mash volume was way off. Used 4.2 gallons when I should have been using 5.1! This explains higher gravity readings and less wort collected. Boiled for 60 minutes and added:
- 0.5 oz of Simcoe at 60 minutes
- 1.0 oz of Centennial at 10 minutes
- 1.0 oz of Centennial at 5 minutes
- 1.0 oz each of Amarillo and Centennial at flame out
- 0.5 oz of Cascade at flame out
- Whirlfloc and yeast nutrient added at 15 minutes
Cooled to 68°F and pitched two packets of S-04 rehydrated in tap water.