If you read about brewing on the internet and elsewhere, you might get the impression that it's a very exacting process. All those numbers and timetables, odd ingredients and names. It might feel like you ought to be watching for the instant your specific gravity hits the right point or you whole batch will be ruined.
Well, I'm here to tell you that things don't have to be that precise. For a couple of reasons, my brewing schedule over the past years has gotten more... sporadic, shall we say. And you know what? Most of my beer is turning out fine.
My biggest issue is how easy it is to leave beer in secondary for a long time. But let me give you some examples of what's happened here that show some limits.
One case was a Scotch ale we brewed on 7/2/11. It moved to secondary after a couple weeks (I still tend to be good about that so beer isn't resting on two inches of dormant yeast). It sat in the carboy then until 11/4/11--four months--and it still turned out very nice. Now, who knows, maybe I missed the world's finest Scotch ale by not bottling in a more timely fashion, but it didn't explode or anything.
There is a limit, though. Another batch was a Red ale on brewed 4/3/11. Unfortunately, when we came to bottle it at the same time as that Scotch ale, it had gone off. So somewhere between 4 and 7 months was the point of no return.
Now don't misunderstand.... I'm a happier brewer when I'm churning through, bottling up as soon as possible, the beer flowing steadily. But if like me, your life intrudes, don't panic! Everything will be all right.