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.
Hard to believe, but it’s been over a year since Andrew and I started brewing. Things have gone much better than I had originally imagined, and I’m enjoying myself even more than I would have thought possible.
In celebration, here’s a rundown of the brews we’ve made and how they turned out:
- Porter (P1) — Our first attempt, 1 1/2 gallons short and a little weird, but drinkable. Ah, sweet success!
- Stout (S1) — Tasty, and especially excellent after the “passable” port
- Trappist Ale (T1) — Kit was a Christmas gift. Very nice, with the bubble gum/banana fruitness expected of the variety.
- Nut Brown (B1) — First real failure… just turned out with a weird flavor, overly foamy.
- Porter (P2) — Fantastic redux on the porter. One of my favorite batches.
- Irish Red (R1) — Good red color, nice flavor, a solid entry.
- West Coast Stout (S2) — Great stout. When I found one more six-pack of it recently in the utility room, I actually cheered.
- Habanero Amber (H1) — Solid Amber ale + habanero kick. Not kill-your-taste-buds-off hot, but you definitely need another drink by the end of it.
- Belgian Wit (W1) — Our lightest beer yet. Expected more of a spiciness from the coriander and orange zest, but drinkable.
- IPA (I1) — Enter the hops! Not quite as light as many IPA’s in color, but good flavor.
- Stout (S3) — Another good stout. Intended for gift-giving (really, I will give it away soon once it’s rested enough!)
- Porter (P3) — Ditto the S3. Good porter effort, but not long for my home unfortunately.
- Porter (PB) –Arg, busted thermometer screwed the batch!
- Porter (PB’) — Still in the carboys, but it’s the “baby porter” for after my wife can drink again.
- Stout (SB/S4) — Stout base for a bourbon spiked stout. Still in the primary, but hopes are high!
All in all, far more success on that list than I expected getting into the brewing game. Plenty of other challenges ahead, but then the rewards make it all worthwhile.
Keep brewing out there folks!