Quick Brews and Fast Ferments

There are many times when you just say…. “F$*K It”, I just don’t feel like brewing today… but I really need a new beer on draft.  At other times you think… “Oh S&*T” I promised a keg of beer for the party next week. We have all been there, but there is no need to let the trifling matters of laziness and lack of time stop the production of delicious beer. There are a number of ways that you can make a great beer without a lot of work or time. The key is being clever, and determining the strategic short cuts you can take in the brewing and fermenting process.

Fifteen Minute Brews

I first came across the idea of a 15 minute homebrew while watching basic brewing radio. The idea is as simple as it is brilliant. Since malt extract has been pre-boiled, it is not necessary to do a full boil. Considering this fact, a 60 minute extract boil more or less superfluous for most beers. The big limiting factor in the fifteen minute boil is the hop utilization. The long and the sort is that your bitterness extraction will decrease with more sugar in your wort. On top of this, with a 15 minute boil, you will get significantly less alpha acid utilization than you would during a 60 minute boil. There are a number of ways to compensate for this, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. The first is to do a full boil at around 5.25 gallon starting volume. With the full boil, you will extract more bitterness from your hops but you will will have to spend more time in your brew day heating up and cooling down the wort. The alternative is simply adding more hops or higher alpha hops to boost your alpha acids. The down side to this method is the increased amount of money you will have to spend on hops. In my opinion the best option is a combination of the two methods. A 4 gallon boil is a very good middle ground between increased utilization and decreased overall cost of hops.

One Week Turn Around

I think we have all experienced times when we want to have a beer on hand but are faced with very limited amounts of time to make it. Its during these occasions that fast fermenting beers are our best bet. Generally speaking, fast fermenting beers are low alcohol beers. The less sugar there is for the yeast to ferment, the faster they will finish their project. Additionally, low sugar and low alcohol environments put significantly less stress on yeast, allowing them to ferment even more efficiently. When your looking for a beer with a quick turn around, look for something with a starting gravity of around 1.040 or less. Many styles can be brewed at either a low or high starting gravity, so there is quite a bit of room for low alcohol beers in several categories. Some examples of fast fermenting beers are: Ordinary Bitter, Mild, Scottish Light, Irish Stout, Cream Ale, Blonde Ale, Gratzer, and Trappist Single. On top of this, you could always make a “session” version of any beer style, your creativity is the only limiting factor.

Not only is it important to pick an appropriate style of beer, its necessary to treat the beer properly. There are a number of ways that you can ensure a healthy and fast fermentation. The first is ensuring that your beer has ample nutrients. You can do this by adding… you guessed it, yeast nutrient. Pick your preferred nutrients and add them as per the instructions. The next step is proper oxygenation. Yeast need oxygen in order to stay healthy, so don’t skimp when adding your O2. With the wort nutrient dense and full of oxygen, its time to pitch the yeast. Going with more yeast will give you a more rapid fermentation, but there is a limit. Don’t go over 4 packets of yeast, as this could take away from the overall flavor of the yeast. Finally, there is the question of temperature. Generally in chemistry it is understood that the higher the temperature, the faster the reaction (I know chemists, this is a gross simplification, get over it). This same idea works in brewing, and higher temperatures lead to faster fermentation. Unfortunately we need to deal with the nasty byproduct of off flavors. As tempting as it is to ratchet up the temperature to 90 degrees and let it rip, this would most likely make a highly undrinkable beer (but… what about a session saison…. think about it). I would recommend looking on your yeast’s web page and find out what the highest temperature your yeast can handle and use that a starting point.

Recipe: Quick Second English Bitter

This beer is a great recipe to brew if your in a rush and need a fast fermenter. The key to this brew is the low alcohol and punch of hop flavor. It makes a very easy drinking bitter, with delicate hop notes and a solid bite of bitterness. This recipe is based on Michael Dawson’s Boat Bitter. It’s best enjoyed with good company and simple food. 

English BitterOG: 1.041 – FG: 1.008 – 4.3% ABV

Recipe: 4.5 Gallons (Originally Designed for 5 gallons)

  • 7 Lb Marris Otter
  • 1 oz East Kent Golding (15 min)
  • 0.5 oz UK Brambling Cross (10 min)
  • 0.5 oz UK Brambling Cross (5 min)
Yeast: Mangrove Jack Burton Union


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