By Jesse Reynolds
Most homebrew guides and recipes preach patience. To make good beer, giving it the necessary time to develop is a generally foolproof concept.
However, when you’re very excited about having brewed something yourself, it’s quite easy to spend hours staring at airlocks for signs of bubbling or taking constant gravity readings to see how far along your beer is.
When I first picked up this hobby, my enthusiasm outweighed my patience and I would often package beers before they were ready. This would inevitably result in a variety of off-flavours, gushing bottle-bombs and a level of dissatisfaction that nearly ended my interest in brewing.
Fortunately, giving my beer a little room to breathe has resulted in some pretty spectacular stuff over the past several years.
Despite this anecdote, if you still can’t wait to taste the fruits of your labour there are ways to brew good beer in a very short amount of time, even as little as a week.
Keep Your ABV Low
To drink your beer within seven days of brewing, you’ll need a complete fermentation in five days or less. This eliminates every style over 5% ABV and all lagers. Fortunately, it leaves the door open to lighter examples of cream ale, blonde ale, wheat beers, British, Scottish and Irish ales, American pale ales and session IPAs.
Take Care of Your Yeast
If you’re not already building yeast starters, you should be. Making a starter for a beer will give the yeast a jumpstart into healthy conditions, which will prevent some off-flavours and turbocharge your fermentation. With the kind of OG we’re shooting for, the krausen should rise and fall within 72 hours of pitching.
Another vital element in yeast health is wort aeration. If you’re using the “shake the fermenter” method, it needs to be done vigorously for 5-10 minutes before pitching the yeast. Aquarium pumps should be run for 5+ minutes. Ideally, you should force pure oxygen into the wort for 1-2 minutes; this is the most expensive option, but also the most effective by far.
Ferment on the Warm Side
Most yeast banks have information online showing the ideal temperature range for different strains. Check this, and ferment your beer at the upper limit.
After 3 days or when the krausen drops, free rise to 3-4F above the upper threshold of the yeast to encourage a faster finish. By this point, fermentation should be over 80% complete; production of yeast-related off-flavours is fairly limited from there onward, so helping fermentation along should be safe enough.
After five days, check your gravity. If it’s within a few points of your anticipated FG, you’re ready for the next step.
Clarify in the Package
If you’re concerned with beer clarity but don’t want to wait three days for a cold crash, consider fining with gelatin in the package.
When speed is a concern, kegging is the only way to go. Transfer your beer to a keg, add gelatin and use the “shake force carb” method for 10-15 mins before placing it in the fridge under high pressure (30psi) for two days before lowering to serving pressure.
If you bottle your beer, there is no simple way to carbonate quickly, and this beer becomes a 14-day batch instead of 7. Add your priming sugar solution to the bottling bucket, bottle the beer and keep it in a warm place (75-80F) for a week. Open a test bottle to make sure it’s carbonated to your liking, and then refrigerate as cold as possible for two days.
Fresh beer will evolve over the first few weeks and should really round out after two weeks in the package, though half or all your beer may be gone by then!
Of all the possible beers to make in seven days, I chose a simple beer you won’t often find on this side of the planet. The Australian Sparkling ale uses a simple malt bill along with Australian hops and yeast to produce a bready, estery and earthy/herbal character that’s both refreshing and uniquely flavourful.
Australian Sparkling Ale (BJCP Category 12B)
(all-grain, 5.5 gallons)
7.5 gallons tap water (treated w/ campden tablets) or spring water
Add 1 tsp Gypsum to mash
8lb 2-Row Malt
0.5lb Crystal 15
0.5lb Golden Naked Oats
0.6oz Pride of Ringwood (60 mins)
0.4oz Pride of Ringwood (10 mins)
WLP009 Australian Ale – Build a 2L Starter at 1.030, 48 hours before pitching
Brew Day Instructions
Mash-in grains with 4 gallons of treated water to reach 149F (65C) and hold for 60 minutes. Raise temperature to 169F (76C) and mash-out for 10 minutes. Sparge with 169F water until you have 6.75 gallons of wort in your kettle.
Bring the wort to a boil for 60 minutes, adding hops as directed.
After flameout, rapidly cool wort to 68F (20C) and oxygenate vigorously before pitching yeast. Ferment at 68F, rising to 72F (22C) after 3 days. Package when beer has reached final gravity, clarify if desired.
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