I bottled my Irish red ale last weekend and am dying to taste it. They say to condition it for 1-2 weeks, which got me wondering – if I jump the gun is it really so bad?
Also, is there a difference between conditioning and simply storing for consumption? Right now I’m conditioning in a dark place, about 66 degrees, but honestly once that phase is done I wasn’t planning on putting them all in the fridge yet. So in effect the conditioning goes on for weeks longer until I can drink them all. Is this going to lead to a bad result?
Conditioning is when the beer carbonates itself. It’ll take 2-3 weeks depending on the temp. Your yeast will continue to do work, such as removing less desirable esters even after fermentation is done. If you crack one open early, which I commonly do, it’ll be less carbed, and “green”. The more malt forward beers tend to need a little conditioning time to come into their own and bring out some of the subtler flavors of the malt. Letting them set at 66 degrees for 6 weeks (or even 6 months) won’t be a problem, and will likely help them.
I’d have one (or two) this weekend to see where they are at and how much longer you need. Also, you may want to put them in the fridge a day or so before. I’ve heard this forces more of the CO2 into the beer, but I’ve heard that debated too.
When I used to bottle, I would almost always open one every week after bottling. Go for it! It will be an educational experience.
IMO “conditioning” isn’t just about carbonation. It’s also about letting the flavors come together until they peak. I found that–with the exception of IPA’s–my beer always improved with additional weeks in storage after it had been properly carbonated. Like 4-8 weeks. Sometimes more. Don’t get me wrong…I am not a patient guy. I would still drink them during the conditioning time. They would just keep getting better and better.
When getting into kegging, a lot of people think their beer does not need conditioning time. This is rarely true. Kegging provides an alternative way of carbonating and serving beer, but it does not remove the benefit of time in storage.
Edit: I agree with DrGonso’s recommendation to refrigerate in advance. It’s a fact that CO2 goes into solution faster when the solution is cold. If in doubt, just try force carbonating a beer at room temp vs. in cold storage.
I agree with all the answers to your question given here. Just experiment and see what you get. My first brew was the Irish Red Ale in January. Not quite enough carbonation at two weeks but at three, much better, just as others with more experience than I had said. I still have about a dozen left and they get better with age. I’m going to brew another batch as soon as my fermentor is free.
Cut all the corners you want. It will only increase your education in the home brewing process. After you get more brews in bottles ready to drink, you might ease up on the urge to test each batch out too soon, but what the hell is the fun in that?
I also agree with all these guys. I tend to always bottle a 12 pack in 12 oz bottles (the rest in pints and bombers) and I almost always will try one 12 oz bottle after one week just to what its going to be like. I tend to repeat this for a couple more weeks. I like see/taste how things are developing and I’ve found this is a good way for me to do that. Different styles require different conditioning times and you’ll pick up on that as you continue to brew. I say, if its been in the bottle a week, try one. It won’t be perfect yet, but it will almost certainly be satisfying and provide a picture of what’s to come.
I agree, although since my IPA is a more traditional type, it gets more long aging time than most of my other beers. But for my ‘regular’ beers, I totally agree with the 4-8 week window (and more usually, 12 weeks).
Shorter turnaround times are in fact the main fault I find with a lot of so called ‘craft’ beers and most especially brewpub beers (which I have come to pretty much entirely avoid nowadays).
Other than the lightest and mildest ‘session’ style ales, I find that a longer aging/conditioning time is a very beneficial thing. I used to be in a hurry to consume my brews, but have learned to brew more frequently in order to always have properly aged brew on hand (especially important for maintaining stock of my IPA and Porter,both of which I will typically age for 8-12 months).
For those who primarily keg, I’m assuming that aging occurs either in a secondary or in a keg itself. If using a secondary to age, should it be at a cooler temp? Not talking lagers, of course, but others that utilized yeast strains that ferment at higher temps.
I ask because I don’t have a cooling option yet for storage, and I’d like to make a couple to keep on hand and wasn’t sure how best to store them without a temp-controlled freezer, for example.
[quote=“Catch22”]For those who primarily keg, I’m assuming that aging occurs either in a secondary or in a keg itself. If using a secondary to age, should it be at a cooler temp? Not talking lagers, of course, but others that utilized yeast strains that ferment at higher temps.
I ask because I don’t have a cooling option yet for storage, and I’d like to make a couple to keep on hand and wasn’t sure how best to store them without a temp-controlled freezer, for example.[/quote]
For those that keg, there is no reason at all to use anything except a keg for aging - provided you have one available. And I wouldn’t move it out of the primary until the fermentation is fully done and the yeast have dropped out. It is beneficial to cool the beer for the flocculation, but not essential.
I’m another one who thinks aging the beer typically makes it taste better. As kc said, letting the flavors come together.
Did a quick search, haven’t found it yet, is there a rule of thumb for how long you can keep beer in corny kegs under CO2 at 65-70 degrees? I too would like to have a couple kegs in storage, but reluctant to invest in yet another fridge for only that purpose.
So please help me to understand because I have had this discussion with people from time to time. We say to age the beer. Sometimes for 6 month or longer. Some have aged for over a year. So I get the question from people “Then why when I buy beer do I look for the born on date to get the freshest beer I can get”? And I have no answer. I am saving beer from every batch I make so that at Christmas time I have this collection of beer samples from the full year. And people say "Wont it be bad after that long? What is the answer? Why can we age beer and its cool, but if I buy it in the store they say to get the freshest beer you can get?
There are a lot of variables to consider regarding aging. Commercial beers that have been filtered to remove yeast and packaged in clear glass bottles definitely degrade with age. Bottle conditioned beer that contains yeast can be stored for quite some time. (I have session beers that I brewed over a year ago that actually taste better than they did after a month in the bottle.) High ABV beers require a lot of aging before they hit peak flavor (or, in some cases, mere drinkability.) Hoppy beers are generally best when they are younger; after time the hops tend to fade. (That doesn’t necessarily make them bad, just different, and sometimes in a really good way.)
As far as cutting corners, why? You’ve invested a lot of time and money already, so what’s a few more weeks? That said, there’s a lot to learn from experimentation. I’m one who still tries a new batch after only 7 - 9 days in the bottle. Tracking the evolution of a brew is fun for me. That moment when a beer goes from, “Yeah, this is pretty good,” to, “Damn! This is AMAZING!” is something to treasure…
My first batch was bottled about 6 weeks ago. After 2 weeks, I started drinking it. It had a plastic aftertaste because I used tap water that had chlorine in it (switched to distiller now), but it was still pretty good. It’s a Private Rye. I gave a bunch out to my band mates who liked it too. But now when I try it, after sitting in a bottle for 6 weeks, it is sooooo much better. The flavors really mellowed out, and the aftertaste is hardly noticeable. It makes me sad to think that I only have about 5 left! I have another brew bottled now, and one in the fermenter that I’ll bottle this weekend. So for me, it was certainly a good experience to taste it along the way and see firsthand what aging does. But I wish I didn’t give so much away so early…
And just so you know, yes, you will probably not believe anyone about how much the bottle aging will improve a malty beer until you actually try it. But hey, it’s your beer! Enjoy it how you want to!
“Best by Date” is about regulations regarding sales of food and low alcohol beverages, not about flavor. The companies are required to put a date on the beers. And for light lagers made in big breweries, they have reach as peak a flavor as they will ever get to by packaging time. There won’t be much positive flavor evolution after that.
In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require expiration dates or best used by dates on any food products.
Definitely true in the EU. I had assumed it was a regulatory issue in the US also, as all the breweries started doing it at around the same time. But if not that, then perhaps it is a marketing tactic? How to get your customers to throw away beer and buy more from you because they read on the label that they should…