Getting More from Less: Three Beers from One Batch

Attention, busy homebrewers: Here’s a straightforward method for getting three different types of beer out of a single batch on brew day. It’s like the Cerberus of shortcuts... but which styles will you choose?

Josh Weikert Feb 4, 2022 - 8 min read

Getting More from Less: Three Beers from One Batch Primary Image

Maybe you’re a workaholic who can’t say no. Maybe you’re a parent who’s overwhelmed by the demands of home life. Or, maybe you're just too busy going to every beer event that crosses your calendar.

Whatever the reason, there are lots of people who lean into the “no time” explanation for why they don’t brew more often. If this is you—and you barely have time to brew even one batch—then it’s a dead-to-rights certainty that you don’t have the time to brew three batches. Right?

Wrong. We’re just going to have to get homebrewer-creative on this project.

What if I told you it were possible to produce three distinct beers in reasonable volumes, and that they would have plenty of character and the diversity to meet a variety of palates, situations, and seasons? “Too good to be true,” you might respond. One way would be to knock out three quick extract kits—I mean, it’s not easy, but it’s an option, and it’s less time than you’ll spend on three all-grain batches. But let’s say you can’t brew that many times—it’s just not on the table.


There’s another way.

You’re about to brew one batch. Not an extra-large batch, either: just five gallons, or a bit more (to account for a bit of ingredient loss). It can even be an extract batch, if you want. And you can also ferment all of these with quick-acting ale yeasts (or even a kveik). Fast, simple, easy: One batch of wort, and you’re going to turn it into a full-spectrum beer extravaganza.

First, the Base Wort

Once you get how this is done, you’ll be able to imagine your own variations. However, the best way to illustrate how it can work is to explain what I do.

Brew a bit more than five gallons (19 liters) of amber wort using either a 50-50 bill of Munich and pilsner malts or liquid extract. Aim for an SRM of about 20, with a gravity of 1.100.


Add 60 IBUs of a good, all-purpose American hop—but not super-citrusy. I'm a fan of Glacier, Northern Brewer, and Target (though Polaris is growing on me). These all have robust bittering potential and good catch-all “hops” flavors—that’s going to help with the flexibility downstream. We don’t want it to scream, “AMERICAN IPA!” We want something with a decent alpha-acid percentage, so we don’t need much, and at this gravity the utilization should be fairly low anyway.

Using your favorite brewing calculator or software, plan your hops such that 40 of your IBUs come from 60-minute bittering addition, with the rest coming from equal (by weight) additions at 20 and 10 minutes left in the boil.

Chill it after the boil, and there’s your base wort: High OG, 60 IBUs, dark amber in color, with some herbal/spice/fruit hop flavor and aromatics. Simple.

Second, Start Splitting

One of the best parts here is that even though we’re brewing a high-gravity wort, we’re not actually fermenting one. That means that we don’t need to worry about super-stressed yeast, stalled fermentations, or lots of residual sugar. Once we have that big, beautiful batch of wort, we start splitting it. Note that we aren’t just making three partial batches of similar strength, color, and character—we’re going to get some real variety.


Beer One: American Strong

Separate the batch in half. Take one half and dilute with a half-gallon (2.3 liters) of clean water, bringing it to an OG of about 1.080. Ferment it with a Scottish ale strain (such as Wyeast 1728), dry hop it with a classic C-hop, and you’ve got yourself a nice American strong amber ale that should wind up around 8 percent ABV with about 50 IBUs. That’s three gallons of a rich, complex ale with aging potential—but not so much of it that it’ll be on tap forever.

Beer Two: Lager, or Pseudo-Lager, or…

Next, take the other half of the 1.100 wort and dilute it to eight gallons; this should reduce the gravity to about 1.031 and give us a nice golden wort about 6 to 8 SRM. Split that between two fermentors, four gallons in each. In a quart of water, dissolve 8 ounces (227 grams) of maltodextrin powder, boil for a few minutes, then add in equal amounts to each of the remaining four-gallon worts. This will bulk up the body of each, firming up the mouthfeel of the diluted wort without pushing us (yet) into any particular flavor direction.

To one of those worts, add a pound of honey. (Buckwheat is a nice choice, but you can use something less flavor-forward, depending on how you feel about honey.) Ferment with the cleanest ale yeast you can find—American ale/Chico or one of those new clean kveik strains—and voila: a light honey faux-lager that should ferment to about 4 percent ABV. (Alternatively, if you have lager yeast, temp control, and time, go for it—but this demo is all about quick and simple.)

This is a good moment to stop and consider some possible variations. Instead of honey, for example, you could go with some Belgian candi syrup, floral hops, and Ardennes yeast for a nice spring table beer. Or dry hop it and ferment clean for a nice session IPA. Be creative! Each partial batch is a forgiving canvas.


Beer Three: Going Dark

To the last four gallons, add a pound of blackstrap molasses and some cold-steeped coffee. Ferment with some Irish ale yeast for a light session porter or dry stout (however you want to sell it), again at about 4 percent ABV. If that coffee/roast character isn’t quite where you want it, try adding some cracked whole coffee beans, or even direct-steeping some chocolate malts or cocoa nibs—or add those flavors via tincture. A dark extract such as Weyermann Sinamar presents another avenue. The point is that adding color and roast character is pretty easy—and a little will go a long way.

Done, and Done, and Done

Essentially, we are combining the tricks of high-gravity and split-batch brewing to see how much beer and variety we can squeeze out of your precious, limited time.

What’s more, this is only scratching the surface. You can also work on the hot side—for example, by running off half your boiled wort and chilling it while whirlpooling with some interesting hops in the other half. You can separate further downstream and introduce mixed-culture fermentation, fruit, or wood—the sky’s the limit.

There you have it. One brew day, one batch, three beers, short fermentations, and lots of happy palates. If you have one batch of wort in you, you can still have a nice range of beers on tap or in your fridge.