Sometimes you need beer in a hurry. Let’s say you scheduled your Oktoberfest party for the end of September, but you forgot to make a batch of genuine Festbier over the summer. Let’s also assume that life’s obligations—be they related to work, family, or something else completely—have conspired to prevent you from brewing up a Mocktoberfest ale. No need to worry, you can still turn out a great homebrew in ten days or fewer if you follow a few basic principles.
Keep it sessionable.
The higher the original gravity, the more maturation time your beer needs. Stick to original gravities below 1.050 (below 1.045 is even better) to ensure complete fermentation.
Keep it cloudy, dark, or English.
This is not the time to attempt a crystal clear German lager. Choose styles that are inherently cloudy (Hefeweizen, wit, session-strength saisons) or that have enough dark malts to mask the haze (milds, dry Irish stouts). Another good option is to use a highly flocculent English yeast to brew ordinary bitters, as these strains tend to drop bright quickly.
Keep it quick.
Some yeasts take forever and a day to plow through all those fermentable sugars. Eschew them and look elsewhere. If you’re brewing a saison, skip Wyeast 3524 and White Labs WLP 565, which stall out and slow down. Instead, go for the much quicker Wyeast 3711, White Labs WLP590, or Danstar’s Belle Saison. All three can turn out a great table-strength farmhouse ale in a short amount of time.
Keep it (reasonably) warm.
When choosing a yeast strain, go with one that isn’t too fussy and can tolerate a somewhat elevated fermentation temperature without throwing too many esters. Warm fermentations tend to wrap up more quickly than cool ones. Again, yeast-driven styles such as saison and Hefeweizen lend themselves well to this approach.
Keep it kegged.
Sorry, bottlers. I love you, and I’m a big advocate of bottle conditioning, but this is when those who keg enjoy a huge advantage. Set the regulator to the desired serving pressure, hook up the gas to your keg, and shake said keg (chilled!) every few hours in the day or two leading up to tapping. Do NOT, however, shake the keg on the day you plan to serve, unless your goal is to investigate foam.
By keeping these basic ideas in mind, you can turn out great beer in a hurry. Below is a slightly modified version of my normal Hefeweizen recipe, tweaked to go from grain to glass in just ten days.
- Day 1: Brew day
- Days 2–7: Fermentation
- Days 8–9: Keg and shake
- Day 10: After a night and morning of rest, it’s ready to serve in the afternoon. Prost!
Hurry Up Hefeweizen
Final volume (at packaging): 5.00 gal (19 l)
Brewhouse efficiency: 72%
6 lb (2.72 kg) Weyermann wheat malt
3 lb (1.36 kg) Weyermann Munich Type I malt
0.75 oz (21 g) Tettnanger [4% AA] at 60 minutes
Mash grain at 151°F (67°C) for 75 minutes. Lauter and sparge to a pre-boil volume of 7 gallons (26.5 liters), and boil for 90 minutes, following the hops schedule. Cool to 64°F (18°C), pitch the yeast, and allow the temperature to free rise to as high as 70°F (21°C) during fermentation. After the specific gravity stabilizes, keg to 3.5 volumes of CO2 and serve.
Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan Weizen
White Labs WLP300 Hefeweizen Ale
Liquid yeast is preferred for this style. Dry yeast will still produce a good beer, but it may lack some of the yeast-driven complexity we normally associate with Bavarian Weißbier.