Friday, April 8, 2016

Beer Brewing Calendar

A Calendar is invaluable for those of us that have busy, sometime hectic, lives. Between work or your business, kid’s activities, birthdays, holidays and hobbies, it’s important to schedule everything so that you don’t overlap activities, or conflict with others. Many of us home Brewers haven’t given a Brew Calendar much thought because we squeeze in a brew day on our off time, which appears to be the best way to schedule a brew day. However, a Brew Calendar is more than scheduling around a busy life of activities and an occasional brew day. The Brew Calendar is about the brew day preparation, competition scheduling, beer style scheduling, fermentation scheduling and club meetings and events. Brewing requires some forethought into setting up recipes, purchasing supplies, creating yeast starters, brewing beer styles based on seasons, aging, competitions, and conflicts with others planned events. 

What calendar do you use? Do you pull out the old paper flipping calendar with the cute puppies or go digital? The old school paper calendars are often the preferred medium for scheduling activities and would be difficult for some brewers to change to digital calendars. However, I'm partial to the digital calendars because it can be synced to your computer, mobile phone, other people in your life and organizations. However, either way works as long as you accommodate everyone's schedule to avoid conflicts.

I use the Google Calendar because I can incorporate my Son's baseball schedules, practice and tournaments, while my wife schedules our girls dance practice and competitions. My wife and I share our personal & shared events so that they don't conflict with each other, and all these calendars can be shared, making it easier to set it up and maintain.

Setting up your calendar: A calendar should be divided into several beer and brewing related categories. If you use an online or digital version of a calendar, the club meetings, competition dates and beer styles should be set with an annual repeat function to avoid entering the same information annually or forgetting an important annual event. Using a color for each category is very useful when reviewing scheduled events. A paper/cardboard calendar can also accommodate different type of calendar categories by using different highlighter colors for each category. For instance, you might use orange for personal, yellow for brewing & fermenting and red for competitions. For the paper calendar, a “key” is required to keep the colors the same month to month. This “key” is a section of the calendar or a separate page with each category name highlighted with a color. For each event on the Calendar, the corresponding category’s highlighter color would mark that event.

There are several categories to consider within a Brew Calendar as noted below:
1.     Beer Competitions
2.     Fermentation & Temperature Schedule
3.     Preparation and Brew Days
4.     Seasonal & Beer Style Scheduling
5.     Club Meetings & Events
6.     Clearing and Bottling/Kegging

Competition season starts the first of the year through summer with some trailing competitions during the fall and winter. The American Homebrewers Association National Homebrew Competition holds their first round of judging in March followed by second rounds. And, clubs like the one I belong, the Maltose Falcons, hold annual competitions like the Doug King Memorial in January, and the Mayfair Homebrew Competition in April. Some beers, with exceptions, should be brewed and entered into a competition freshly made, while others require aging.

Your brew schedule will be limited to the number of vessels allowed in your fridge at one time. In addition, the fermentation temperature of one beer can conflict with another beer. Brewing a Lager will put your fridge on hold until the end of lagering period, making it difficult to brew and ferment Ales due to the fermentation temperatures and lagering periods. However, in contrast, Ales with common fermentation temperatures work well with multiple fermentations, allowing multiple brew days.

The weekend of your brew day will be followed by a fermentation schedule. I typically block two weeks for Ale fermentation and more for Lagers so that I know how many vessels are in my fridge along with required fermentation temperatures. In the example below, you will see the first half of the month includes three solid lines for fermentation over a two week period. This indicates I have three vessels fermenting in the fridge during this period. Because I know the fridge is full, I won’t brew until at least one fermentation vessel is removed from the fridge.

Brew day preparation is a no-brainer. However, scheduling a brew day forces you to prepare ahead of time to allow a timely visit to the homebrew supply store, go online and create a yeast starter. Unlike my previous brew on-the-fly day, due to the lack of planning, where I did not set up my yeast starter. The lack of planning unfortunately forced me to buy more yeast, which I could have avoided and saved some money.

Beer style scheduling applies to every beer style. What’s important is knowing how beer style scheduling applies to you. First, determine what you’re trying to accomplish with your beer(s). Is it for consumption or competition? Does it need to be consumed or submitted to a competition fresh or require aging? The second consideration for beer style scheduling includes specialty beers or certain seasonal beers styles. Saison's ferment best in the heat of summer, which would otherwise require heat source if done in the winter. Advanced brewers are not typically concerned with seasons due to the use of temperature controlled fridges & freezers. However, ambient temperatures outside the fridge/freezer can assist in obtaining your temperature, which may require scheduling based on the season.

Club meetings and events will take up one or more days per month. My club typically meets on the first Sunday of the month, which uses up one of my weekends and leaves three or less weekends to brew. If you are involved in administration or management of the club, that is also going chip away at your available time on the calendar.

The last category is the clearing, bottling or kegging. This is typically not as high of a priority unless your schedule is very busy. You could do as usual and clear, bottle and/or keg on-the-fly. However, if you have a busy schedule, planning your final product is certainly helpful.

The Brew Calendar organizes your brewing process along with other personal activities. It helps keep track of scheduling brew days, fermentation, beer styles and creating the final product for consumption or competitions.

David Lesteredule
How to make time to brew beer
How to brew beer like a pro
How to make a homebrew beer recipe
How to make beer
How to enter a homebrew competition