As a beer lover, you have probably wondered about the brewing process and everything that goes into it. Whether it’s microbrewing, craft brewing, or commercial brewing, there are similarities and differences between each type of brewing. You may even ask yourself, “How long does it take to brew a commercial beer?” If you have asked this question before, you have come to the right place.
Before we discuss the duration of brewing commercial beer, let’s first review the commercial brewing process and understand how it differs from craft beer. Then, we will delve into the answer to how long it actually takes to brew a commercial beer.
What is Craft Brewing?
To put commercial brewing into perspective, it is important to understand how craft brewing is defined. The Brewers Association classifies an American craft brewery as a small, independent brewery. To be considered small and independent, the brewery must produce six million barrels of beer or less per year.
The next requirement for craft breweries is that they must be independently owned. An independent brewery means that no more than 25 percent of the brewery can be owned or controlled by someone who is not identified as a craft brewer.
Craft breweries have smaller brewing capacities, which allow them to use more innovative brewing processes and experiment with nontraditional ingredients in new and inventive ways that commercial breweries simply cannot.
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How Long Does It Take to Brew Commercial Beer?
The answer to this question varies depending on the type of beer being brewed. To gain a better understanding, let us familiarize ourselves with the most common styles of beer.
Nowadays, you can find a wide array of beer options available for consumption at almost any bar or beer distributor. You will likely see traditional lagers, double IPAs, barrel-aged sour ales, and even more niche brews that you may not recognize. But every beer, regardless of its niche category, ultimately falls under two specific styles: lagers and ales. Depending on the yeast used and the fermentation process, various other styles like wheat beers, stouts, porters, brown ales, and others can emerge.
Lagers require more work and specialized brewing equipment compared to typical ales. Because of this, brewing a commercial lager can take anywhere from four to eight weeks. Lagers need to undergo conditioning, which is the most time-intensive part of the brewing process. Conditioning allows the harsh, bitter flavors that arise from fermentation to mellow out. The duration of conditioning a commercial lager can range from one to four weeks, depending on whether it is pale or dark.
Ales are the oldest style of beer. Ale fermentation takes place in a warm environment, which accelerates the process. As a result, this style of beer does not need to be fermented or conditioned for as long as a lager or an IPA.
India Pale Ale (IPA)
IPAs are more bitter and have a higher alcohol content compared to lagers or traditional ales. There are many popular IPA styles, including New England Style, West Coast Style, and English Style, to name a few. Each style has a different flavor profile, largely influenced by the hops used and the fermentation process. Even within the category of New England Style IPAs, taste can vary significantly. The brewing time for a commercial IPA mainly depends on its style. Let’s take a closer look at these popular IPA styles.
New England Style
New England IPAs (NEIPAs) are characterized by fruit-forward hop varieties and flavor profiles, low bitterness, high chloride levels, ester-forward yeast, and unique dry hopping techniques. However, yeast and malt varieties also contribute to the mouthfeel, flavor, and appearance of the final product. Many breweries double-dry hop NEIPAs during the one-to-two-week fermentation process, in multiple phases throughout both the primary and secondary fermentations. However, there are also single dry hopped NEIPA options with a more subtle hop aroma available.
West Coast Style
West Coast IPAs feature a bold hop aroma, intense bitterness, and citrus or piney flavors. Unlike NEIPAs, West Coast IPAs have more hops added during boiling, which imparts bitterness into this style of beer. When it comes to adding hops during boiling and fermentation, proportions for West Coast IPAs are more equal compared to New England styles, which may have few or no hops added during boiling. The fermentation process for a West Coast IPA is similar to that of a NEIPA and can take anywhere from 10 to 14 days. If the West Coast IPA is dry hopped after fermentation for an increased aroma, it often sits for a few days before canning or bottling, making the entire process last several weeks.
English style IPAs are brewed similarly to NEIPAs, where the majority of hops are not added during boiling but later for a more subtle hop aroma. However, English IPAs have more herbal, earthy, and floral aromas with a malty, crisp flavor. Hop levels in English IPAs are lower than their New England or West Coast counterparts. On average, an English IPA may ferment for up to ten days, and then dry hop for an additional five or six days.
Session IPAs vs. Double IPAs
The IPA brewing process can be further divided. There are session IPAs with a low ABV of 5 percent or less, and there are double IPAs that are stronger, typically with an ABV ranging from 8 percent to 9.5 percent. Session IPAs can take anywhere from two to three weeks to brew, ferment, and condition, while double IPAs can take four or more weeks.
Answering How Long It Takes to Brew Commercial Beer
As you can see, there is no definitive answer to this question. It varies based on the beer style and the specific brewing process, as each brewery’s process differs. Commercial breweries brew beer in large quantities, allowing them to optimize the brewing process and shorten the time to meet market demand.
Learn More About Commercial Beer and the Brewing Process
In this blog, we have covered the basics of how long it takes to brew commercial beer and discussed a few popular beer styles. If you are looking to upgrade your brewing equipment, ACE experts can help you choose the best tubing, hose, fittings, and clamps for both low and high-temperature applications.