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How far in advance do you schedule your future brew-sessions?
The more I thought about this question (in terms of this blog post), the more I realized that any individual answer would be determined by many branching subsequent questions — all of which could probably have their own blog post and discussion.
Your brewing calender is probably largely determined by what kind of brewer you are, first and foremost. Do you brew to experiment, or just to satisfy your thirst? Are you brewing more-or-less new recipes every time, or frequently filling kegs with old standbys and house recipes you like to keep on hand? But this, too, probably depends on how long you've been brewing. If you're a relatively new brewer, chances are, you've got all sorts of ideas you want to try, and you can't brew them fast enough. But if you've been brewing for ten years, you've likely got a number of recipes (or variations on a recipe) that you brew somewhat regularly. And of course, how much are you brewing in a batch? Just enough to try, or enough to last for months?
As you can see from the photo above, I've got a white board on the wall of my Beer Office, where I create a calender for, approximately, the next year. It's not super precise, of course. (And not precise at all past the six month mark). The itinerary is open to change and new ideas. But, tentative as it may be, it helps me in a couple ways. First, organizationally, of course. There's nothing worse than starting a brew session and realizing you never actually purchased the two pounds of wheat malt your recipe calls for. With a schedule, I can plan further in advance, purchasing grain and hops I plan to use months down the line. Secondly, it helps me know what beer, and how much beer, I'll have ready to drink at any given time. Since different brews age for different periods of time, my drinking selection is ever changing. You can of course also plan out future brews in a software program like Beer Smith (which I do as well, because hell, I also need to constantly fiddle with recipes), but the white board provides a nice visual that I can walk in and glance at in moments of self-doubt and restlessness. It is comforting, a glimpse into an optimistic future. A future full of beer.
Lastly, a brew calender keeps me sane. I've been brewing for less than two years — or about 30+ batches, at the moment. I consider my last year of brewing surprisingly successful, with a couple of batches that I'm very proud of. But being an "experimental / try new things" type of brewer, I'm usually pretty paranoid about my beer turning out terrible until I'm actually drinking it. And sometimes, they do turn out mediocre, or bad. Whenever I begin to doubt a batch, or worry that I've made some stupid mistake, I get this sudden urge to BREW MORE, YOU NEED MORE BEER. Psychologically, I think you need to brew about two good batches to make up for one disappointment. With the visual of my calender on my wall, I can both reassure myself that I'll have some good batches hitting the fridge soon, and also keep myself on schedule — because there have been times when I considered brewing four batches in one weekend so it would all just be ready as quickly as possible, and I could just relax. (Unless one of them turned out mediocre. Then I would have to brew four more the next weekend.)
So, in the next few months, I know I'll be brewing a black IPA, an oaked rye mild ale, a wee heavy, a historic IPA, a black Grätzer, a couple sour saisons, and a bunch of other stuff. Changes and alterations happen, as there's no reason I have to actually stick to the schedule. The closer to the present, the more likely that beer will actually get brewed then, but things six months down the line are basically up in the air; added to the board to make sure I don't forget about them.
So, how about you? Do you know what you're brewing beyond this weekend? How do you organize your brewing calendar?