Exactly How Long Does it Take to Brew Commercial Beer?

If you are someone that drinks beer, you’re likely well aware of how intricate the brewing process can get. There are different types of brewing processes too depending on if you are a fan of microbrewing or commercial brewing. If you are a fan of commercial brewing, you might be interested in learning more about what the process entails. If so, you’ve come to the right place.

Throughout this article, you will learn what goes into the process of brewing commercial beer. Along with this, you will learn about how it differs from craft brewing specifically. We will also be going into detail about how long it takes to brew commercial beer.

What Exactly Is Commercial Brewing?

Commercial brewing refers to the process of brewing beer to create mass quantities of it. These brewers are looking to leverage economies of scale, commercial brewery equipment, and produce large-scale quantities of their beer. The industry defines these brewers as those producing over 6 million barrels of beer annually.

There was a recent blog post detailing nano breweries. Within that article, we discussed how there are essentially four companies that are in control of half of the entire beer market. These large companies include Heineken, Anheuser-Busch, Molson Coors Beverage Company, and Carlsberg. Every single one of these companies is extremely large and they sell their beer globally. While these 4 major breweries do control the majority of the beer market, they aren’t the only brewers classified as commercial breweries.

What Exactly Is Craft Brewing?

To fully understand the scope of commercial brewing, you need to first understand what craft brewing is and how it’s defined in the marketplace. The Brewers Association specifically classifies craft breweries as smaller brewers that operate independently. To be classified as a craft brewer by the association, you need to only produce 6 million barrels of beer or fewer annually.

There are other conditions a brewery must meet too. One of them is the fact that they must be independently owned. This means they cannot have over 25% of the brewery owned or controlled by someone that isn’t defined as a craft brewer. Thus, if the brewery is more than 25% owned by a commercial brewer, it wouldn’t qualify as one.

Any craft brewery has a smaller brewing capacity. This allows them to utilize a much more innovative brewing process and it helps them be much more creative with ingredients and more. A commercial brewer is primarily there to increase output and production while reducing costs and expenses. Craft brewers don’t have these same goals which allow them to produce unique and nontraditional beers that aren’t necessarily commercially in demand.

How Long Does It Take to Brew Commercial Beer?

This answer depends on several factors. For one, it depends on the type of beer that is getting brewed. To understand more, let’s go over some of the most common types of beer included.

Nowadays, you will find a wide array of different beers being produced by all breweries. You will see many more traditional beers like lagers and unique offerings like double IPAs and more. However, each beer typically falls under two very specific types of beer. These include ales and lagers. From there, it all depends on how much yeast is used, the type of fermentation process used, and more.

1. Lager

Lagers typically require a much more involved brewing process. They also require specialized brewing equipment compared to a traditional ale. As a result, brewing a commercial lager is likely to take anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks in total. A lager needs to be conditioned. This ends up being the most time-consuming aspect of the process. The conditioning process essentially allows the harsher and more bitter flavors within the beer to even out. The conditioning process for a commercial lager usually takes between 1 to 4 weeks depending on whether the beer is dark or light.

2. Ale

Ale is the oldest type of beer being made. The fermentation process for ale takes place in a warmer environment. This ends up speeding up the process. As a result, an ale doesn’t need to be conditioned nearly as long as another style of beer including a lager or even an IPA.

3. India Pale Ale (IPA)

This is a type of beer that is growing in popularity. An IPA has a much higher alcohol content than the other kinds of beers. It’s also more bitter than them. There are numerous different types of IPAs. Some of the more popular include West Coast Style, English Style, and even New England Style. You will find that every style has its unique profile and they come with their unique fermentation process. The total brewing time for an IPA typically depends on its style. Below, we will be going over the different styles and their uniqueness in more detail.

– New England Style

A New England IPA typically tastes a lot more fruity than other styles. They are typically characterized as having a fruit-forward flavor profile. They usually aren’t as bitter as other styles and they are usually brewed with dry hopping techniques. However, the result depends on the yeast used and the malt varieties. The majority of breweries out there dry hop NEIPAs in different phases throughout the fermentation process. The process is typically referred to as double-dry hopping and it essentially occurs throughout the fermentation process. However, you will find a lot of different single dry-hopped NEIPA offerings that have more subtle aromas in the marketplace too.

– West Coast Style

A West Coast Style IPA is one that typically has a much bolder aroma. These IPAs are usually intensely bitter and they also feature piney and citrus flavoring. These IPAs get their extra bitterness from the added hops throughout the boiling process. The addition of the extra hops during the boiling and fermentation process makes these IPAs much more bitter in the end. The fermentation process that a West Coast IPA goes through is typically anywhere from 10 to 14 days in total. If the brewer utilizes a dry hopping process after it’s fermented to increase the resulting aroma, it typically sits for a couple of days before getting bottled or canned. This means that the total process can take a few weeks.

– English Style

An English-style IPA is typically brewed very similarly to NEIPAs. The way it’s similar is how the hops aren’t added while it’s being boiled. Instead, the hops are added later in the process. This ends up opening less aroma from the hops. Thus, the result is a beer more muted in hops aroma. With that being said, an English-style IPA typically has a much more earthy and floral aroma attached to it. They also typically are maltier and have a crisper flavor. The hop levels found in these IPAs are nowhere near what you will find in West Coast IPAs. Typically, an English-style IPA is fermented for a total of 10 days and it’s subsequently drop-hopped for an additional 5 or 6.

How Long Does It Take To Brew Commercial Beer?

As you can probably tell, there is no easy answer to this question. It ultimately comes down to what type of beer is being brewed and what brewing process is being utilized. Every brewery will have a different brewing process. However, because commercial brewers make beer in such great quantities, they strive to maximize production and reduce brewing time to fulfill the market’s demand.