“Laddering” Your Homebrew

In my last blog post, I talked about the virtues of waiting for your homebrew to “peak” in flavor before really enjoying it. Unfortunately, it’s so hard to do! In this blog post, we’ll walk through a strategy to make that wait seem not so bad.

Let’s talk about finance for a second. Even if you hate finance, stick with me because there’s actually a point here that has nothing to do with finance. In the world of bonds, a 1 year bond pays a lot less than a 4 year bond. The analogy with homebrewing is that a 1 month old homebrew does not generally taste as good as a 4 month old homebrew.

People in finance hate waiting for a 4 year bond to mature, just like homebrewers hate waiting for a beer to mature 4 months before they drink it. So here’s where we, as homebrewers, can learn something from the world of finance. People who routinely buy bonds do what’s called “laddering“. The way it works is that every year, at the beginning of the year, you buy a 4 year bond. You won’t see any return at all for those first 4 years. It sounds like a pretty lousy deal, right? Well, the beginning of year 5 is when the fun starts. From then on, every year, you are earning a 4 year bond return. This strategy makes a lot more money over time than buying a 1 year bond year after year.

So what can we learn from this? Here’s our schedule for making beer. We’ve got 1 week for fermentation, 2 weeks for bottle conditioning (or carbonation), then 3-6 months to mature and peak in flavor.

We can “ladder” our homebrew similar to the way financial people ladder their bonds. If you make a beer that will take 3 months to peak, just bottle it and put it on the side (maybe take a few out to enjoy first). Always mark your beer with a “Bottled on” date, and an “Enjoy on” date. Now, make another batch a month later, and put it on the side after you’ve bottled it. Keep doing this until you’ve hit your “Enjoy on” date from batch 1. Now you’re laddering your homebrew! As a batch is brewed and bottled, you’ve got another one waiting in the wings to be enjoyed.

It takes patience to make it through those first few months of a lot of brewing and not so much drinking it, but the benefits are worth it. Does this mean that you can’t enjoy any homebrew before it’s matured? Of course not, you should enjoy some along the way. Does it mean that you have to brew this often? Definitely not! This post is just showing the strategy, and you can change it up to make it work for you.

In my next blog post, I’ll talk about how this strategy will change the way you view what kind of beer you’ll be brewing next.

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