Small Batch Brewing – What is it and why?

We recently looked into why you might want to brew with large grain bills. This week Dave from our UK office is looking at the opposite end of the scale and talking about why brewers might choose to make smaller batches of beer;

“For a lot of brewers (myself included) there is a general assumption that when it comes to beer, bigger is usually better. Bigger grain bills, bigger ABV and bigger volumes are usually the order of the brew day. Sometimes however I like to change things up and brew small. So what are the reasons you might decide to do this?

  • You want less beer
This can sometimes come across as a sacrilegious suggestion in homebrew circles, but sometimes you just don’t want 23 L or more of the same beer. Some of my recipes I’ll brew repeatedly and will often keep on tap but for big ABV barley wines or stouts in can become a bit of a chore and I often find myself giving most of them away in bottles or seriously regretting taking up a keg with them. A 10 L batch might give me 15 or so 500 ml bottles, of which I can give a few away and then enjoy the rest. And sometimes that’s enough!
 
  • You want to experiment
For me, one of the best aspects of homebrewing is being able to play about with ingredients and techniques to create something unique and interesting. Sometimes this doesn’t necessarily produce a beer I want to drink 40 bottles of. Professional brewers do this with pilot batches, brewing an experimental recipe on a small scale to get a feel for how it will turn out so I like to do it too when I think of something strange to make – this way I don’t waste loads of ingredients and get stuck drinking something horrible if it doesn’t turn out well or I can scale it up and make any tweaks if it turns out to be good!
 
  • You want a shorter brew day
This isn’t too big of a concern for most homebrewers – if you’re making the effort to brew then saving time shouldn’t really be a consideration but if you’re pushed for time you might be able to get a small batch brew done and save some time on the heating and cooling thanks to the smaller volume!
 
  • You can brew more by brewing less
Forget the first point, maybe you’re like me and it’s not a case of less beer – it’s just a case of more variety! For the average brewer, small batch brewing will let you brew and drink a greater range of styles in a shorter space of time meaning you can always have a few bottles of a lot of different beers
on rotation.
 
  • You don’t enjoy bottling
Before everyone shouts ‘keg’ let’s not forget that for some brewers kegging may not be an option either financially or practically and for people who like to share, bottling makes that much easier. On the other hand I don’t know many homebrewers who actively ‘enjoy’ bottling so small batch can be a good compromise – less beer in the long run but less sanitising, syphoning and spilling to do.
 
These are just some of the reasons a brewer might consider brewing smaller batches and don’t forget, you don’t have to pick one or the other – choose the technique that gives you the results you want!”
 
We have recently launched micro pipework for the Grainfather which is designed to allow you to brew 10 L batches so if you’re feeling inspired to give small batch brewing a go make sure you check it out.

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