Originally Posted by BlackRock
It sounds more like I could be getting beers finished sooner though as I said my current batch of 15 days is still pretty cloudy. I'd never heard of a 3 week pitch to packaging guideline though.
Ah, but.......notice I said "a well made beer"? Now, I'm not saying yours is poorly made- far from it! But there are a couple of very important keys in that phrase "well made beer".
First, most homebrewers underpitch their yeast. Proper yeast pitch rates are crucial to having the beer fully attenuate, "clean up" after itself, and clear the beer. One smackpack or vial of liquid yeast is almost always underpitching. Making a starter is a huge part of this "well made beer".
Two, yeast temperature. This means pitching temperature first. Most newer brewers pitch their yeast WAY too hot. Some instructions say "pitch when under 80 degrees"! That's about 15 degrees too warm, or more.
Third, fermentation temperature. Many brewers ferment their ales too warm, often over 70 degrees. That might be "acceptable" for some yeast strains, but it's not optimum.
All three of those things speak to yeast health. I would say that the vast majority of issues with fermentation and off-flavors come from poor yeast health.
Pitching only one vial of liquid yeast at 75 degrees, and then letting the beer ferment at 75 degrees would almost always create off-flavors that need time to age out. My process is that I don't create those problems in the first place, so there is no need for problems to age out.
Some beers take a bit longer than others. I have an oatmeal stout that takes a couple of weeks longer for the flavors to meld. Beers with a high OG, or complex flavors, may need longer.
But a regular German, British or American ale with an OG of under about 1.065 or so should never need a long conditioning time if properly made. That's the a big "if", though!