Increasing Pipeline Diversity

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Most people that begin brewing eventually want to scale up to larger batches. There are those great beers, especially the ones needing age, where you wish you had a lot more by the time you get to the of your batch. Some brewers, however, like fresh beer, and don't want a lot of something that's past its prime sitting around and taking up needed space in kegs, bottles, or their bellies! I am a huge fan of diversity-I'll seldom drink two of the same beer at once, so I like to have several different beers ready to drink at once. Brewing up many gallons of an APA that's best fresh doesn't make much sense if you're only going to drink a few each week. Like many, I am also strapped for time, so spending a whole brew-day to only get a 12-pack or case of beer doesn't make much sense either. How can I make the most of my brew day by getting as much beer as I can AND as much diversity as I can from one brewing session?
I am a small-batch brewer. After a few extract kits, I jumped to stove-top, all-grain, half sized batches. As I've gotten comfortable with software recipe scaling, I've steadily increased my batch size to 3-4 gallons on average. Though many brew on a much larger scale, my concerns about diversity will only be amplified as the batch size increases. I have found some common-knoweldge and some more creative ways of increasing the diversity of the beer I produce without having to brew two full batches back-to-back. No matter what your batch size, I hope you can benefit from some of these tips I outline below.
I. Yeast
We'll begin with the easiest part to vary-the yeast pitch. If you have the means to temperature control two batches simultaneously, you can get smaller fermenters and split your wort after chilling and use two different yeasts. Get some 3 gallon better bottles or some 3.5-4 gallon buckets from your bakery and have at it. The differences could be subtle or more noticeable depending on what else is going on in the beer and how different the yeasts are. You can try Belgian IPA vs. American IPA (or IPLager!), English Pale Ale vs. American Pale Ale, American Wheat vs. Hefeweizen, etc. You might not even need a starter if you're only fermenting 2.5 gallons of average gravity ale with each yeast.
II. Hopping
This will obviously require separate boils, but will let you get two different beers from the same mash and sparge time. You can boil consecutively or simultaneously if you have two burners or can use a stove for half of the wort. If your mash tun is large enough, you could mash enough grain for 7.5 gallons, boil on the stove for a 2.5 gallon batch and use your turkey fryer for a 5 gallon batch. This is a great approach for: a) Dialing in hop bills for American ales. Try two different single hops or combinations calculated to the same bitterness and late hop levels to see which is preferred. b) Making two different beers. A Red IPA with a decent bittering addition and loaded with late hops could have the same grain bill as a malt-focused American Amber Ale with restrained hops. There are two beers to suit my fickle fancies from one mash! The extra consecutive boil adds maybe hour and a half to the brew day, but an extra case or two of beer for that investment is great!
Now, if you combine this with yeast variation, you can get two very different beers. An India Brown Ale with tons of American hops and clean yeast in one fermenter would be quite different than a more malt-focused Brown with British yeast in the other!
III. Malt Bill
Wait, don't you have to do the mash all over again if you're trying to vary the malt bill? Then you're only saving yourself the clean-up time. This is where we all-grain brewers can take a lesson or two from our extract+grains brethren.
III.A. Steeping Grains
Whereas in II. only the hopping varied, here we want to vary some part of the malt bill to get a different beer. Particularly caramel/crystal malts and darker roasted malts can be steeped to add color and flavor to a beer without too much effort. Caramel malts have already been converted and dark roasted grains have little potential sugar to contribute, so temperature is not a big issue here. Just bring some water in a saucepan to 150 or so, toss the grains in a bag like an extract recipe, and you're golden! Now you can get any combination of Pale/Amber/Brown Ale with a single mash and the steeping of extra caramel and/or chocolate malts. Vary the hopping and/or yeast and get two VERY different beers!
But you need not necessarily add all that extra time to do a separate boil. If you have the equipment, you could brew up a 10 gallon batch of a simple APA, like EdWort's Haus Pale Ale, with decent bitterness and some late hop presence, but not too much. You might then choose to steep additional caramel and chocolate malts to beef up the maltiness to something more like a brown ale. Remove the grain bag and bring the steep to a boil for a few minutes, and toss it in half the batch for 5 gallons of Haus Pale and 5 of Haus Brown! Again, using a low attenuating yeast like S-04 on the Brown will change the character even more!
III.B. Dilution
Remember doing half-boils and diluting at the end? There's something to take away here as well. From one grain bill you can get two different sized beers. This is like a partigyle but easier, and allows for the two beer strengths to be related much more closely. Simply take a recipe and mash to the strength of the stronger of the two beers you want, split your runnings evenly, and dilute half until you're at the gravity of the smaller beer you want. You can dilute pre- or post-boil, or even post-fermentation.
I have used this method several times to get two different beers a partigyle would not give. The first time, I took a Best Bitter recipe, scaled it up to 1.055 or so, then removed the darker crystal malts from the mash bill for steeping. I mashed at 154, split the runnings in half, and boiled half with American hops for an IPA. Since it was tending toward malty with crystal 40 and a higher mash temp, I made up some gravity in the IPA with a pinch of sugar to help dry it out a little more (to about 1.060). I diluted the second half of the runnings to get a post-boil gravity of 1.045. British yeast in the Bitter and S-05 in the IPA and I had over 6 gallons total of two different beers in one brew day, all while boiling on a stove!
I also did a Tripel and Pilsner by using a Pils malt base with a little Vienna to get to 1.060. The runnings for the Pilsner were diluted to get 1.052 and the addition of sugar brought the Tripel gravity within style. Obviously yeasts varied. Similarly, I scaled a Marzen recipe up to 1.060. I used only bittering hops and split it after the boil. I diluted half down to 1.052 for a Marzen, and the other half got some steeped Special B and dark Candi syrup added for a Dubbel. Yeasts also varied. Here you see combinations of all of the above techniques that get you two very different beers for one day's work.
Finally, for a super-easy dilution method post-fermentation, you might try the following. Say you brew 5 gallons of a fairly strong beer (1.070 or so). At bottling time you boil the requisite amount of priming sugar, but you also boil a separate portion with an extra gallon of water and just enough sugar to carbonate that one gallon. Let the gallon cool as you begin bottling with the first batch of priming sugar. Bottle until you have 2.5 gallons left and 2.5 gallons bottled. Now add the cooled gallon and mix it in gently. You will have 2.5 gallons of 1.070 beer and 3.5 gallons of 1.050 beer (OGs) with very little extra work!
III.C. Recipe calculation
I use BrewTarget, and find it easy to make a recipe with the shared malt bill I wish to use. I don't include any steeping grains, and make it for the total batch size I would get if I were not to split the runnings. Here's a 5 gallon Pale Ale malt bill that could also be used for a nice Brown Ale.
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Then I copy the recipe into two new recipes:
I scale them each to half the size of the original:

In each of these I can add steeping grains (as well as separate hop bills):

Then I can adjust the batch size without scaling to determine how much water I need to dilute with in order to get my desired gravity (here I calculate the effect of diluting with a half gallon pre-boil):

When I dilute post-boil, I can add the hops to the original recipe before copying it to see where the IBUs will be after dilution. I am sure this is doable in most other software.
I hope these tips are useful for making the most of your brewing time and getting the full variety of beer your palate craves!
Awesome article! I often get bored with a beer before the keg is kicked. This gives some really awesome ideas for me to try out.