How to Make Your Best Beer Schedule and Calendar

Published: March 25, 2024
A photo of brewing equipment and beer tanks inside of a craft brewery

We’ve written a plethora of articles explaining the best ways to brew different beer styles. Most recently, we covered dry Irish stout, cream ale, barleywine, and black IPA. Surely something has piqued your interest and made you want to give it a go in your brewhouse. But then comes the task of squeezing it into your brew schedule.

For transparency, in addition to writing in this space, I serve as the co-owner and brewer at Settle Down Beer (SDB) in Gilroy, CA. SDB is a five-barrel brewhouse with three fermenters. It’s a small operation, and mapping out the beer calendar is imperative to ensure we have the right beer on tap at all times, which typically ranges from ten to fifteen beers.

If you, like us at Settle Down, are in the same boat and have an all-hands-on-deck minimal staff, fine-tuning this process is something you’re continually perfecting to set you up for success.

There’s a lot to consider when creating a brew schedule—how far to plan out, how seasonal offerings come into play, and what tank space does to the schedule. I’ll give you the scoop into our process—perhaps organized chaos—at Settle Down.

I’ll preface with this: Our process is somewhat unconventional compared to a fully staffed brewhouse operation. We are a two-person team performing literally every aspect of the business. With that in mind, here is how we create our brewery’s beer schedule and calendar.

Above Photography courtesy of Elevate | Unsplash

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The First Step to Writing a Beer Calendar

A brewery carrying kegs inside the products and shipping area within a craft brewery

Photography courtesy of Elevate | Unsplash

The inventory is the first thing we must consider when prepping the beer schedule. Based on that, the calendar can fluctuate.

The beauty of the beer calendar is that it’s fluid. Say you map out the next ten beers on your brew schedule. If something in your current inventory is down to the final two kegs or so—this varies based on how fast your beer moves in-house as well as distro—of, say, a blonde ale, but a blonde is four brews into your beer calendar, you would move that up the list.

Our goal is always to maintain a specific variety on tap. Our taphouse has fifteen taps—fourteen pushing CO2 and one dedicated nitro handle. At any given time, we want six IPAs, three light beers, three malt-forward beers, and a combination of three other types of beverages, such as sours, hard seltzers, and non-alcoholics.

We base our beer schedule on which of those beer styles is closest to running out, and we adjust accordingly.

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How Far Out Do You Plan a Beer Calendar?

A variety of craft beer in glasses in an outdoor setting

Photography courtesy of Elevate | Pexels

Our mentality is to create a plan based on our variety. As mentioned earlier, we try to sprinkle in six hop-forward beers—a combination of West Coast-style, New England, and juicy—as well as a core blonde ale and amber ale, along with two base sours that we rotate around different flavor profiles.

Knowing your mix of beers, you can set up the beer schedule about twelve or so brew sessions in advance. For us, we brew one or two days a week, depending on tank space (more on that in a minute), so that takes us roughly one quarter at a time.

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For example, our current tap list, at the time of publication, had six hop-forward beers–three West Coast IPAs, two hazies, and a West Coast pale–one light beer (with another going on tap in a matter of days), two sours, two malt-forward beers (with two in tanks prepping for packaging), one non-alcoholic, and one hard seltzer. That’s thirteen beers flowing and a little askew from our desired variety.

In the tanks, we have a rice lager to fill the void of our light beers and a stout that will be housed on two taps, including the dedicated nitro handle. The way SDB operates, and I’m sure some of you subscribe to this as well: To create the tap listing we desire most, we occasionally pull a beverage off our tap listing. Looking at what we have right now, that likely will be our non-alcoholic to accommodate the rice lager while using the other two open taps for the stouts.

On tap, we are without a juicy IPA and low on one sour keg and our West Coast pale. With our West Coast IPAs being our fastest-moving beers generally, our beer schedule over the next month or so has us brewing a sour, followed by a juicy IPA, then a West Coast IPA, a West Coast Pale, and a saison and milkshake sour to bring us through mid-April.

Beyond what we have scheduled out, we have a running list of beers we hope to make that get slotted in when space permits. Some of those options—outside the norm of what we have on tap—include a Belgian witbier, golden stout, and black IPA.

Again, you can alter the schedule depending on what inventory is about to go. If a beer jumps the line, you can push each one back a single brew session.

Although this process has worked for us, there is a downside. We often like to sprinkle in experimental beers or brand-new recipes into the mix of our beer calendar. But those schedule changes frequently push those beers down the line. Some have still not seen the light of day.

There is one beer that was popular from our homebrew days before we opened up SDB. It’s a wheat beer with peaches and green tea that we call P.T. Brewser. It was planned to be one of the beers we launched our commercial operations with. But, for reasons dictated by consumer preferences and what we had on tap, it kept getting slotted down. We have not brewed that beer in over a year, but it remains the No. 1 option beyond the active beer schedule.

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How Do You Incorporate Seasonals Into a Beer Calendar?

A photo of craft beer within a pint glass at darkly lit table

Photography courtesy of Josh Olalde | Unsplash

Start the year by mapping out the seasonals, dropping them into your beer calendar before you get going. These can be the immovable beers on your calendar, no matter what style needs to jump the line.

If you want to brew a beer for Valentine’s Day, International Women’s Day as part of the Pink Boots Blend, St. Patrick’s Day, or summer, harvest, or winter seasons, lock the brew day into the calendar at the start of the year and adjust your calendar around those days.

Oh, and make sure you brew the beer well in advance and release it in the leadup so your consumers can drink it in anticipation of the season and on the day of the event.

With seasonal beers, we aim to produce a limited amount or at least make sure we have no more seasonal inventory after the season has passed. Sometimes, this is hard to hit. This past holiday season, we brewed an eggnog milkshake sour which seemed to make perfect sense. We moved past the pumpkin flavors of the harvest season and threw on a single half-barrel keg of Malt Shoppe: Nogged Up. Turns out, eggnog is more controversial than pumpkin. You either like it or you don’t. We went through about half of the keg and then just cut our losses.

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How Does Your Beer Calendar Help You Free Up Tank Space?

Consumers generally like to drink new beers. At Settle Down, we need to continually pump out innovative brews to keep them coming back for more while keeping our regulars happy with a core selection.

At SDB, a beer schedule keeps us laser-focused on the process of getting the beer into the tank and out of there ahead of the next brew session. A well-planned beer calendar also keeps us on track to dry hop, crash, and condition the moment it needs to happen before packaging to get the tank ready for the next brew day.

While lagers can throw us for a loop, when we stick to traditional ales, we go from brew day to package day in around seventeen to twenty-one days.

Even with a small brewhouse—roughly 750 square feet to fit the brew system and three fermenters—we are able to maintain a good cadence, never rush the process, and always pump out quality beer.

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What If No Tanks Are Free?

A group of people toasting craft beer at a brewery

Photography courtesy of Cotton Bro | Pexels

While seventeen to twenty-one days typically is ample time for an ale to complete its process for us, sometimes the beer just isn’t ready when needed.

It’s obviously never good to rush a beer. In this case, if we can’t clear a tank for the next one on the beer calendar, we’ve found that we need just to forge ahead, pushing things along to the next day.

While frustrating at the moment, our patience has resulted in our best beers, creating a better experience for our consumers and brewery.

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Ollie author headshot for Giovanni Albanese, Jr.

About The Author

Giovanni Albanese

Giovanni is a content writer for Next Glass, contributing to the Ollie blog. He is a writer by day and a brewer/business owner by night, owning and operating Settle Down Brewery & Taproom in Gilroy, California.

Giovanni is passionate about a number of things, including history, documentaries and sports, but none more than reporting/writing and brewing beer. After receiving a radio broadcasting degree then a journalism degree from Salem State College in his home state of Massachusetts, he relocated to California in 2008.

Then, his writing career kicked off – covering sports, business, politics and more along the way – while concurrently dabbling in home brewing. The home brewing turned pro in 2021 when he launched SDB Brewing Company. Settle Down Beer officially opened in February.

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