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From reading What is the secondary fermentation debate? and If/When to move to secondary fermentation it appears that beer can be considered ready to consume (assuming force carbonation or a love of flat beer) after 8 days or so.

Is this true? This question What "problems" can I have if I bottle just one week fermented beer? attempts to answer what I am asking but the warning that the beer may be green and could use additional time in the fermenter is not quantified with any recommended time that the beer should be aged.

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Theoretically, yes, your beer could be drinkable after only 8 days. Meaning, nothing is going to stop you from going into bottles or kegs at the 8 day mark, and what you will be consuming will by definition be beer. Hopefully fermentation completed, and you don't have bottle bombs. Using the term "green" flavors is a very subjective term, for both personal tastes, as well as the beer style. One of the big things that contribute to a beer's green flavor is diacetyl, which goes away around 3 days (give or take 1) after fermentation has completed. You should not remove the beer of the yeast cake before the diacetyl rest has completed (meaning 3 days have passed since you hit your targeted gravity). I like to assume 7-8 days for primary fermentation and diacetyl rest to complete.

There are other ways people use the term "green beer". One example would be the style of beer dictates how long it should mature before being drinkable, or not green. Extreme examples would be barley wines or Belgian quads. These mature over the course of months, if not years, where as an IPA can be ready to drink (meaning kegged or bottling dates), dry-hopped and everything, inside of a month.

Realistically, to answer the title question, it depends. If you are brewing a hoppy IPA, you want to drink it fresh. You could have it go into a bucket, and come out of the bucket for kegging or bottling in 2-3 weeks. Another 2-3 weeks might stand to help, but if you want fresh, that could do it. On the other hand, if you are brewing a stout for Christmas, you might want to get started now. Stouts benefit from spending time in the bottle, and get much better over the course of a year if stored properly. Each style is different, and will have different flavors depending on how old they are. If you're looking for a quick fix, look for light alcohol, potentially high IBU (although IPA's or Pale Ales aren't the only kind), session beers. Those will be what will most often be the quickest to drink.

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Brewing a session ale could be very quick and not require much aging. I would hazard to say that it would be fairly easy to get a session ale of say 4 or less percent that would taste great after 7 days. But as you increase IBUs, alcohol levels or specialty grains that is where a beer could use some aging before being at its peak taste. –  Chris Plaisier Jul 9 '13 at 4:25
    
Great answers. Very informative and detailed. Just what I was looking for. –  fthinker Jul 9 '13 at 11:55
    
How do you store your beer properly for a year? Are you talking dark cool environment? –  anton2g Jul 9 '13 at 15:38
    
They call it cellaring due to the colder temperatures. Different beers cellar better at various temperatures. Best to shoot for 50-55F. If you only have high alcohol beers, go for 55-60F. If you have lagers or pilsners, go for 45-50F. Here's a thorough bit of info on storing beer: beeradvocate.com/beer/101/store –  Scott Jul 9 '13 at 16:16

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