For any home brewing buff, the moment of truth is always the tasting. You will not get a real idea for how good or otherwise your beer is when the brewing is complete. Even at this late stage, there is more that needs to happen before it is what it will be. You will put your beer into bottles still not being sure that it is quite right – and this is enough to send a lot of home brewers crazy with impatience. And the thing is that there’s more to it than that. Even once you have left the beer long enough to carbonate completely it may still have time to go.
To clarify, the time that you are advised to leave your brew before drinking it is the “ready to drink” time. Now, there is a world of difference between “ready to drink” and “worth drinking”. Many beers benefit from being left a little (or a lot) longer in the bottle before you drink them, during which time they get to settle, to broaden in terms of taste, and to do any number of other things that will turn them into highly drinkable beer.
The reason for this is down to countless small influences that can affect a lot of things to do with the beer. You cannot expect a perfect beer after the minimum “ready to drink” time, just as people who make their own wine will not expect it to mature to its highest quality within weeks. Some of the best wines around have been in the bottle for years – and it is not just wines for which that is true.