After brewing a hundred or so batches of beer, the brew day is not very challenging anymore. You don't need to look at the instructions. You know your system well enough to hit all your temperatures and not spill any wort. At this point, some folks get into more complicated decoction brewing, develop a little lager obsession, or maybe start honing in their efficiency or expanding their brewery. I've gotten into multitasking.
These days I can't just brew an extract batch, it's too boring. So I usually brew three at the same time, juggling the malt and hop additions and attempting to stagger everything just right. An all-grain brew day at my house last week went like this: Heat strike water while transferring a Bourbon Barrel Porter out of primary Mash while bottling a hoppy brown ale, pausing to flip the Doc Watson record Start the sparge while making lunch Pray there isn't a boil over while taking a quick bathroom break Boil while cleaning out the mash tun and reserving the spent grains for the guy down the road with chickens Chill while transferring an American Lager to secondary from a diacetyl rest Use yeast cake from American Lager in new batch I'm surprised I actually had time to drink a beer in there. The goal is sort of like juggling - keep everything going without thinking directly on any of them. This time around, I had a slight mishap during sparging. The water level in the mash tun got a bit high, so I turned down the flow from the sparge tank, but failed to turn it back up again when it got low. That means that the grains were exposed for a bit, which usually results in channeling and a loss of efficiency (I got 1.062 instead of my expected 1.068 as a starting gravity). But therein lies the challenge. And I find that if I can do it right while multi-tasking, I can do it better when not multi-tasking. So when the time comes to brew some seriously good beer, I can focus on the details instead of the basic stuff. I know some of you will disagree with my slightly cavalier, brewing-on-the-edge style, but anyone who knows how hard it is to set aside time for a brewday can concur that you've got to make the most of it.