When it comes to beer, no matter what you read and what people tell you, one always ignores the fact that yeast requires time and more importantly, your beer requires time!
In my haste to brew and consume the beers as soon as possible, I have on many, many occasions bottled my beer after only 7 days in the primary fermentor. While this practice may work for commercial breweries very well (God knows what all chemicals they add!), the homebrewer would do well to pay no heed to haste.
Give the beer time in the primary. The yeast, even after the fermentation seems over, is still working to clean up byproducts of fermentation. Two weeks for an average strength beer (about 1.055 OG and below) should be adequate. After that, rack and bottle.
But once again - BE PATIENT! Open the beers too early & they will be under-carbonated. They will taste flat and you will only get disappointed. Not to mention the beating your drive for brewing will take! Give it 2 weeks in the bottle and they will have carbonated quite well. Now, if you think this is the right time to drink, think again!
Depending on the style of beer you have brewed, you will need to condition the beers for another 4 - 6 weeks at least. Keep them cold or at fermentation temperature and the beer will mature and taste wonderful. Keeping them cold will also settle out the protein / tannin haze and give the beer a rounder, more smoother flavor.
Have I been practicing what I am preaching? Haven't done that yet but NOW the time has come. I have bottled a Blonde Ale, an English Brown & an English Special Bitter. I am sure time will improve the beer and I will have the pleasure of not only drinking them but also sharing them with some friends who, often have had my young beer & have been nice enough to tell me that they are very good in spite of the obvious!
I brew an American Pale Ale this weekend. The goal: higher mash temp to ensure some body & sweetness to balance out the high hopping regime!