Clearing your beer.
Do you remember those early days when you first started drinking in the pub? How old would you be? Hopefully at least 18, but if you were a cask beer drinker how many times did you suffer a poor pint?
It was always a tense moment when you were old enough to know your own mind and decided that the beer you had just been served at the bar wasn’t right. I do not want to go into off flavours here (that’s for another day) but rather haze, cloudiness, turbidity. Call it what you will.
So, do you remember and was the landlord an experienced old timer that, quite frankly, you didn’t want to insult?
Was it a slight haziness or a pea-souper?
Things certainly got more consistent with keg beers even if they were not always to your liking.
Ever since we stopped using metal and pot tankards there has been a requirement to clear beer. Some brewers argue that it doesn’t need to be and that you take away some of the taste and mouth feel.
I get that but clearing beer is also about stabilising it. You can’t always have a situation where the beer is brewed and served ‘fresh’.
Beer is not like wine. It does benefit from some maturation with yeast contact (warm conditioning) but ultimately if yeast is not removed the cells die and can lyse (split open) and the taste can be an unpleasant yeast bitten flavour.
Of course not all haze comes from yeast cells, it can also come from bacterial cells which, if intended to be present, is an acquired taste (lambic beers and sours) and if not, then the brewer has problems.
Proteins can also cause a haze which would be impossible to remove from wheat beers and are an integral characteristic. Proteins will tend to become evident when a clear beer is cooled also.
Overly hopped beers can have a ‘hop haze’ due to the extreme amount of hop materials present. Again, it’s personal taste whether this is acceptable. Incidentally you can get very hoppy beers that are crystal bright.
Cask beer in the pub is usually just fined with isinglass and if the brewer has done his job right should drop bright within 48 hours. This should be fine for several weeks. The term ‘fine beers’ you see on pub signs means just that, bright beers which have been fined.
So, I am a traditionalist and generally like my beer bright but only the drinker can decide what is acceptable. Did you enjoy that beer you just drank or does it go in the ‘never to be bought again’ category?
Hadrian Border Brewery has been producing beer at its best since 1994. With over 25 years of experience and knowledge in brewing, Hadrian Border now operates from its SALSA accredited 40 barrel plant in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and is known all over the North-East for its fine ales including – Tyneside Blonde, Farne Island, Grainger Ale and Ouseburn Porter. To learn more about Hadrian Border Brewery, visit www.hadrian-border-brewery.co.uk.