I hate waste.
It is one of my pet peeves the amount of food that is wasted and a lot of this waste is down to not only confusion but an unnecessarily strict adherence to use-by/sell-by/best-before dates on food items.
We humans evolved (no apologies, creationists) a fair few senses to recognise when something that was edible probably wasn’t really edible any longer. Sadly in this day and age the one sense that should have precedence over the others, common sense, has been for gone in an age of comfort and easy.
When it comes to beer the dominant sense would clearly be; what does it smell like, what does it look like and what does it taste like, though I’m sure there must be some Cicerone tweedle or CAMRA twaddle who reckons that can hear the beer as if it was some sentient being.
If you’re reading this that it probably goes without saying that anything you drink that is cloudy really does have to be appraised fully before its complete imbibing, milk based drinks aside. And beer was no exception, a cloudy pint would, decades ago, indicate that it would be pointless to even continue with the purchase of the pint.
And so, finings of various nature but mainly the fish-orientated, vegetarian repelling Isinglass, was added to beer in order to draw all the murky causing bits out of it (yeast, proteins, etc) to give a nice pin bright pint.
As an aside, a sealed cask of nothing but beer will last a good few months in correct conditions, it is the addition of said Isinglass which shortens the longevity of it.
Beer is funny in the alcohol world in that respect. You don’t expect to see a completely clear cider or perry and these days everyone loves a gin with all manner of things floating in it.
But this is about beer and its appearance and in my opinion I don’t care that much what it looks like as my other sense will tell me about its suitability to actually consume.
Though I will admit that adding Isinglass to a beer (an addition other finings) is not my most favourite part of brewing. Adding anything to a beer at the casking stage, even additional hops, will always slightly increase the possibility of an infection.
Fruit puree, lactose (not suitable for vegans), spices, liquid flavourings and syrups; all manner of things added to a beer that isn’t during the boil will always heighten my science brain that whatever can go wrong, probably will and no manner of sterilising will stop it.
Having said that, beer is actually quite hardy too, especially given the state of some of the containers I’ve seen it delivered in.
This is off point though. I don’t mind a hazy pint. I don’t mind a cloudy pint. I don’t really mind a murky point. The chicken soup pint is pushing it but I’ll still drink it if it meets the standards of my other senses.
What I feel has happened with the boom in breweries is the accompanying arms race to brew all matter of things under the sun.
And another facet of the schism between “older” (experienced) and younger (modern) was opened in what a beer could look like.
Maybe I’m creating another straw man for the sake of writing this piece but what appears to be happening now is that the zeal that the older drinkers have for having a clear pint, and clear pint = good, hazy = bad, has been met with a 3rd law of motion in modern drinking circles in that murky = natural, clear = chemicals.
Of course the murk debate is, erm, clouded by what the beer “is supposed to look like” as the brewer intended verses the reality of what is actually served and yet again, no amount of brewing integrity to get a beer that is as clear as possible and as suitable for vegetarians is going to survive poor cellaring practices.
Use all your senses and drink what you like.
To provide a public service and for the fussy drinkers out there is your beer vegan?
Thanks for reading.