Beer Matters

Hazy Days

Beer, like a lot of things in life, is not immune to the vagaries of fashion. Trends in recent years have included black IPAs and sour beers. At the moment, a lot of brewers seem to be experimenting with unfiltered beers, not just cask ales but pressurised “craft” beers as well.

Normally at the end of fermentation beer is subjected to filtration and/or fining with the object of removing the minute solid particles (e.g. yeast cells, hop dust and unfermentable elements of malt) which would otherwise remain in suspension in the liquid -although if left undisturbed they will eventually sink to the bottom in their own good time. The current trend is to omit this process altogether, resulting in a hazy pint.

As one who generally approves of most things natural, wholesome and unadulterated, I feel I ought to welcome this development. However, having sampled for a few examples of the genre, including two at a local beer festival last week, I must admit to being somewhat underwhelmed.

Drinking cloudy beer won’t do you any harm. Indeed, should you happen to be suffering from constipation, it may well be of some benefit to the system. But as a gustatory experience it lacks something. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s as if the haze dulls the flavour as well as the appearance.

Why this should be so, I don’t know -unless it’s simply that those little particles carry traces of subtle but uninteresting flavours which combine to hinder the brilliance of the hop oils from shining through (a bit like adding apples to a blackcurrant crumble, which only serves to mask the exquisite tartness of the latter fruit).

Never mind, it’s only a passing fad.

While we’re on the subject of haziness, it’s sometimes difficult to know who or what to believe.

According to reports recently published in the American journal of the Medical Sciences and the South China Morning Post, scientists claim that beer is high in antioxidants, polyphenols and trace elements which can reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes while also protecting cognitive function. Sounds like good news?

The bad news is that only small quantities are necessary to achieve these benefits and the article from which I gleaned this information goes on to recommend drinking no more than a pint a day (half for women – Mrs Bibendus is not amused) or 14 units a week. Now where have we heard that before?

Whilst I’m sure most of us broadly accept that life’s pleasures should be enjoyed in moderation, there is a vast difference of opinion between the “experts” and the average man in the pub as to what constitutes moderation. And it doesn’t only apply to beer. Should I really be taking just one square of organic dark chocolate or five ounces of steak along with my one pint of beer? (Apart from anything else I wouldn’t want the pub or the butcher to go out of business.)

I may have said this before, but I rather feel we are entering a new age of puritanism – only this time round sex is okay, providing it doesn’t involve children or animals, but almost anything else that’s pleasurable is suspect. Just wait till they find out some of us enjoy ringing bells!

Maximus Bibendus

PS – Following David Maynard’s article, I can confirm that the pickled eggs in the picture were indeed home-made. As I write, the empty jar in the kitchen reproaches me and I must pickle some more (albeit without bonnet peppers and bacon).

Reproduced by kind permission of The Ringing World.

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