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We are currently in the middle of a world-wide beer boom, with interest in beer at its most vibrant than in any time in living memory. The UK alone now has over 1,750 breweries, the greatest number since the 1930’s. Beer lovers are more aware of the contents of their bottle than ever before; when it comes to beer styles, hops and grains, aficionados know what they want and anything that doesn’t come up to scratch just isn’t on.
When the ‘craft beer’ boom started, beer fans had had enough of the mass-produced lagers that seemed to be in every pub and went back to smaller brewers. Although there’s no definition for the term ‘craft beer’, lots of people think of it as a return to traditional standards, making deeper and more flavourful beers or simply ‘doing things properly’.
One of the most common criticisms of the super-brewery beers was that they were ‘fizzy yellow water’ because the carbonation that makes them sparkling was done in exactly the same way as cola or soda water. However, an area that doesn’t seem to have gotten much attention is when bottled beers are naturally sparkling, which is an outcome of traditional bottle conditioning.
True bottle conditioning takes place as a living process while the beer is sitting in the bottle. After the new beer comes out of the fermenter, it will still contain a small amount of residual yeast – sealing this new beer into a bottle with a small amount of extra sugar will feed the yeast, forcing it to eat the sugar, naturally creating more carbon dioxide. Because the bottle is sealed, the carbon dioxide has nowhere to escape, so is forced into the beer under the pressure of the bottle, making it sparkling.
Beers that are filtered, pasteurised and put into bottles can’t be bottle conditioned, as the yeasts are removed – and any that remain are certainly dead – which means that to make sparkling beer, carbon dioxide gas is forced into the beer artificially. One of the chief arguments for bottle conditioning is that the yeast can only make so much carbon dioxide before the pressure gets too great, meaning that your beer is never over-carbonated, risking getting into ‘fizzy’ territory.
A true bottle conditioned beer has the ability to age and change over time, as the living beer that was put into the bottle has undergone another little twist before it’s finished; something that filtered and pasteurised beers cannot do as the beer in the bottle has been effectively stopped dead. It can also give non-bottle conditioned beers a much shorter shelf life.
Some breweries make a type of bottle conditioning by adding fresh yeast into filtered beers in the bottle, or even put small amounts of younger, still fermenting beer into bottles of fully fermented beer. For us, however, something doesn’t sit quite right with doing this – beer is a living, changeable product that ferments, matures and ages to create a finely balanced, deep flavour. Just take a look at our range of re fermented beers. If ‘craft beer’ is about doing things properly, mixing and matching your beers or yeasts is not about creating the best beer, it’s also just not natural carbonation.
Why not try our rounded and well balanced Green’s Amber Ale?