Anything I’m Fermenting

November 13, 2008

Making the ‘Champage of Beers’ Part 5

I’m realizing that this series on the Champagne of Beers has become my longest and wordiest yet. The previous 4 posts discussed how to achieve a very light colour, fizz without head, higher alcohol content, a noticeable acidity, and light body. Here are all the characteristics I am aiming for.

1. Very light colour

2. Fizzy, but without much head

3. Alcohol content of around 8% abv

4. Noticeable acidity

5. Light body

6. Clear – minimal cloudiness

7. Low bitterness and no hop flavour or aroma

8. Fruitiness

9. Dry (i.e. not sweet)

6. Clear – minimal cloudiness. Cloudiness, or haze, in beer is a bugbear for homebrewes (and I guess brewers generally). In most commercial beers, people expect perfect or near perfect clarity – the only exceptions being bottle-conditioned beers, and some wheat beers. If the beer’s expected clarity is not found, people will assume the beer has gone bad. This spills over into the homebrewing world.

Generally homebrewers, and drinkers of homebrew are much more forgiving of haze in their beer – they understand that it is a natural part of minimally processed beer. However, even homebrewers often feel that a clearer beer is a better beer. In some ways this is only due to the standards set by commercial breweries, but in others way it is an indicator that the beer may contain too much protein, and may not be ‘stable’.

Wine, like beer, is expected to be clear. Even champagne that has been yeast conditioned is always crystal clear. Such clarity is probably beyond my simple methods, but I do have a few techniques. As I explain in my post about homebrewing, my usual grain bill includes considerable unmalted wheat flour. Further, I use a ‘corona-style’ grain mill to mill my malts – I set it to a fairly fine grind, so it produces a lot of malt flour. Both unmalted wheat and finely ground grain are infamous for producing hazy beers.

This has lead me to use two main methods to clarify my [regular] homebrew. First, during the boil, I add Irish moss, a type of seaweed. This acts to bind together some of the haze forming proteins and precipitate them after the boil. The other thing I do is to add dissolved gelatin to my beer when I rack (transfer) the beer to my secondary fermenter. Gelatin also bonds to proteins and precipitates them, leaving them as trub at the bottom of the fermenter, which is left there when I bottle the beer (see for some details). I believe that both Irish moss and gelatin act by clumping together the proteins, which then become large and heavy enough to fall out of suspension in the beer. Although their action is similar, I think they bond differently with the proteins, so they act on different proteins. Kind of a one-two punch!

Beyond filtering (which I won’t be doing), another method used by brewers to clarify beer is to let them age for a while. Some proteins and haze particles simply need enough time to settle out. Others will oxidize or otherwise bond together over time and then settle out. For my regular homebrews I haven’t utilized this method as I tend to drink my beer fairly young. It seems that there’s always a party or something to bring some beer along to, and that wipes out my cellar! People don’t seem to complain about the clarity of my beer…maybe because it’s free?

For the champagne of beers I plan to age the beer for about 9 months, so the aging effect on clarity should kick in. Thinking about the aging process, I’ve started worrying a bit about how the champagne of beers will carbonate after aging so long. The yeast may have gone into hibernation by then, so will not be able to effectively bottle-condition the beer. I think I will pre-bottle a a bottle a few weeks before the main bottling, and then test the carbonation after two or three weeks. If it has not carbonated sufficiently I’ll probably add some dry yeast to the bottling bucket.

Create a free website or blog at