To some extent we all eat and drink with our eyes and there is a notion that beer, like water, should be clear. However, a lot of the beer we sell is cloudy. But that’s ok, it’s supposed to be.
Traditionally a pint of real ale is expected to be clear, and cloudiness might indicate that the beer has been badly kept, has not settled, or worse, it is infected and could make you ill.
Cask and craft beer ferments in the barrel and is primed with yeast so that it continues to carbonate after dispatch. In the case of cask real ale, isinglass or finings (chemically prepared fish guts) are added in order to bind with the yeast and as the beer settles the beer “drops bright” (as a chef would add egg white to a consommé to clarify it). However, a lot of craft beer is not fined or filtered and the yeast suspension is deliberately left in. The lack of fining combined with the fact that a lot of craft beer is more carbonated than traditional real ale (achieved by the addition of more yeast) means that craft beer can be really quite cloudy. Craft brewers claim that this enhances both the flavour and the mouth-feel of the beer, and of course means that without the isinglass, is vegan-friendly.
In a Guardian article from last year (a really interesting read, if yeast and fish guts are your thing), Justin Hawke from Moor Beer in Bristol said about not fining beers:
Without question, it intensifies aroma and flavour. Whether that is to someone’s tastes is another question. A traditional ale drinker who drinks delicate beers is going to taste one of those hoppy, unfined IPAs and not be able to cope with the way it looks and tastes. It’s alien to them. But you can’t argue that it’s not more flavourful.
We have also been asked whether our beer is cloudy because of “chill haze” (when the proteins in the beer coagulate at lower temperatures and become visible – a bit like with olive oil). The answer is “possibly” – but that in itself is an indication of the beer being unfined and having more yeast protein in the liquid. Chill haze does not alter the flavour of the beer, only the appearance of it. We serve our beers nice and cold, because that is how the craft brewers like it, and it is how we like it. So if you order a beer at The Twelve Taps and it is cloudy, that’s because it is a cloudy beer. A lovely, tasty, cloudy beer.