One of the pleasures of the stats afforded by WordPress is the list of search terms that lead people to my blog. One caught my eye today: “chunks of stuff in my imported beer”. I was only hours ago having a conversation about chunks of stuff in beer. This is a topic that deserves some discussion. Hopefully the above searcher can find this information helpful.Beer is life. That is, beer is living. But some brewing companies who-shall-not-be-named repeatedly assault the natural origins of beer. They feel they can turn beer into a commodity, treating their beer like soda pop, expecting to extend “shelf life”. They see this as a matter of economics: the less beer they lose to spoilage the better their margin. However, they forget the time-honored methods of long-term storage of beer – strength, hops, and live yeast. In an effort to make their beers more like water they brew them to low strength with few hops, and go on to filter them crystal clear. As if that wasn’t enough mistreatment, they run the beer through a pasteurizer that raises the temperature to destroy any semblance of life.
Don’t get me wrong, the pasteurizer is one of the greatest advancements to food safety, for milk and other foods that spoil. However, the entire reason humanity has brewed beer for millenia is that it is an ideal method of preservation. No known pathogen can survive in beer.The ancients referred to yeast by the only name they felt gave the phenomenon justice: the single word ‘godisgood’. They appreciated, even with a primitive understanding of science, that the cake of sediment is the secret behind the drink. Strike that, is the drink. Without it we just have sweet water that pretty soon will look and smell foul (not to mention the taste).
With it we have majesty. We have the wonder of zymurgy. We have beer. Beer is yeast and yeast is beer. That little sediment at the bottom of craft-brewed beer is the proof that what you hold in your hand is truly natural: the product of a centuries-old collaboration between microorganisms and macroorganisms, between yeastkind and humankind. In the hands of a competent master, those little critters will work wonders.
So getting back to the question that was never specifically asked: it is a good sign if your import (or craft or microbrewed) beer has a layer of sediment on the bottom. In general, chunks of stuff are good. If you prefer, allow your bottles to sit for a few hours and carefully decant into the glass, and you can quite easily leave most of it out.
But in the end must you? There are several reasons I go ahead and drink it anyway. Yeast is incredibly healthful. Witness the prevalence of brewer’s yeast resold in health stores or as a supplement. It is rich in B vitamins (all but B12) and loaded up with protein and a variety of minerals. It adds a lot of body to beer and has a characteristic bready flavor.
That’s why many craft beer drinkers use this method: decant half the beer, drink it. Swirl the rest of the bottle, pour, and drink that. It’s the best of both worlds for a beverage defined by such things.