This is a sort of a “repost” of a BollocksBook post by a friend of mine.
He’s a very experienced cellarman, running a very good pub, serving good beer in typically very good condition. He really knows his stuff.
He likes the sound of some beers but they happen to only come in unfined form. The question is:
Is it OK to buy a deliberately unfined beer and then fine it so you can serve it clearer?
My own view on this is: NO – unless you have agreed this with the brewer of the beer. At least that’s the only case in which I’d do it myself. But I’d also probably not buy an unfined beer if I didn’t want an unfined beer.
Now I am pro-unfined and regularly sell products from three breweries that are 100% unfined (Moncada, Moor, and Weird Beard). I certainly don’t pressure folk into thinking they ought to be buying unfined beers though. But I’ll explain fairly passionately why some of the beers I sell are unfined if I am asked. Ultimately I sell these beers because there is a demand for the products in question of course – this doesn’t mean you have to buy or drink them though.
On the other hand I’m not anti-finings. I’m not a vegetarian and I don’t mind fish parts being used to clarify beer. I don’t think it is entirely necessary for the goodness of the beer, but it is necessary for selling beer to most of the beer-drinking market. And there is something beautiful about a crystal-clear pint. Yeast also doesn’t necessarily taste good… but a good unfined beer ought not be “yeasty”, nor even “cloudy”, with a few days on stillage it should be hazy at worst.
Anyway… my friend’s post is inside the walled garden of unofficial-CAMRA Facebook so I reproduce it in entirety here:
I have some cask real ales coming in that are unfined and will therefore have a haze to a greater or lesser degree. I am considering adding finings in the cellar before I condition the beer – I have done this many times before in my 30 years of cellarmanship, but only when the beer has been hazy due to a problem of some sort.
The reason for this is that the vast majority of my customers will not drink cloudy ale, and at the end of the day they pay the bills! Finings (made from the swim bladder of the Sturgeon) have been used for centuries to clear beer by taking out the unwanted stuff that sits in suspension in the beer. Finings cause these particles to congeal and sink to the bottom of the cask, hence making the beer clear. There is many an argument as to whether the floaty bits are good or bad for you, but that is not for here.
I appreciate that this means the beer will not be as the brewer intended it. Some of there brews are purposefully unfined to make them suitable for vegetarians or vegans, or because a brewer might wish their beers to be as pure as possible. I have the greatest respect for these folk and again this is not about whether a beer should be fined or not.
I am passionate about real ale, and want to be able to offer as many unusual, experimental and rare brews from small, independent brewers. But we are not in a trendy city – not even a busy town centre! I have a traditional local on the edge of a small town and therefore need to balance what we offer carefully. We generally struggle to sell cloudy beer and as small brewers ales are usually much more expensive than mainstream ones, we can’t afford to risk having to chuck it away!
So it’s a simple yes or no question – should I add finings to the beer.
Yes – It’s crystal clearly the right thing to do. Cut Diamonds are always better than Rough. Its fine with me!
No – How dare you? Leave the mist in the mystery, the amazing haze, the fuggled fog! Let the clouds reign!
And I’ve created my own everybody’s-welcome Survey Monkey poll for this too. Remember this is not a debate about whether finings are good/bad or clear beer is good/bad or haze is good/bad… just about whether it is “OK” for a publican to fine a beer that a brewer deliberately sells as an unfined product.
If you do the ArseBook you can go over there and join/read the existing discussion. (And please continue the discussion there if you do do the arsebook, but if you don’t there’s comments below and Twitter…) There’s supposed to be a poll there too, but it doesn’t work for me. Thus I have this:
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