Unfined Beer

What is Natural Beer?

Our unfined ‘natural’ beers do not contain isinglass cask finings.  They are designed to be served with a haze. We now proudly supply all of our beer unfined and naturally hazy as we believe it is best for the beer and for you.

Although prejudice and ignorance are rampant in the pub industry, things are changing – and you can be part of it!  Below is more information to help you understand why we believe unfined natural beer is best, and how you can take advantage of it.

What are cask finings?

 They are an acidified aqueous suspension of collagen derived from the swim bladder of certain fish, along with sodium metabisulphite.  Does it sound like something you want added to your beer?  The finings flocculate the live yeast in the beer into a jelly-like mass, which settles to the bottom of the cask.  Finings have a positive charge which attracts negatively charged particles, mostly yeast, causing them to clump together and fall to the bottom of the cask.

Why is beer fined? 

Left undisturbed, beer will clear naturally on its own over a long period of time.  Isinglass finings merely accelerate the clearing time.

Is cloudy beer bad? 

In the latter half of the 20th century real ale went into decline and people were often served beer that had stood in cellars too long, not been looked after properly and had gone off. British beer drinkers began to associate cloudy beer with bad beer, when in actual fact the cloudiness was the symptom rather than the cause.  As all other countries abandoned cask for keg and bottle, the linkage was never made between cloudy beer and bad beer.  In other countries cloudiness is actually a mark of quality, for example:

  • Germany – Hefe Weizen is served cloudy and the yeast is intentionally poured into the beer.  People incorrectly believe it is cloudy because it is a wheat beer, when it is the yeast that makes the beer cloudy.  You can order Kristall Weizen, which is the same beer without the yeast, and it is clear.  However, it is considered an inferior product and rarely consumed.
  • USA – Proper IPAs have a ‘hop haze’, and often have residual yeast.  IPAs served too clear are often accused of not containing enough hops.
  • Belgium – Most Belgian beers are naturally conditioned, containing live yeast and are very often served cloudy.  Good luck sending one back!
  • Czech Republic – Yeast Beers are also naturally conditioned with live yeast and are served in varying degrees of cloudiness.  They are considered the best examples of fresh beer.

Won’t drinking cloudy beer give me a bad tummy or a yeast infection? 

Drinking the end of a FINED cask means you are consuming both yeast and isinglass finings, which led to the belief that you will get a bad tummy from cloudy beer.  Unfined natural beer does not have isinglass and will not give you a bad tummy.  On the contrary, it contains higher levels of brewers’ yeast, which can be used as a nutritional supplement.  Brewers’ yeast is a source of B-vitamins, chromium and protein.  It has been used to treat diarrhoea, the common cold, viral infections, influenza, loss of appetite, PMS, skin problems, and type 2 diabetes.  Also, brewers’ yeast is a different type of yeast to the one that causes yeast infections, so you will not get a yeast infection from drinking unfined beer.  Some people are allergic to brewers’ yeast, in which case they should not be drinking beer at all.  The examples above are not health recommendations.  You should consult your GP before taking any supplements, and remember to consume alcohol in moderation.

Is clear beer necessary? 

Cask beer went through a slump decades ago, during which time British consumers were generally justified in linking clarity with quality.  Those conditions are no longer valid.  Most breweries today are producing quality beers and most beers are being turned over quickly enough and looked after properly.  With higher hopping rates and international beer styles becoming more prevalent in cask ale, we need to take a more modern approach to the way in which it is served and marketed.  As consumers are looking for more natural and flavourful beers, we can satisfy their needs with unfined natural beer. Younger drinkers in particular don’t care about clarity.  If you make comparisons with the cider category, you can liken unfined beer to scrumpy cider, where cloudiness is a positive selling attribute of a more natural product.

Managing unfined natural beer: 

Stillage, vent and tap as per our instructions on the Cellar Management Tips page.  The beer should retain a haze which may get lighter over time.  When the beer smells and tastes good it is ready to serve.

Championing unfined natural beer: 

There will be a transition period required to educate everyone as to the merits of unfined natural beer.  Some may be reluctant, especially more traditional ale drinkers.  There are decades of belief and prejudice to overcome with some people. However, we find that with the right education, more than 90% of people prefer unfined natural beer.  You will also find that if marketed well you will attract new customers eager to drink unfined natural beer.  Staff education and positive attitude, particularly bar staff, is key to ensure success.  Below are some simple tips to help with the training and conversion.

  • Educate yourself first – Understand what finings are, why they were used, and why they are no longer necessary.  Observe, smell, taste and feel the unfined natural beer.  You will see for yourself that it has a heightened flavour, aroma and mouth feel.  Ensure that all staff are trained accordingly.  Do not communicate negatively about the cloudy aspect of the product – it is a positive attribute.
  • Have confidence – Once you’ve convinced yourself, have the confidence to share your knowledge with others.  It may take some explaining.  Don’t be afraid to challenge and educate people if they question why the beer is not clear.  This is an opportunity to engage with your drinkers and generate interest.
  • Let people smell and taste – People will become converted once they have sampled the beer themselves.  You can overcome concern by ensuring people that if the beer smells and tastes good, then it is good.  They are not drinking ‘fish guts’.  What they are seeing in the cloudiness is the hop oil and yeast, which is what is making the beer more natural, and ultimately smell, taste and feel better.
  • Accept differences of opinion – some people will either be unwilling to try, or may prefer it more traditionally.   Don’t feel bad if someone tries and disagrees.  At least they tried and you made the effort.  However, most open-minded people will convert, or at least will lower their objection.
  • Make a feature of it – Unfined natural beer is a huge advantage and will attract new drinkers.  Get the word out, especially through word of mouth and social media.
  • Have fun – Beer is about fun and enjoyment.  Have fun educating yourself and others.