hist-brewing: We're Not Dead...

Steven Wells slwells at ucdavis.edu
Wed May 14 08:18:42 PDT 1997

> > I kind of specialize in wines both country and mead.  I would like to 
> > learn how to brew beer/ale.  I have never tasted a homemade beer/ale 
> > that I liked.  Most were too yeasty and cloudy.  Is this poor brewing 
> > or  do all homemade beer/ale taste like this?

I've been brewing pretty constantly for several years and judging beers
for the last 2.5 years.  Haze in homebrew, while possible, is not the
norm for the vast majority.

A couple of considerations:  Is the beer/ale made from a historical
recipe that was followed faithfully?  If so, the methods used may not be
conducive to making clear beer.  Up until the introduction of Pilsners,
beers were served in pewter or earthenware mugs/vessels.  The clarity
didn't matter.  With the refinement of brewing methods and materials and a
better understanding of the brewing process, much clearer beers and much
lighter colored beers became possible.  If the beer/ale is historically
"accurate" the haze is not a flaw.

That said, I will diverge into general homebrewing.  If the recipe is from
a kit with canned malt extract, many of the recipes state that no boiling
is required.  Technically, this is correct.  However, beer made this way
will be nigh impossible to clear without a lot of gelatin/polyclar/
isinglass/etc and a healthy lagering period to get the proteins to drop
from solution.  Boiling coagulates proteins which aids clarification.

Someone mentioned sugar as the culprit.  This will not lend to cloudiness,
but excessive sugar can lead to a cidery taste and very thin mouth feel.
Sugar seems to be avoided like the plague in America but is commonly used
in Britain to bolster a recipe.  I don't use it myself, but a taste of
Fuller's will tell you that it works pretty darn well if used properly.
This is what many people refer to as the "homebrew taste."

Finally, the "homebrew taste" mentioned by the first poster is something
that I'm tasting decline.  The quality of ingrediants available to
homebrewers is improving by leaps and bounds and the proficiency of
homebrewers is too.  The last two years of the California State Fair have
had back-to-back commercial and homebrew competitions.  Many of the judges
that sit on both prefer the homebrew because the overall quality of them
is so much better.  I must agree with them.... YMMV

Steven L. Wells
slwells at chip.ucdavis.edu
Member Team OS/2

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