What is bottle conditioned beer?

Posted on August 3rd, 2009

forcedCarb

Forced carbonation

If you drink craft beer chances are sooner or later you’re going to hear folks throw around the term ‘bottle conditioning’ or ‘bottle conditioned’. Chances are also pretty good that you haven’t a clue what that means. Well, fret no longer, because today we’re going to look at what it means for your beer.

On the most basic level bottle conditioning refers to how a beer is carbonated. Non-bottle conditioned beer, along with most carbonated liquids such as soda and tonic water are carbonated through a process known as forced carbonation. This involves taking carbon dioxide  (CO2) and forcefully pumping it into a sealed container of your liquid of choice. Under the right conditions the CO2 will dissolve into the beer, carbonating it. Once the container is depressurized, for example by popping the cap off a beer bottle, the CO2 rushes out of the beer, giving it that lovely fizzy quality we’ve all come to know and love.

When a beer is said to be bottle-conditioned the process works a bit differently. Instead of artificially carbonating the beer, bottle conditioned beer allows the yeast  to naturally carbonate the beer after fermentation is complete. As you’ll recall from our article on how beer is made, fermentation works by having the yeast eat the sugars in the wort and spitting out alcohol and CO2 as waste products. During fermentation the CO2 is allow to bubble off and escape, but once fermentation is complete and the yeast has magically transformed your sugary wort into alcoholic beer, bottle conditioned beer has a little bit of extra yeast or extra sugar or something else added  to restart the yeast. Once again the yeast produces alcohol and CO2. Since the beer is now bottled and capped before this happens the CO2 produced by the yeast has nowhere to go and dissolves into the beer, carbonating it.

carbonation2

Because active yeast remains in a bottle-conditioned beer,  it continues to develop and age ever so slightly over time. This makes bottle conditioned beer perfect for aging, as it will continue to mature, much like a fine wine. Non-bottle conditioned beer on the other hand has all yeast removed from it before it’s bottled, ensuring the beer will change much slower and providing  a higher level of consistency than the bottle conditioned stuff. This  gives non-bottle conditioned beer a much shorter shelf life than it’s yeasty cousin.

While certain styles of bottle-conditioned beer benefits from pouring the yeast into your glass, such as hefeweizens, the majority will taste a bit off if the yeast makes it into the glass, so when pouring your beer it’s recommended you take care to avoid pouring the last bit with the yeast into your glass.

Properly Pouring Beer

Posted on July 8th, 2009

A lot of different things get said about the proper way to pour a beer, but if you’re looking to get the best experience and richest taste out of your beer it turns out there’s not simply one proper way to pour a beer. Different styles of beer require different pours. Today we’re going to cover three pours that everyone should know.

thePour3

1. THE STANDARD POUR– This the basic approach you should employ when pouring most beers.

Step 1 – While holding your bottle of beer in one hand and a clean glass in the other, tilt the glass at a 45 degree angle

Step 2 – Pour the beer in at a generous pace, aiming for the center of the glass’s side

Step 3 – When the glass is approximately half to ¾ full return it to an upright position and continue to pour the rest of the bottle. This will create the proper amount of foam for your pint. Contrary to what some people think, some foam is desired as it is an important part of the flavor profile of a beer.

2. THE BOTTLE CONDITIONED POUR – Some beers, particularly those from Belgium are what’s known as “bottle conditioned,” meaning that they retain active yeast culture inside the bottle. This yeast naturally carbonates the beer and allows it to continue to mature inside the bottle.

You need to be careful when pouring these beers because you do not want to pour the yeast at the bottom of the bottle into your glass. The yeast can disturb the intended flavors and cause indigestion; to avoid this follow these steps

Step 1 – Much like standard pour, tilt your glass at a 45 degree angle and pour your beer into it, however use a slightly gentler rate of pour than with a non-bottle conditioned beer

Step 2 – As before, when your glass is approximately half to ¾ full tilt it back upright and continue to pour the rest of the bottle. This will create the proper amount of foam for your pint.

Step 3 – Towards the end of the pour you will begin to get to the yeast. Watch carefully and when you notice the stream coming out of your bottle begins to become cloudy or unclear, stop pouring. With practice you will learn to judge this without pouring any yeast into your glass.

Step 4 – Discard the rest of the beer in the bottle. You may be surprised by how much is left, but don’t drink it; It won’t taste very good.

3. THE HEFEWEIZEN POUR – This is for German wheat beers such as the Hefeweizen or Dunkelweizen, which are generally bottle conditioned beers, however with these the yeast is a desired part of the flavor, and you will need to take extra steps to ensure you get all of the yeast into the glass.

Step 1 – Be sure to use a tall Hefeweizen glass, or another glass which can accommodate the high carbonation of such beers, otherwise you may end up overflowing. Much like standard pour, tilt your glass at a 45 degree angle and pour your beer into it, however use a slightly gentler rate of pour than with a non-bottle conditioned beer

Step 2 – As before, when your glass is approximately half to ¾ full tilt it back upright and continue to pour until the foam reaches the team of the glass.

Step 3 – Chances are foam will rise to the top of the glass before your bottle is empty; this is to be expected. Swish and roll around the remaining beer in the bottle to loosen the yeast from the bottom.

Step 4 – Pour the remaining amount in the bottle into your glass.

Now sit back and enjoy the perfect pint.

Cheers!