Sunday, 11 May 2014

Does This Look Nice?


Before I go further, I will declare an interest. I like Camden Town Brewery.  I would like them even more if they'd continued to brew excellent cask beers such as Inner City Green, but there you are. You can't have everything.  But I still like them a lot.  I drink their beers in London when I see them.

Yesterday they announced a new beer on Twitter and proudly showed a photo of it.  Given a couple of less than complimentary comments from me and @Robsterowski, they said that it was the photo looked bad, not the beer and replaced it with a better photo.  They seemed further surprised by another couple of tweets saying, again, that the beer still didn't look good. Or in fact, that it looked awful.  They then went off for a beer, no doubt shaking their heads with disbelief at such heretics.

Now I'm not the biggest fan of cloudy, soupy, beer as many of my readers will no doubt know*.  A bit of haze is fine and no, I don't include hefe weizen in this, the clue being in the name. Now some will just say "Fuck off Tandleman, you have form here".  And I do.  It's a fair cop Guv. But I still reckon this colloidal beer doesn't look in the least appealing, no matter how it subsequently tasted.**

If you want a bit of haziness, fine, but frankly, I don't even understand how they get finished (fully fermented and conditioned) beer this cloudy. Or more importantly, why you'd want to.

The beer is a Swedish Pale Ale called God Help Save the Elk. 

* Curmudgeon also talks about soupy beer here.

** I fully accept that your mileage may of course vary.

57 comments:

RedNev said...

I was at one time quite a good home brewer (from ingredients, not kits) and, although I didn't use finings, my beers were always clear. With the obvious exception of those beer styles that aren't naturally clear, I can see no reason to serve cloudy beer. A slight haze, as you say TM, isn't a problem, but that picture looks awful. With the price of beer nowadays, I expect it to look clear as well as taste good; if they can't be bothered to serve it clear, then I won't bother to drink it.

And please, no one spout that nonsense about not drinking with your eyes. It is quite natural to eat and drink with our eyes because in previous times before modern hygiene standards prevailed, an individual's survival often depended on doing so.

Erlangernick said...

Seems that was fermented with a Belgian wit yeast, ergo non-clarity is to be expected.

I like my own homebrewed hoppy golden ale best after about two weeks in the bottle. They're quite hazy at that point, only dropping really bright after four weeks or so. It's a precarious line I have to draw with the Hausbräu, it starts to get old after two months, losing lucious hoppiness.

I know I've asked about this before Rednev, but being forgetful...how long did your beer typically take to go clear? The kids today talk about "cold-crashing", apparently putting the fermenter in a fridge, to get beer to drop bright. Not an option for moi.

Barm said...

As you know, I agree with you, but I also think that a preference for clear beer is learned behaviour. People with a different background in beer to ours can, and do, find a murky beer attractive. Otherwise people wouldn’t be queueing up to drink the stuff. Would they?

I also cannot fathom how it’s even possible for some commercial beers to be as cloudy as they are. I’ve made homebrew in the past without either copper finings or a fast chill, and it was hazy but not soupy.

Paul Bailey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Bailey said...

Camden could be right about the photo, as the suspended particles in the beer will reflect the light back from the flash, making the beer look far worse than it really is. I took a few photos of some unfiltered Czech pilsner, when we were in Prague last December, and some of them ended up looking like the bottom of the two photos. When looked at under normal lighting conditions the beer was nowhere near that cloudy, and neither were the photos I took without using a flash.

I too am no fan of soupy beer. I don't mind a slight haze, and whilst I fully admit
some unfiltered European beers can be very good, beers designed to be deliberately cloudy, just to be perverse, do not float my boat. Like yourself I have written at length on this subject, but it looks like something that isn’t going to go away.

I do have to wonder as to what type of yeast Camden are using. I used to be a keen homebrewer (full mash of course), and like Nev I never used finings. My beers would always drop bright naturally, and a good strain of yeast will inevitably help this process.

p.s. As a scientist, I love the term "colloidal beer". A new name for "London Murky" perhaps?

Barm said...

This particular beer might well be less cloudy in real life than in the photo, but I have definitely also encountered beers that really look like peach juice.

Cooking Lager said...

So long as the punter knows what they are buying, where's the problem?

Phil said...

Cookie - I'm not sure how many times I've made this point on a beer blog, but I guess one more won't hurt.

Beer 1: bog-standard bitter. Beer 2: unfined beer, 'meant to be cloudy'.

Cask beer that's been tapped too soon can be cloudy, because it's full of yeast that shouldn't be there. (There are probably other reasons for duff beer to be cloudy, but I'll stick with that one.)

This can happen to beer 1 (in which case you'll take it back and get a replacement) but it can also happen to beer 2. There is no magic which stops a beer that's meant to be cloudy being tapped too soon, and ending up full of yeast that shouldn't be there.

Try taking beer 2 back, and see how far you get.

Now put numpties who don't know about conditioning on the kind of bars where they sell beer 2, and see how often this happens.

Finally, sit back and watch as hipsters who started drinking beer last year rave about naturally-cloudy beer and that authentic yeasty flavour.

That's the problem.

Cooking Lager said...

Why doesn't the German market have this problem with weiss & keller beers, Phil?

Is it because the punters know what they are buying? And then know if what they isn't up to muster?

Erlangernick said...

Why not always, always, always ask how whatever-it-is is drinking before ordering, including whether it's bright or cloudy? And of course, ask for a taste.

Germans will drink whatever's brewed locally, regardless of intentional or unintentional murkiness or quality. There is the utmost, unwavering trust in the ability and skill of the local Braumeister; his product is of unquestionable excellence, having been brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot from 1516!

StringersBeer said...

Arrgh! Reinheitsgebot alert! History books at dawn!

Tandleman said...

"Why doesn't the German market have this problem with weiss & keller beers, Phil?"

In addition to what Nick said, Germans have an idea in their head the cloudy beer is more healthy whatever the taste. Also kellerbier is not soupy. Usually it is just hazy.

Weissbier is different in that everyone knows what to expect as I said in my article.

Incidentally, a poster on twitter advises me that this Swedish Pale Ale is made with Belgian Witbier yeast. One might wonder why?

Tandleman said...

Nick:

"Why not always, always, always ask how whatever-it-is is drinking before ordering, including whether it's bright or cloudy? And of course, ask for a taste."

That's too anal for us Brits. Suffer in silence is our way by and large. And you would be one big pain in the arse so to do.

StringersBeer said...

Why a Pale Ale made with Belgian Witbier yeast? That'll be because the Vinmonopolet had a tender for a white IPA, I should think. It's the coming thing, y'know.

Tandleman said...

One just can't keep up it seems.

Cooking Lager said...

Seems complicated and a troublesome gamble, this one, tand. You can't blame us for opting for a pint of the safe usual grog. I'll leave the hazy grog and the CAMRA pubs to the enthusiasts.

Tandleman said...

Me too Cookie. More Bohemia Regent for Tanders then.

py said...

That beer looks delicious. Fresh, juicy and hoppy no doubt.

Must try to drink as much tasty, hazy beer as possible before the gestapo ban it.

Tandleman said...

py: Entirely up to you as I said in my piece.

Anyway it it soupy beer I worry about as I also said.

It may well also be very tasty as I also said.

But thanks for your insight.

Rob said...

I think an increasing proportion of people prefer the murky look, as it feels more authentic. It's similar to things like artisan cheese being all mouldy and earthy looking, funny shaped etc, compared to the sterile blocks of cheddar you get in a supermarket.

It's differentiating the product from the mass market to make the point of how it is 'craft'. So to a lot of people, probably relatively new to 'good beer', it is more appetising to look at. Personally, when I've had a deliberately cloudy/murky beer they've tasted fine. I've also had plenty of bright beers which are vinegar. But at the moment the murky ones tend to be at specialist pubs. Not sure what it will be like if they end up in places where the staff don't have a clue.

Tandleman said...

Interesting points Rob. I take your analogy but refer you to the points about Germany I made above.

As for specialist beer bars, I would ask you look at Pete Brown's blog.

Just hope your new drinkers don't get the shits too often. :-)

Erlangernick said...

AFA the beer in question having been fermented with a witbier yeast...I posted that in a comment above, after having read a comment from Camden somewhere in the internets to that effect. For the life of me, I can't find that comment now, but there are other references to Save the Elk featuring a Belgian yeast, but not specifically a wit yeast.

*shrugs*

Rob said...

I saw Pete's blog, and that highlights what the problem might be - as murky beers go mainstream, it confuses the staff.

By the way, I'm not a fan of murky beer by any means (I think the best brewery around for consistently good output is Magic Rock, whose beers are normally bright, unless the style demands otherwise), but I've not really had any issues with it either so far.

The last time I got the shits in a pub, the beer was all clear, just not very good.

Curmudgeon said...

Craft bogroll - it's the next big thing!

RedNev said...

Nick: my beer usually took 4 or 5 days to clear, occasionally slightly longer. It was best left for about a fortnight, but it quite often never lasted that long.

Cooking Lager said...

I have it on good authority, Mudge, that all these pricey craft bars have this stuff in the gents.

http://www.odditycentral.com/news/fit-for-a-royal-behind-hanebisho-the-worlds-most-expensive-toilet-paper-that-costs-17-a-roll.html

So the discerning can have a crap in style.

Tim said...

You need to stop tasting with your eyes. There are loads of styles which are meant to be served cloudy.

Take Bruges Zot. Filtered in the bottle its rubbish, but the unfiltered version on tap at the brewery is cloudy and tastes amazing.

Would you prefer filtered chemical fizz?

Curmudgeon said...

"There are loads of styles which are meant to be served cloudy."

You know, I bet Tandleman never realised that!

And likewise there are loads of styles that are not meant to be served cloudy and where cloudiness is indicative of a brewing or dispensing fault.

py said...

"There are loads of styles which are meant to be served cloudy"

Precisely, like modern British pale ale for example.

Cooking Lager said...

How about a new beard club poster

"If it gives you the squits, that's means it's real!"

Tandleman said...

Thanks Mudgie. I didn't realise that until Tim pointed it out. Not.

Tim: There aren't in fact lots of styles that are meant to be served cloudy. There are a few, mostly wheat beers.

There may be some where there is a brewer's preference to do so, but that isn't the same thing. (py Modern British Pale Ale isn't a style and if it is, not all adhere to the cloudy principle).

Your dislike of filtration is a preference that's all. It has as many opponents that are senior and well respected brewers,as it does adherents, many of whom have no brewing qualifications whatever. In fact it seems to be a dislike of beer that falls bright of its own accord as beer should.

I'd much rather go along with, say, Stuart Howe or even BrewDog than them.

And any time you want a blind taste challenge on any beers at all, just give me a shout.

You're paying mind!

Curmudgeon said...

"modern British cloudy pale ale for example"

FTFY :p

Erlangernick said...

Rednev: 4 or 5 *days*? Without fining? That's pretty amazing. Was that 5 days in the bottle, or a fortnight in the bottle, or still in the fermenter?

Tim said...

Haze can be fault in beer if it's tannin or protein haze, but some yeast strains such as the US Chico strain need high calcium levels in the brewing liquor to floculate out of solution. This strain also happens to be favourite amongst 'craft' brewers as it exhibits a neutral flavour profile which accentuates hops.
English cask strains tend to be highly flocculent so they will present a bright beer from a cask. This character has been naturally selected as a trait to mitigate the risk if poor handling of the product after it leaves the brewery.
I think it is unfair and regressive to dismiss all cloudy beer as having brewing faults.
Some new wave pale ales such as Stone and Wood Pacific Ale are cloudy, but they are not soup either.
Clear beer is marketing gimmick as much as apples shouldn't have spots on them and pumpkin skin should be orange.

jesusjohn said...

Boy, I dunno, Tand - I remember when all this were fields.

Tandleman said...

Tim: True enough, but it doesn't explain "why?"

It is just a choice. Plenty of neutral yeasts out there that will drop out.

JJ: I know. Muddy fields I assume!

py said...

(py Modern British Pale Ale isn't a style and if it is, not all adhere to the cloudy principle).

its a new style: hence the "modern". If I order a british pale ale at a craft beer bar, I expect a good level haze, this signifies quality and guarantees satisfaction.

If its not cloudy when its supposed to be, then take it back and demand a replacement!

Perhaps we need a campaign against faulty clear beer.

Tandleman said...

"Perhaps we need a campaign against faulty clear beer"

Why not start one?

Curmudgeon said...

No doubt py would have been aggrieved by the "hazy wheat beer" I recently had which actually was crystal clear.

py said...

Because I'm more of a live-and-let-live type if I'm honest.

All in favour of encouraging accurate taste/appearance descriptors on the pump clip/blackboard though!

Although just a blackboard with prices would be a step in the right direction for some pubs.

py said...

As long as it tasted good to you Mudgie, that's all that matters mate.

Cooking Lager said...

all this cloudy beer you drink, py. Are you ever afraid to fart?

Curmudgeon said...

In craft beer land, happiness is a dry fart...

RedNev said...

Nick: usually about 5 days in the bottle. I used to put about half the amount of sugar in the bottle for the secondary fermentation than they advised. It was less fizzy as a result - more like a draught beer than a bottled one. That probably shortened its potential shelf life, but in reality, that was never going to be a problem.

py said...

"craft" (ie rough) cider is effective gut cleanser, but I've never experienced the effect with beer.

Cooking Lager said...

here you go py,

http://www.cafepress.com/+craft_beer_logo_diaper_bag,1173532938

a craft beer "diaper" bag. Looks god damn awesome, ye 'all.

Mike F said...

Never had to do the Tijuana two-step after yeasty beer. Sulphur from draft Bass on the other hand. God bless the Burton Union System and it's purgative properties.

Tim said...

Reducing priming sugar will only reduce carbonation. It has nothing to do with shelf life.

critch said...

tim , i guess youve never used windsor then? new british pale ale? must be very new i guess some one made that up to cover a cock up very recently! as for cloudy beer ? if it tastes good sup it. clear beer came in with glasswear instead of tankards!

Phil said...

I think it is unfair and regressive to dismiss all cloudy beer as having brewing faults.

Nobody is saying that all cloudy beer has brewing faults. We are saying that brewing (or conditioning) faults can lead to cloudiness, even in beer that would be cloudy anyway. The more cloudy beer becomes normal, the harder it is to spot when your pint's full of the wrong sort of cloud, as some of them inevitably will be.

StringersBeer said...
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StringersBeer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
StringersBeer said...

I'll get it this time...

God yes @Phil, there's always the chance of this happening.

Phil said...

The line I liked best was that the guys "said they were now considering abandoning drinking the opaque beer". Can't be too hasty.

py said...

"The more cloudy beer becomes normal, the harder it is to spot when your pint's full of the wrong sort of cloud"

You could try, you know, tasting it. Radical I know.

Phil said...

You could try reading the comment! Here we go again:

Beer 1: bog-standard bitter. Beer 2: unfined beer, 'meant to be cloudy'.

Cask beer that's been tapped too soon can be cloudy, because it's full of yeast that shouldn't be there. This can happen to beer 1 (in which case you'll take it back and get a replacement) but it can also happen to beer 2. There is no magic which stops a beer that's meant to be cloudy being tapped too soon, and ending up full of yeast that shouldn't be there.


I know this can happen because it has happened to me. I've had a pint of (cloudy) Moor beer which was beautifully zingy & hoppy, and another pint of (cloudy) Moor beer which was yeast soup. In both cases the beer had a pump clip with quite detailed tasting notes, as is the Moor way. Neither of them mentioned the taste of yeast. I'm calling it - the second one was the wrong kind of cloudy.

liam said...

As good as some of their beer is, their heroically dickish behavior towards Weird Beard means I won't be bothering their bottom line. Nasty.