Wednesday, 15 June 2011

In tip-top condition

Before I start, here's a quicky for those who don't know what bottle conditioned beer is...
Basically its replicating the cask conditioning stage where a little bit of yeast is left in the beer to ferment a little more of the beer. It adds far more character and develops flavour, as well as makes the beer a bit more lively. This is called secondary fermentation and is what makes real ale, real. In a bottle, you encourage roughly the same process, although you often add a weenie bit of sugar as tasty food for the yeast. Normal bottled beer is filtered and so doesn't have any yeast which means this process doesn't happen. Often you can have both cask and bottled versions of the same beer and they taste totally different. Also, bottled beer is often brewed else where, a bit like baking a cake in a different kitchen. In theory they're the same beer but in practice they may be quite different.

We're going to bottle condition some of our beer for the Welbeck Farm Shop. Also, as of this weekend, we'll be having a cask of beer in the shop to sell fresh beer in 4-pint carry kegs (you should go and get some).

But I've never bottled beer before. I know the theory but am not really sure about the nitty-gritty business...

The question is, if I bottle condition a pale ale at 4.3% ABV, will it indeed be in tip-top condition?
Will it ever drop bright or will it be cloudy?

Apparently above 5% is a good guide to go by, because you need a higher alcohol content to make sure the yeast settles out at the bottom of the bottle to give you a clear beer.
I could do a lower ABV but very dark beer because you wouldn't be able to see if it wasn't crystal clear, but then that seems a bit like cheating.

Also, this priming business with the beers (which means adding a teeny tiny bit of sugar for the yeast to munch on). I'm a bit apprehensive about it because it's very easy to under prime which means you don't really get much conditioning, but equally you can over prime.

Last night I had a bottle conditioned beer which was really gorgeous. It was a bitter brewed with crystal malt, roasted barley, and black (or chocolate?) malt (so my excitable taste buds tell me). It was only 3.8% and quite pale. When I opened it it fizzed all over me and the kitchen for about a minute! I'm presuming this may be a case of over priming, and you could see it wasn't quite clear either, but I didn't really care because it was scrummy.

Running this brewery is a very very steep learning curve to say the least. All advice gratefully received.

Oh, and I'll find the name of that beer, but I have given the bottle to my avid home brewing friend already! Also whilst we're on bottle conditioned stuff, I tried the Marstons Very Special Old Pale a couple of weeks ago, which was rather good. It's available at Morrisons I think.


  1. Hi Claire - fear ye not - send me an e-mail if you want with any questions and I'll be happy to help. Done a fair bit of bottle conditioning in my time!

    Dominic(AT)thornbridgebrewerydotcodotuk (hopefully won't get any spam...)

  2. Thank you Dominic! I'll send you an email tomorrow :0)

    Also team, the very tasty but lively bottle conditioned beer was Horsham Best, JW King mirobrewery. Thumbs up.