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Brewers looking at alternatives to isinglass

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Brewers looking at alternatives to isinglass

September 14
11:39 2016

craft-beerBrewers are looking at alternatives to isinglass, a substance derived from the swim bladders of fish, used as a clearing or “fining” agent in their beers. According to the Good Beer Guide, published by the UK’s Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), more brewers are either producing unrefined beer that is slightly cloudy or using other clearing agents to avoid using isinglass to satisfy vegetarian and vegan drinkers.

A brewing shift could be on the cards as more drinkers look for vegan-friendly beer and wanting to axe isinglass use is set to rise.

Good Beer Guide editor Roger Protz says: “Drinkers shouldn’t be alarmed – there’s no fish in their beer. Isinglass is odorless and tasteless and doesn’t impact on the pint in your glass. But as it’s derived from fish, many drinkers are unhappy with its use in the brewing process.”

CAMRA cites one example of Manchester-based The Marble Brewery that is using silica and Irish Moss, a type of seaweed also known as carrageen, as clearing agents. Brewers are looking into whether Irish Moss, which is used to clarify beer after hops have been boiled with malt, is suitable as a fining agent in casks of finished beer.

Isinglass is used to help get crystal clear beer and is added to casks of beer before they leave the brewery. A natural chemical reaction attracts yeast and protein and drags them to the bottom of the cask, leaving clear beer above.
Protz adds that the easiest solution is just not to use clearing agents, however that means cloudier beers, which is not necessarily a problem for some consumers.

“I have seen at first-hand how brewer Justin Hawke produces his ales at Moor Beer in Bristol. Justin is an American from California who fell in love with cloudy wheat beers in Germany when he was stationed there doing military service.”
“He moved to Britain and bought Moor Beer where he doesn’t use isinglass as he believes it strips some of the flavor from beer. As a result, his IPAs and other beers are served naturally cloudy in pubs and he says there has been no consumer resistance. Not only are drinkers happy, but so are fish.”

The University of Nottingham’s Centre for Bioenergy and Brewing Science applies contemporary science and pioneering sensory understanding to the international brewing industry and experts there are investigating a possible new role for the hop plant to be used as a clearing agent. At an on-site micro-brewery students and young brewers are making beer and scientists are looking at using a blend of used hops and fresh hops to attract yeast in cask and enable beer to “drop bright”, this is when the yeast drops.


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