Unrepentant beer drinkers, rejoice! Each week, Clean Plate Charlie
will select one craft or import beer and give you the lowdown on it:
How does it taste? What should you drink it with? Where can you find
it? But mostly, it's all about the love of the brew. If you have a beer
you'd like featured in Beer of the Week, let us know via a comment.
Yeast are hungry little dudes. They just love to eat. When introduced to a nice, hospitable environment like unfermented beer (AKA wort), the little buggers go crazy and gobble up every last bit of sugar they can. And their ceaseless feasting creates two byproducts: carbon dioxide and alcohol.
It's because of yeast that beer is born. And in beers that are bottle conditioned -- that is, they're put in the
bottle with a little bit of sugar and active yeast -- yeast is
responsible for carbonation as well. But what happens to the yeast
after its done is job?
In most commercial beers -- think Budweiser or Miller -- the yeast is
filtered out after fermentation to remove any kind of solids. This
creates a very clear, transparent beer and allows for the development
of a foamy head. Sometimes the beer is even pasteurized after filtering
-- that is, heated to a level that absolutely kills any errant bacteria
still floating around the mix. (Pasteurization has some debatable
effects on beer flavor and shelf-life, but that's another column.)
In some beers, however, like Harpoon Brewery's UFO, the yeast is
not completely filtered out after fermentation. Much of it settles to the bottom of the brewing vessel and doesn't end up in the bottle. But a small amount of the
yeast actually stays in the beer. That yeast is responsible for unfiltered beer's hazy appearance and bread-like flavor.
Before you get all freaked out about drinking yeast in your beer, know
this: Alcohol actually kills yeast. So by the time you get a bottle of
the good stuff, the hungry little dudes are pretty much dead. Also,
drinking unfiltered beers is great for you. Yeast is loaded full of B
vitamins and protein. It's why people often say that homebrew -- which
is largely unfiltered, at least to the level of most commercial brewers
-- is so darn good for you. Not to mention tasty. Great unfiltered
beers have a flavor you can't get with those ultra-filtered commercial
brews (superfine filtering actually removes other good flavors, like
Want to give an unfiltered beer a try? Pour a glass of Harpoon's UFO
and check out the hazy, golden-white color. That's typical of an
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unfiltered white, or wheat beer. Take a sip. What you'll taste is a
citrusy fruitiness, a distinct malty backbone, and an earthy bite,
followed by a nice dry hop finish. It's a refreshing, yet substantial
brew that you couldn't duplicate if it was filtered.