A Hazy Shade

Haze in beer, in and of it­self, is not some­thing to be praised or con­demned. It can be de­sir­able and help­ful in a num­ber of styles, but it can also sig­nal a se­ri­ous prob­lem. Josh Weik­ert walks you through where it comes from, how you can cre­ate it, and ho

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Wheat Beers -

“IT WAS THE BEST of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wis­dom, it was the age of fool­ish­ness.…” To hear some folks tell it, a hazy beer is ei­ther em­blem­atic of the state of the art of beer or a sym­bol of slip­shod brewing. In all sin­cer­ity, they might both be right. Haze, in and of it­self, is not some­thing to be praised or con­demned. It is de­sir­able and help­ful in a num­ber of styles, but it can sig­nal a se­ri­ous prob­lem that might war­rant dump­ing the en­tire batch down the drain. Know­ing when and how haze comes to be, can be cre­ated, and can be avoided might just keep your beer from land­ing on the wrong side of Dickens’s pair­ings. What a time to be a brewer—“it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of in­credulity.”

Haze, For Bet­ter or Worse

At its most ba­sic level, haze in beer is caused by the in­ter­rup­tion of the pas­sage of light through a beer by par­tic­u­lates that are in sus­pen­sion in that beer. When the light is dif­fused or blocked, it ap­pears as mist­i­ness, fog, or murk­i­ness, and as it in­ten­si­fies, it might even ren­der a beer thor­oughly opaque. Where does it come from? Typ­i­cal- ly, we’re talk­ing about one (or more) of three things: pro­teins, yeast, and polyphe­nols. Each is present in ev­ery beer (un­til and un­less it’s been fil­tered)—it’s only a ques­tion of whether they’re present in suf­fi­cient quan­tity and den­sity to cause a vis­i­ble ef­fect, and they might even be present with vir­tu­ally no ef­fect on fla­vor. Haze can also be caused by the pres­ence of bac­te­ria, though in that case there’s vir­tu­ally no chance that there isn’t a no­tice­able fla­vor im­pact.

There are times when haze is sim­ply a sign of a stylis­ti­cally ap­pro­pri­ate beer. The most ob­vi­ous ex­am­ples are beers char­ac­ter­ized by their use of wheat. The pres­ence of a sig­nif­i­cant dose of wheat in the grist im­parts a higher-than-usual (rel­a­tive to pure-bar­ley beers) level of pro­teins in sus­pen­sion in the fin­ished beer. Wheat beers are also of­ten fer­mented with very low-floc­cu­lat­ing yeast and/or have yeast ac­tu­ally added to the beer or roused back up to ac­cen­tu­ate their cloudy look. Maybe the brewers weren’t all that con­sci­en­tious about us­ing highly floc­cu­lent yeast in a beer that wasn’t crys­tal clear, but there’s no doubt that both pro­teins and yeast are com­monly ex­pected fea­tures in lots of wheat beers. Any beer that’s high in pro­tein-heavy grains and/or is typ­i­cally served young or with non-floc­cu­lent yeast is likely to be a bit on the hazy side.

Haze can also be an ar­ti­fact of hops us­age, and that doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean there’s a prob­lem­atic ex­cess of pro­teins or yeast. Hops im­part polyphe­nols, which can be vis­i­ble in beer and, given the right type and amount of hops (low al­pha-acid and/ or aro­matic hops, and lots of them), might add a touch of haze to the beer. Hops polyphe­nols tend to be even more vis­i­ble when they clump to­gether with pro­teins from the grain. Why would they do that? Well, they get cold and hud­dle to­gether for warmth. Okay, not re­ally, but chill­ing beer does cause the pro­teins and polyphe­nols to clus­ter, adding what we’ve come to call “chill haze,” since the newly clumped par­ti­cles are block­ing more light when cold even though the beer may ap­pear quite clear at room or cel­lar tem­per­a­tures.

If you’re in that un­lucky con­tin­gent, though, that is hav­ing haze trou­ble be­cause of the pres­ence of con­tam­i­nat­ing bac­te­ria, you may be in for a rough ride. Bac­te­ria, un­like yeast, are more per­sis­tent

In con­ti­nen­tal beers, haze is nearly al­ways a func­tion of grist com­po­si­tion and not of hops us­age. Wheat—un­malted wheat, in par­tic­u­lar—is more pro­tein-heavy than bar­ley, and sev­eral va­ri­eties will make haze much more likely.

in so­lu­tion and, there­fore, add haze, and that’s be­fore we get to the off-fla­vors they can im­part, which in­clude sharp sour­ness, sul­fur, and fe­cal fla­vors, or (if you’re lucky) di­acetyl or veg­e­tal fla­vors. If you think a beer might be con­tam­i­nated, its ap­pear­ance may give you a se­condary in­di­ca­tor to help you reach a con­clu­sion (use­ful in di­ag­nos­ing po­ten­tial bot­tle bombs).

To re­it­er­ate, though, haze is a symp­tom and not a dis­ease in and of it­self. Any­thing that blocks light from pass­ing through the beer is caus­ing haze, and some­times those things are highly de­sir­able or un­avoid­able.

Mak­ing Haze

Let us as­sume that you ac­tu­ally want haze in your beer—which is more than pos­si­ble, given the theme of this is­sue! What op­tions ex­ist to proac­tively add haze in a way that doesn’t com­pro­mise the fla­vor and aroma ele­ments of your beer? There are sev­eral “in­gre­di­ent” op­tions and at least one “process” op­tion avail­able to you.

Haze makes ap­pear­ances in both the BJCP and BA style guide­lines as a de­sir­able (or sim­ply ac­cept­able) fea­ture of a range of beers, and cer­tainly it has prompted a num­ber of im­pas­sioned dis­cus­sions among IPA en­thu­si­asts. Whether you’re mak­ing a light he­feweizen, a fresh Keller­bier, a new-fan­gled New Eng­land−style IPA, or a Franco-bel­gian ale, you have plenty of choices that will add that soft glow–in­duc­ing haze to your beer.

First, you can make in­gre­di­ent choices that are more likely to im­part haze. In con­ti­nen­tal beers that we ex­plic­itly or im­plic­itly con­sider “wheat” beers, haze is nearly al­ways a func­tion of grist com­po­si­tion and not of hops us­age. Wheat—un­malted wheat, in par­tic­u­lar—is more pro­tein-heavy than bar­ley, and sev­eral va­ri­eties (malted wheat in he­feweizen and Dunkel­weizen and un­malted win­ter wheat in wit­bier, for ex­am­ple) will make haze much more likely.

Rec­om­mended yeasts within these styles also tend to be low-floc­cu­lat­ing strains: Wei­hen­stephan and Bavar­ian Wheat from Wyeast and their cor­re­spond­ing yeasts from White Labs (He­feweizen and Bavar­ian Weizen) are pop­u­lar choices and also im­part tra­di­tional weizen clove and ba­nana fla­vors. For those lean­ing more to­ward the fields of France than the moun­tains of Bavaria, there are low-floc­cu­lat­ing sai­son and Kölsch yeasts that are also likely to hang around (lit­er­ally).

For those who are wan­der­ing fur­ther afield into the ter­ri­tory of hazy hoppy beers, the op­tions above still ap­ply, at least as far as grist is con­cerned (more on yeast choice in a mo­ment). If your goal is a creamy milk­shake IPA, by all means, take ad­van­tage of the ad­di­tional pro­teins added by malted wheat. You might also add oats, flaked wheat, flaked bar­ley, or tor­ri­fied wheat to your grist: not only will they amp up the haze and creami­ness, but they will also aid in head re­ten­tion.

Your in­gre­di­ent op­tions ex­pand, though, through your hops us­age. While some of the beers in the styles noted above might have a mean­ing­ful amount of hops (pale bière de garde, for ex­am­ple), it is vir­tu­ally guar­an­teed that your IPA, ab­sent fil­ter­ing, will tack on some haze through its hop­ping. There is highly mixed in­for­ma­tion on whether the polyphe­nol “load” of spe­cific hops strains can be ad­e­quately mea­sured or em­ployed to im­part haze, but one thing that is cer­tain is that all hops im­part polyphe­nols. In light of that, if your goal is a hazy, hoppy IPA, then your best bet is to use lower al­pha-acid aroma hops, both in the boil and in dry hop­ping, since the in­crease in the sheer vol­ume of hops will be more likely to add in­creased lev­els of polyphe­nols.

You might also con­sider lower-floc­cu­lat­ing yeast strains that do not also add un­wanted fla­vors: sev­eral lager strains fit the bill, as does Wyeast’s Ger­man Ale strain, and most will not add fla­vors that com­pete with your hops-for­ward beer. And please, for the love of ev­ery­thing holy, do not add flour to your beer to add haze.

Fi­nally, re­gard­less of the style, process adds some al­ter­na­tives as well. You might con­sider avoid­ing a cold crash be­fore pack­ag­ing to min­i­mize the amount of par­ti­cles that drop out of sus­pen­sion. Forego the use of fin­ings. Boil more gen­tly and chill more slowly to min­i­mize the for­ma­tion of break ma­te­rial. All of these, though, will also be af­fected by an­other in­gre­di­ent that we don’t of­ten think enough about: time. Serv­ing beer young and fresh gives the beer very lit­tle time to clear, and as a re­sult, you’re tast­ing a fuller, more raw in­ter­pre­ta­tion of it. If haze is your goal, time is your en­emy—and as haze is also of­ten as­so­ci­ated with less fla­vor sta­bil­ity, drink­ing the beer young means a greater chance of tast­ing it at its best.

Go­ing Clear

Not ev­ery beer is bet­ter hazy (not even many of the tra­di­tion­ally cloudy styles—“crys­tal” he­feweizen can be a real treat!). Haze is more than just ap­pear­ance—it im­parts fla­vors, too. If you’re con­cerned about fla­vor sta­bil­ity or mouth­feel or fla­vor con­tri­bu­tions or sim­ply pre­fer the bright jewel tones of a crys­tal-clear beer, then you can and should use your brewing tool­kit to make your beer match your bril­liant de­sires!

Much can be ac­com­plished by sim­ply tak­ing the re­verse ad­vice from above. In terms of in­gre­di­ents, avoid high­er­pro­tein grains. Use high al­pha−acid hops to min­i­mize the amount of plant ma­te­rial (and, there­fore, polyphe­nols) that makes it into the beer. Choose yeast strains that are quick to floc­cu­late out of sus­pen­sion (many English yeast strains are no­to­ri­ous for this—for bet­ter or but­tery worse).

In other in­gre­di­ent news, a wide ar­ray of clar­ity-pro­mot­ing fin­ings is at your disposal! The most com­mon are prob­a­bly Ir­ish Moss or Whirlfloc, a dried sea­weed mince or pow­der that helps co­ag­u­late pro­teins in the boil and thereby helps re­move them. Is­in­glass func­tions in much the same way and will also aid in pre­cip­i­tat­ing out polyphe­nols. Ge­latin, added post-fer­men­ta­tion, is an ef­fec­tive tool to re­move pro­teins and polyphe­nols on the “cold” side of the process, which makes it a go-to that you might want to keep on hand if you need to clear a beer in a hurry af­ter it goes into the keg! Some of these fin­ings (Is­in­glass, at least) will also aid in re­mov­ing stub­born yeast that re­fuses to floc­cu­late.

In ad­di­tion, though, there are ac­tive steps you can take to clear your beer. The

Your best friend in the clear beer wars is time. Nearly all beers will clear even­tu­ally. Store them cold, dark, and still, and in a rel­a­tively short few weeks you will likely see them be­gin­ning to clear through the mir­a­cle of sim­ple grav­ity. While per­ma­nent haze caused by ox­i­da­tion or ex­ces­sive hop­ping and/or bac­te­rial con­tam­i­na­tion might re­sist this method, most beers will re­spond to it quite well. In more ways than one, wait and see.

most di­rect method is fil­tra­tion. Fil­ter­ing your beer phys­i­cally strips par­ti­cles out of the liq­uid, cre­at­ing an un­avoid­able in­crease in clar­ity. While cold-crash­ing post-fer­men­ta­tion can cause chill haze in beers sus­cep­ti­ble to it, cold-crash­ing will help a beer clear as pro­teins and other par­tic­u­lates co­ag­u­late and drop out as their den­sity over­comes their buoy­ancy. One last note about process: al­though you should al­ways avoid it for fla­vor and fla­vor-sta­bil­ity rea­sons, you should be very care­ful of ox­i­da­tion if clear beer is your goal. Ox­i­da­tion can cause a more per­ma­nent haze that does not dis­si­pate even when the beer warms.

Fi­nally, your best friend in the clear beer wars is time. Nearly all beers will clear even­tu­ally. Store them cold, dark, and still, and in a rel­a­tively short few weeks you will likely see them be­gin­ning to clear through the mir­a­cle of sim­ple grav­ity. While per­ma­nent haze caused by ox­i­da­tion or ex­ces­sive hop­ping and/or bac­te­rial con­tam­i­na­tion might re­sist this method, most beers will re­spond to it quite well. In more ways than one, wait and see.

Don’t Fear the Haze

Whether a de­lib­er­ate choice, an ac­ci­den­tal re­sult, or a sur­pris­ing out­come, haze is nei­ther a sign of great things to come nor a sig­nal to be­gin dump­ing your beer into the gut­ter. As with most parts of brewing, we should judge it on its own mer­its (or chal­lenges). Con­sider the fla­vor and vis­ual im­pacts, com­pare them to your goals and de­sires for that beer, and re­spond ac­cord­ingly. Whether it’s the best of beers or the worst of beers is, ul­ti­mately, up to you.

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