So...finally have these things going...hopefully I'm using them correctly
Homebrew 101: It’s All Hazy in There Man…..
March 14, 2015
Most of us have been taught since childhood not to judge things by their appearance. While this life lesson is generally a good rule to keep you from being a jerk to the rest of the world, there are a few situations in which it is justifiable to suspend its practice to avoid undesirable consequences (like ending up in a committed relationship with someone who wears a fanny pack). Making sure an item you plan to ingest meets your visual standards is one such situation, and perhaps just as important as the presentation of a plate at a restaurant are the visual properties of an appealing pint. The proper amount of foam and carbonation in relation to the type of beer are of course important but of equal importance is clarity. When brewing at home this above all others can be the most difficult aspect of a beer to perfect as it has just as many causes as symptoms. So, grab a pint of something tasty and we’ll dive right into a few tips and tricks to making sure your next batch is as translucent as it is tasty:
Lay off the Proteins
A little known fact to most (feel free to break this out at your next trivia night to show off) is that malts and grains have proteins. This can be what adds to the notable body in many beers, but also is directly responsible for the haze that often accompanies it. This is especially true for Whitbiers and Weizens which have a heavy base of wheat which is one of the highest protein grains out there. Darker malts like Carabrown and Dark Munich can also have a higher protein content, which is why allot of dark to medium dark ales can also have a haze.
If you are an all grain brewer, using mightier malts like Maris Otter, 2 Row or Rahr Pilsner as the foundation of your mash and supplementing with small amounts of other malts for flavor and color can allow for a lower protein level and thereby greater clarity. If you are planning to brew with LME this can be a more difficult area to control however paying close attention to your supplemental grains that you float can aid in keeping the proteins down.
Keep Things Cool
I’ve written in previous posts about the importance of cooling wort as quickly as possible after a boil to prevent many of the potential flavor impacting issues that can occur. Similarly cooling your wort as quickly as possible can cause the aforementioned proteins and tannins to consolidate and drop to the bottom of your kettle (if you notice a whole bunch of brown fuzzy looking gunk after you rack into primary, this is what you are seeing). Not only is this step crucial to the flavor and clarity of your brew, but it also can save a huge amount of time in the process so I can’t stress enough the importance of investing in a good coiled wort chiller or chilling plate.
Once you’re wort is cooled and in primary, keeping it at a lower temperature can continue the process of clearing proteins tannins and esters into the trub layer. This is mandatory for anything in the lager family but can also be applied to ales with a great deal of success. Old refrigerators, top down freezers and if you’re the crafty type homemade Fermi-chambers attached to temperature controllers are the best way to cold crash your beer in a way that keeps the yeast happy while removing many of the undesirable elements.
Use a Little Something Extra
If you are just not getting the results you want from chilling and using low protein grains, or if you are wanting to add clarity to a traditionally hazy beer like a Weizen there are a few things out there to give an added boost during brewing (that sounds an awful lot like giving your beer steroids now that I read it). One of the more common practices out there is the use of Irish moss during a boil. A very small amount of this additive, which in some ways resembles the look of pipe tobacco, can accelerate the coagulation of the proteins at the end of your boil. There are some synthetic options out there which in and of themselves aren’t bad but I prefer to use options that are derived from natural sources such as Whirlfloc and Isinglass.
And there you have it folks a few tips and tricks to get that homebrew look nice and pretty. Keep in mind that all of these will work best when done in combination so feel free to tweak the amount of each to get what works best for you! Best of luck fellow brew nerds, I hope this is helpful. Cheers everyone!