What is Bottle Conditioned Beer?

Hanlon’s Head Brewer Richard explains…

 

At Hanlon’s our Port Stout bottles are unfiltered and contain live brewing yeast, which when settled leaves slight sediment in the bottle. The yeast then allows the beer to continue to mature and develop so that the flavour profile becomes balanced and harmonious, and at the same time naturally provides the carbonation or ‘condition’ to give a clean, fresh taste. This is bottle conditioning.

 

Filtered and carbonated beers can present themselves very well and have plenty of shelf life, but they will only deteriorate with time. Whereas the yeast in bottle conditioned beer scavenges for oxygen, which is the cause of the aging process in filtered beers, and thus acts as a natural preservative which sees the beers not only maintaining vibrancy whilst their filtered peers can seem a bit jaded, but also continuing to improve even after the best before date has passed.

 

We have tasted bottles of our Port Stout that are over five years old and they been superb. Brewers can bottle condition beer after filtration by repitching a small amount of yeast, but these can lack body because of the filter removing some of the larger flavour/mouthfeel components. This is most noticeable with filtered stouts, which can seem rather thin, and lack head and the lacing on the side of the glass.

 

How to get the best out of bottle conditioned beer

Our Port Stout bottles should be stored upright for a few days after your purchase to allow the yeast to resettle. Ideally they should be kept at room temperature and only placed upright in a fridge for a couple of hours before drinking. Careful pouring will allow you to enjoy your beer at its best by decanting the beer from the sediment. Open the bottle carefully to avoid shaking. Holding at eye level, gradually tilt the bottle into the glass until the sediment can be seen approaching the neck. Some brewers recommend swirling the yeast sediment and then adding it to the glass and, although it is a matter of personal taste, we at Hanlons believe our beers are best appreciated clear or ‘bright’ so the flavours can clearly project themselves.