I've been thinking. It's what I do when I'm carrying out repetitive manual tasks (like bottling, cleaning and other jobs around the brewery). I like beer, I like it a lot, but why do I brew differently when I'm brewing for my own amusement/consumption to when I'm brewing for sale commercially? When I make beer just for myself (and my friends and family) I hardly ever use any finings. It's been this way for years, I have argued fervently that the taste is better and "people shouldn't drink with their eyes" when they comment on any haziness in the beer. If you don't fine the beer, more hop oils and yeast remains in the beer which makes it tastier and I believe better for you. Yet, for my first three experimental brews here at Gyle 59, I've used the standard Isinglass finings in the casks.
I think I've got myself stuck in a paradigm and it's about time I got myself out. Why be mean and keep all the good stuff to myself? I initially thought maybe I'd offer an option of "natural (unfined)" or "fined" beer to pubs, as I sold our brews, but now I'm thinking this would be even more of a compromise than religiously sticking half a pint of fish guts into each cask.
Maybe I've been influenced by a recent meeting with Justin from Moor Beer (mind you, I've been meeting his beers for much longer!). Or maybe it's just the increased acceptance by drinkers, pubs and bars that beer doesn't have to be crystal clear. My heart was warmed recently when a woman served me up with a pint of Nor' Hop (Moor Beer) and enthusiastically explained to me that "I shouldn't be put off by the fact that the beer was hazy, the brewer intended it to be that way". You wouldn't have got that a few years ago!
Experience has shown me that cask ale generally tastes better when left in its natural state.
So, which beer looks the most flavoursome?
Following the cask v. keg competition at Bristol Beer Week, which helped me clarify my own thoughts about these two methods of delivery, I thought I'd try my own test on fined and unfined beer.
The two pints in the picture are the same beer from the same gyle. One has Isinglass and auxiliary finings, the other is in its natural state and unfined. No prizes for guessing which is which!
The results were absolutely conclusive.
Not only did the natural, unfined beer have more flavour, the taste had a greater complexity about it whereas some of the subtleties had been stripped out of the fined beer.
So, I'm declaring now, that all beer produced by Gyle 59 from this point forward will be fish free, suitable for vegetarians and vegans, tastier, hazier and in my view more natural and better for you. This will be irrespective of the means of delivery or packaging, whether it be by cask, keg, bottle, bag or jug.
Maybe this is a brave step for a new brewery. However, I hope that by joining the increasing army of brewers producing natural beers I can help spread the acceptance and trust in beer that is not crystal clear. Much like the debate around cask versus keg, I believe that what is important is the quality of the beer in terms of taste, mouthfeel and aroma, not the means of delivery or whether you can see through it in a glass.