What is Bottle Conditioned Craft Beer?
As a bar owner, it’s always a good idea to stay abreast of not only the latest craft beers on the market, but the various styles of brewing as well. As breweries become more inventive, you may find it difficult to know everything, all at once. It’s important that your staff and yourself have a current working knowledge of the process, in addition to the flavors and styles of craft beer.
There are two ways to carbonate a beverage, and by far the most popular is through a process called “forced carbonation.” This involves introducing carbon dioxide (CO2) into a liquid, that is generally syrupy or thick. When the CO2 dissolves, it creates the bubbles and fizz you see in carbonated drinks. Some breweries, however, have discovered a way to infuse this process naturally, and the term is “bottle-conditioned.”
A craft beer that is bottle-conditioned, produces it’s own fizz (carbon dioxide) through the process of fermentation. The yeast in this type of craft beer ingests the sugars in the wort, and spits out alcohol and carbon dioxide as a byproduct. During the brewing process, additional yeast and/or sugar is added, and the bottle is capped, thus trapping the additives, and any gases the yeast creates.
Bottle-conditioned beer is therefore allowed to mature, since all of the necessary ingredients are already inside of the bottle. In other words, these type of beers can be “aged.” The yeast in non-conditioned beers is always poured out prior to capping, and thus, bottle-conditioned beer has the longest shelf life of any craft beer on the market. That being said, the taste can be ruined with an improper pour.
Since the yeast in bottle-conditioned beer is so plentiful and active, the beer must be poured in a certain way, to retain the flavor. Hefeweizens, for example, require your staff to make sure none of the extra yeast makes it into the glass, as this will alter the complete taste of this type of craft beer.
The opposite of wheat beers, bottle-conditioned beers should be stored upright, so the yeast easily settles. You should stop pouring at the neck, and offer the remaining sediment for your customer, as some enjoy the separate taste of the fermentation.
In case you are wondering what, and how these types of craft beers are savored, the following is a list of some of the more popular bottle-conditioned beers that can give you an edge on the market:
- Allagash Curieux
Made in Portland, Maine, this Belgian-style brew was created by accident. Aged for months in bourbon barrels, due to a late bottle shipment, Allagash is exquisite to any beer lover. With sweet notes like vanilla and coconut, it truly is a one-of-a kind, bottle-conditioned craft beer. With an ABV of 11%, it’s a meal-on-wheels.
- Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere
This craft beer is rather light, with only 4.5% ABV, and is also a Belgian-type beer. The Michigan brewery has set itself apart by using old-style craftsmanship techniques, like growing their own wild yeast.
Like the Allagash, it is aged in oak barrels, which results in naturally occurring microbial cultures. The name “Bam” honors the owner’s Jack Russell, who survived getting “bammed” by a car. Isn’t this what craft beer is all about? The story…
A Belgian Pale Ale, Orval has a 6.9% ABV and is brewed only by monks, which labels this as a “Trappist Ale.” The beer is produced with three different malts, Unlike the common misconception, this beer actually tastes better as it gets warm, so try not to serve it too cold. Orval has also designed their own glassware, specifically for enjoying this eccentric craft beer.
Once you’ve decided to promote your bottle-conditioned new craft beer, why not let the people know? TapHunter is a great program that can display the selections on a digital drink menu in your bar (forget about the chalkboard)! They can also let your social media platforms know of the change.
However you choose to explore craft beer, the idea is the exploration itself. In an industry so involved in the minutiae of every taste, it’s exciting to be a part of the ever changing landscape. Cheers to your next, bottle-conditioned success!