How Do Brewers Make Clear Beer?

These are notes from the field while studying for the Advanced Cicerone Exam

What Is Added to Beer to Make It Clear?

Yes, I know, who cares about clear beer these days? It’s all about that #haze #juicebomb, right Instagram?

Well, if you’re brewing a classic style or entering competitions (or studying for Cicerone!) you’ll definitely want to know how to make your beer clear. There are two categories of substances used to make beer clear, also called “finings.”

The first category is “hot side.” These finings are added during the brewing process when the wort is “hot.” The clarifiers in this category are Irish Moss and Whirlfloc tablets. Both are made from seaweed but Whirlfloc tablets have more carrageenan in them than Irish Moss. Carrageenan is the active ingredient causing protein to clump and fall to the bottom of the beer so Whirlfloc requires a smaller dose to be effective.  

Naturally the other category is “cold side.” Cold side finings include Isinglass, Gelatin, and Polyclar. My favorite in this category is isinglass, just because it’s made of fish bladders and I like imagining all the tiny fish bladders dissolving in a beer.

As a homebrewer I typically use gelatin for clearing beers. For all of these cold side clarifiers, the fining agent is mixed with water (or in the case of isinglass an acid) and added to the fermenter a few days before bottling. When the beer is racked or bottled after being cleared with gelatin you get a nice layer of protein jelly, is cool but also kinda gross to clean!

What do you think about clear beers? Do you prefer them or are you all about the haze? Let me know at @beerswithmandy.