Cloudy or Clear: Filtering GLBC Beer

To filter, or not to filter: that is the question. With so many beer styles showing up on shelves today, it can be confusing as to why some beers appear cloudier than others. Mark Hunger, GLBC Brewmaster, sat down to shed some light on this murky subject.

Why filter a beer?
The decision to filter is left up to the brewer, but some of it is done because of tradition. Lagers are traditionally filtered to be bright and clear. Ales, on the other hand, are not always filtered, but can be. We try to have the best of both worlds by brewing a number of different styles.

Are there different ways to filter beer? How does GLBC filter?
There are a lot of ways to filter and many breweries go about it in differently. Many of our beers, but not at all, go through a two-step filtration process. We send our beer through a centrifuge which is our coarse filtration system. The centrifuge filters out the majority of yeast and larger particulates. If we want our beer to be especially clear, the beer will go through a second round of filtering in our plate and frame filter. This filter works by pushing the beer through a series of plate filters which remove fine particulates and haze left over from the centrifuge.

How does filtering affect the flavor of the beer?
That depends on the style of the beer. Our Holy Moses White Ale, for example, is a style of beer that is meant to be unfiltered. Holy Moses is a very cloudy beer, but that’s because the yeast plays a critical role in the flavor profile. Skipping the filtering process is common for White Ales, Wheat beers, Hefeweizens, and other similar styles.

While yeast plays an important role in the flavor profile of lagers, it doesn't typically contribute enough desired flavor once the fermentation process is complete. This is why we filter our Eliot Ness Amber Lager and Dortmunder Gold completely. Since the yeast doesn’t add much flavor after fermentation, we stick to the tradition and style guidelines of filtering the beer completely.

The amount of filtering done to hoppier beers can vary depending on the brewer’s preference. Our Steady Rollin’ Session IPA is filtered completely, but that’s because it’s a great beer for the summer months and we wanted everything about it to be clean and refreshing. Our hoppier offerings, like Chillwave Double IPA or Lake Erie Monster Imperial IPA are only partially filtered because we want as much of the aromas and flavors from the hops to remain.

If I notice sediment on the bottom of my bottle, is it still safe to drink?
Absolutely. More likely than not, the sediment you are seeing is the yeast that has settled to the bottom. Yeast can hold big flavor, so I’d recommend pouring the entire bottle into a glass so that it can be mixed back into the beer. Sediment or not, we recommend serving all of our beer from the glass for the best flavor.

But what if I know my beer is filtered and I still notice sediment or haze?
Sediment, haze, or “floaties” are not uncommon in filtered beer. As beer ages, protein and other natural compounds found in the beer can solidify and coagulate together. Some styles can even take on a haze as time passes.  This is totally normal and does not affect the flavor of the beer. The tendency for sediment to develop can vary widely depending on the style and how old it is. As always, I encourage people to treat their beer like milk. Drink it as fresh as possible, keep it cold, and avoid direct light exposure as failing to do so can compromise the beer quickly.