Yeast: The Genie In The Bottle #BrewedAwakening

By / Wine + Drinks / May 25th, 2018 / 7

During every week, as I’m drinking different beers, I look for things that might be interesting to write about. That’s super easy when traveling, as I’m constantly trying new things, but this week I was at home pretty much the whole time, drinking local favourites.

That said, I did drink something very interesting that taught me a good lesson. About 5 years ago Shane Steeves, a local homebrewer transitioning to a professional at Hammond River Brewing Company, brewed me a batch of English Style Bitter. I don’t have a home draft system anymore, so he bottled it for me, just as I did in my early 90s days of homebrewing. A bit of sugar in each bottle allows secondary fermentation, which produces carbonation and leaves sediment in the bottom.

It was a nice beer, under 5% alcohol and not too bitter, using UK hops, and I drank most of it that year. I did, however, leave a few bottles to see how they’d keep, out of curiosity. This month I’ve opened a couple, with quite impressive results.

The beer is now softer and smoother, with lower carbonation, but it still tastes great, and perhaps even more British than it ever did. While perhaps very slightly oxidized, giving a heightened caramel note, it is definitely NOT spoiled.

There is a fair amount of sediment, but if you pour carefully, leaving the yeast in the bottom, the resulting beer is very clear and bright. See the picture!

Crystal clear bitter on the right, the leftover yeast decanted into a small bowl on the left

That’s the power of Bottle Conditioned beers. The yeast is the genie in the bottle, preserving the beer by scavenging oxygen. While some small breweries are making beer this way from time to time, more should give it a try, and hold bottles a few years for special release.

It’s a great way to generate additional interest and income. Of course it works easiest with higher alcohol beers, with that added preservative quality, but this regular bitter proves that high alcohol isn’t required.



Craig Pinhey discovered good drink circa 1985 at Ginger’s Tavern/Granite Brewery in Halifax and has been writing about beer, wine and spirits for 25 years. A Certified Sommelier and BJCP judge, Craig lives in New Brunswick where he runs his own writing and consulting business and is the beverage columnist for Brunswick News. He is the only person to have judged all of the national wine, spirits and beer awards of Canada.

One response to “Yeast: The Genie In The Bottle #BrewedAwakening”

  1. jack says:

    Hard to believe you didn’t pick up the character of yeast autolysis.

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