Should beer be clear?

I was having an email conversation with Ricky the beer buyer from Bradford Beer Festival about beer, clarity, yeast and haze. Some of that conversation could boil down to one simple statement:

Is it right that good beer can be returned to the brewer for not being ‘Pin Bright’?

I’m not talking cloudy & full of unsettled yeast, I’m talking haze, a subtle little haze.
Good trading accounts have no doubt been lost through beer showing the slightest of hazes and rejected by a pub.

There is a lot more to the subject than just that of course, does haze or yeast improve or detract from the taste and aroma of a beer?

Haze (The simple explanation).

Haze mostly comes from Malted Barley, Wheat, Oats or Rye.
Haze can come from hops in large amounts.
Haze is generally fixed in beer.
Haze can be reduced with Copper-Finings while boiling or Finings-Adjunct in the fermenting vessel after fermentation.

Yeast (The stuff that makes beer).

Yeast settles out naturally with time, temperature and the distance it has to fall.
Yeast can be made to settle faster by using Isinglass Finings.
Yeast strains can sometimes be very flocculant meaning they settle quickly naturally, whereas other strains stay suspended in beer for much longer.

Reducing Haze.

Haze originally starts right back in the farmer’s fields where Malted cereals used in brewing need to have a particular amount of nitrogen, the amount of rain can effect the nitrogen levels, a lot of rain washes away nitrogen in the soil and lowers the nitrogen in the crop, and too little rain increase the nitrogen in the soil and also what is absorbed by the crop. Its seasonality that effects all farmed crops but for brewing CLEAR beer very specific levels of nitrogen must be attained in the grains.

Recipe formulation can dilute nitrogen, you could add sugar to get a specific ABV or things like Rice or Maize (Corn), now you start thinking “Hmm just like on the back of a can of mass-market Lager”, most Microbrewers won’t be diluting their beer’s flavour with anything in this way and quite the opposite they want more flavour.

Copper Finings used in the boil coagulate proteins which settle out, you get more proteins from higher nitrogen in the malted grains, then you can use Finings-Adjunct in the beer after fermenting to do the same, the proteins in the beer get clumped together making them heavier and easier to drop to the bottom. Isinglass Finings then further binds to these clumpy bits and yeast in cask which finally gives you CLEAR beer with correct cellering conditions.

*Throw a Spanner in the works with Malted grains with a too high nitrogen content and you may find that some of the steps you took to make clear beer haven’t quite been enough leaving just a subtle haze which would then follow onto returned beer, wasted beer and lost earnings. Nature did that, but the beer you made tastes bloody good… just a hint of haze.

Go back and read the statement at the top again.

Mostly before the brewer can react to a haze issue multiple batches of beer have been brewed and an increase in Copper Finings and/or an increase in Finings-Adjunct can fix the issue, by this point several batches of beer will have been committed to cask and sold into trade.

‘Hop Haze’ can be a more permenant haze for heavily hopped and heavily dry hopped beers which is probably going to be there no matter what you add to your beer.

Brewing a Hazy beer.

Do the exact opposite to the ‘Reducing Haze’ section above, increase things like Wheat and Oats, don’t use any form of Finings, hop and dry-hop the heck out of it and pick a yeast that stays in suspension for a long time. NO processing aids added to the beer and you still make tasty beer, how good is that!
Though with time, temperature, distance, and the right yeast you will get beer that is clear of yeast but a haze should remain.

Does haze / yeast improve flavour & aroma in beer?

There are lots of brewers that seem to think so, I will use my own thoughts to say why I think Unfined hazy beer will have more flavour & aroma etc.

All processing aids, Copper-Finings, Finings-Adjunct, Isinglass-Finings, Filtering (Evil Filtering! Evil! Evil Dirty Filtering!!!) take something away from beer so I guess the idea is the more naturally occurring stuff you leave in the more flavour, aroma, body and colour you keep. Then I guess you have loads of extra stuff (Haze ‘n Yeast) floating about in your pint, I’m going to suppose that that each little bit of floaty stuff is like a sponge which picks up all the good stuff you want to taste and carries it to you gob. (Citation needed by some sort of Scientist)

There! Oh and Drinking yeasty beer doesn’t give you farts and you will not be on the toilet the day after because of yeast. (Indian Take-away citation needed)

*I’ll hit Publish now and come back and edit stuff later*