C is for Carbonation
C is for Carbonation – part 3 of our A to Z guide to craft beer terms.
You might take it for granted, those delightful little bubbles, quickly streaming up the side of your pint glass, but carbonation in beer is just as important as any other ingredient.
Did you know the BJCP guidelines call for different levels of carbonation in different styles of beer? Your King’s Blockhouse IPA isn’t as fizzy as your Silvertree Saision because farmhouse ales are meant to be particularly effervescent.
So let’s talk about the different methods of carbonation in brewing.
First, we have bottle and keg conditioning. This is where we use the natural process of fermentation to carbonate the beer. The yeast converts sugars into alocohol and releases C02. Presto – bubbles!
Brewers will add sugar to a batch right before kegging or bottling in order to help this process along and increase the amount of carbon dioxide released into the beer. The plus side is finer bubbles. The negatives include additional lead time in production and an increased chance of off flavours from incorrect procedure.
If you can see a few milometers of sediment at the bottom of your bottle of beer, it could be a byproduct of the bottle conditioning process, but there should never be a thick layer of dead yeast.
The second way of making that beer bubbly is called forced carbonation. This is normally done in tank, but sometimes in keg, and involves hooking up a volume of beer to a C02 source – namely a gas bottle. The pressure is then set to the desired level by the brewer and can vary from style to style. As time passes, the beer is impregnated with C02. While the bubbles are not as fine as in bottle conditioning, the turn around time is much faster. This is the process used for carbonating the majority of beers at Devil’s Peak.
So next time you sit down for a pint of the good stuff, take a minute to appreciate the process that turned your flat, lifeless ale into a lively, refreshing beverage!