Craft Beer 101 – Bottle Conditioning

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Freelance writer extraordinaire, Greg Nagel helms OCBeerBlog.com and leads our Brewday Monday: Craft Beer 101 Q&A.

To supplement Greg’s expertise, see what local establishments are up to on the beer front here.

Q: I read on a bottle of beer that it says “bottle conditioned,” what is that?

A: Bottle conditioning means the beer finished fermenting in the bottle. Often times, this means adding a small amount of priming sugar to the flat beer prior to bottling. The yeast wakes up from single-cell slumber and consumes the sugar while producing carbonation and a little bit of alcohol. Some beer has quite a bit of active yeast leftover, which, when left over time in a cellar, will change the beer’s overall character and flavor profile. Sierra Nevada is the first brewer to can-condition a beer, although it’s hard to tell by looking at it in a glass. Normally bottle conditioning means the beer will be clear up until you pour out the bottom centimeter. Their pale ale uses just the right amount of yeast to get the job done.

At establishments with a knowledgeable beer staff, they will ask if you want the yeast poured or left in the bottle. Depending on the style, such as a Hefeweizen, I prefer the yeast to be roused and poured. Not only is it tasty, it’s actually quite good for you as it’s full of complex B vitamins and minerals.