There was a bit of a to-do the other week when a UK TV show about food production suggested that isinglass finings represented some kind of ‘dark side’ of the brewing industry. (We didn’t see it — we gathered this from the miniature Twitter storm that ensued.) Isinglass is made from the swim bladders of fish, so we’ll acknowledge that there is a certain ‘ick’ factor, but it’s been used in British brewing for a long time and isn’t something we have any problem with at all.
This 1978 article from CAMRA’s What’s Brewing, however, suggests that not only is isinglass harmless, but that brewers could be going a little further and making it part of their ‘craft’ schtick:
On the first floor of Godson’s Brewery… head brewer Rob Adams takes what looks like a large flat sea shell from a sideboard drawer… It is the dried bladder of a sturgeon fish… Mr Adams makes his own finings from sturgeon bladders, bought at £7 a pound and mixed with water in a large plastic dustbin.
Do any brewers these days make their own isinglass from scratch? And would a really ‘crafty’ brewery perhaps go a step further and have a saltwater pond full of fish in the back yard…?
Ian Mackey, author of this very useful book, has very kindly provided us with a treasure trove of useful clippings from this period, so expect a few more nuggets in weeks to come.