QUOTE: Dr Foster on Clarity

“Filtered beers are always bright and clear, but cask-conditioned beers may not be so… Yet is it necessary for a beer to be completely clear? Surely it is taste and not looks which really matters? Is it true that a heavy yeast suspension will give the beer an unpleasant, bitter taste, but a slight cloudiness caused by yeast will not affect the flavour… [Demand] for bright beer is a fairly new development… [A] booklet published in 1947 to celebrate the centenary of John Smith’s Brewery… tells of the appointment of a new Head Brewer in 1889 who held the view that since glasses had by then come into common use for serving, the beer in them should be bright. It also says that his views were met with some suspicion by the consumer… Now, John Smith… brew only bright, filtered beer… and what was once a fine individual beer is now characterless. Perhaps if we were still drinking from pewter mugs and tankards then keg and bright beers might never have been invented, and CAMRA would never have needed to come into existence.”

Terence Foster, Dr Foster’s Book of Beer, 1979, pp.43-44.

3 replies on “QUOTE: Dr Foster on Clarity”

The desideratum of clarity in English beer drinking well precedes the story of the John Smith brewer. Certainly, it is clarity as Dr. Foster states – sometimes accompanied by a slight haze – and (I might add) not anything mechanically filtered and pasteurized, but English brewers for centuries have been fining beer and using other methods to get it clear-looking. Dr. Foster has his finger on the reason, to avoid an unpleasant yeast bitter. This is where “London murky” often goes wrong, IMO…


A bit of a tangent, I’m beginning to find the obsession with slating London murky a bit weird, to be honest. I drink a reasonable amount of stuff from trendy London craft breweries – Kernel in particular – and similar sorts of operation like Siren, and their beers almost always settle to “a bit hazy” if you leave them for a couple of days after carrying them home. All these articles accompanied by pictures of something looking a pint of Weissbier with a packet of powdered soup dunked into it seem a bit disingenuous.

Bottled and draft are two different things. London murky is generally taken to refer to draft beer, not bottled or canned. (Almost any unfiltered beer will settle out with time). My experience, and I believe that of many others, has been that unfined, cloudy pints of the new style of IPA and pale ale are a commonplace. Not everyone is enamored of the taste results. That is not slagging, it is making an observation. Those who don’t mind the taste are free to explain why.


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