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Ask BeerAdvocate.com #10

by: BeerAdvocate on 03-10-2004
I have found sediment in my last two bottles of lager beer. Are the contents safe? Please advise!

Maurice
US Army TACOM


This all depends on what brewery the lager is coming from. If it is a mass-produced lager (i.e. Bud, Miller, Coors), there should be no sediment at all. The big brewers use a very fine filter to ensure a perfectly clear beer, though this filter also strips the beer of flavor. Other brewers will leave their beer unfiltered, and some even bottle-condition, both of which will yield a thin layer of yeast on the bottom of the bottle. This yeast sediment is harmless; in fact, it's good for you in moderation, as brewers' yeast contains vitamin B.

If you are drinking a mass-produced filtered lager, the sediment could be from a very infrequent packaging malfunction, or if the beer is past its expiration date, it could possibly be an infection, which is not at all uncommon with old beer. If the beer doesn't taste like it's been sitting around for years (cidery and wet paper flavors), then it should be fine to drink. If it does taste bad, just dump it out ... I know it's hard to dump beer out, but you don't want one bad beer to ruin the night and of course ruin the following morning too.

My grandpa used to put a little salt in his beer, but I never asked him why. Can you help? Thanks.

Shane
Columbus, OH


Putting salt in beer stems from a few philosophies - all of which seem to have had a purpose at one time or another. An old wives' tale said that putting a sprinkle of salt in your beer would stave off cramping during hard work. Dehydration can cause cramping of the muscles, because of the depletion of minerals in the body. Adding salt to the beer would make the worker thirsty, and thus he would drink more beer to relieve the dehydration.

Others add salt to beer for flavor purposes; post-prohibition (1933) beer had turned into somewhat of an ugly being. Breweries had to cut costs and started to use cheaper ingredients like rice and corn, which made for a nearly flavorless beer. These beers are still around, though most people have become accustomed to flavorless beer and so have no need for the salt. Many South and Central American beer drinkers will add salt, and sometimes hot sauce and/or lemon, for flavor, or to mask off flavor in beer.

The last reason we found, which also makes no sense, was to add salt to beer to knock the carbonation out. Why not just pour the beer out hard or swirl it a couple times?

Really and truly, there is no reason to add salt to your beer (unless you are 80-something and traditions die hard with you). Nowadays, adding salt to your beer is a complete oddity, something of the past. Save the salt for a good steak, and leave the beer alone!

How do they get the “malternative" clear beers clear? Is it just a filtering process, or do they leave something out or add something during the fermentation process?

Keith


First off, calling a malternative a beer is just not right. Shame on you! You are right about the filtering process - they basically brew a nearly flavorless beer at around 5 percent ABV and strip-filter it from its color, aroma and flavor. Then they add a variety of flavors and sometimes colors. So in a sense, you are drinking 5 percent ABV soda water: a drink made for the sissy in all of us. The funny thing is that all these high-end hard alcohol companies make malternatives without their own booze. It is cheap, filtered swill beer for $6.99 a six-pack. The reason they don't add hard alcohol is mostly due to the taxation of the product. If it is malt-based, then it falls under the same taxation of beer - peanuts compared to the taxes laid on a barrel of booze. More money for them, so they can drop a million bucks on yet another lousy marketing campaign. Not to worry, malternatives are on a downward swing, and soon there will be only a handful of these insipid drinks around ... we can only hope.

Respect beer.
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