The Importance of Bottle Conditioning
Bottle conditioning has a dramatic impact on the aroma, flavor, and other characteristics of the beer. When a beer is bottle conditioned, “priming” sugar is added to the beer just before bottling, and the beer re-ferments in the bottle, producing a calculated amount of carbonation and altering the flavor and aroma.
An essential aspect of bottle conditioning is the extended time the beer has in contact with the yeast. Beer that has been “brightened” and force carbonated is separated from the yeast before packaging, and does not have the advantage of extended conditioning. But bottle-conditioned beer will continue to develop in the bottle.
This is not to say that brightened beer has no place in your glass. Excellent beers are produced by this method, and we offer many of them ourselves. But some styles greatly improve by bottle-conditioning, and we take full advantage of the technique to produce some of the finest beers available anywhere on the planet.
Some styles that are improved by bottle conditioning:
- Belgian Blondes, Dubbels, Tripels, and Quadrupels
- Imperial Stouts
- Bière de Garde
The sediment that develops in the bottom of the bottle is a normal result of the bottle conditioning process. Some people decant the beer into a glass and leave the last bit in the bottle, but some think the beer is improved by adding the sediment.
In that case, the traditional serving technique depends on the style of beer. For a Hefeweizen, pour 2/3 of the bottle, then swirl the rest and pour it into the glass.
Many aficionados of Belgian beers also prefer to pour the “dregs” into the glass for additional character. Our Belgians are sold in 750 mL bottles, so we recommend a two-stage pour, explained here.
As we like to say, taste is a matter of taste. When serving a bottle-conditioned beer, ask your guest if he would like you to serve the yeast. If so, go ahead and pour it all into the glass.