Commercial beers, especially the very prominent lager varieties have made us all expect beer to look a certain way, namely crystal clear.
So, if you are looking at a murky pint that either you’ve made yourself or someone has given to you to try, you may be right in questioning its safety.
How risky is it to drink beer that you can’t read a newspaper through? Well, that’s something I love to talk about.
In every single case, a cloudy beer is safe to drink. In many styles (Hefeweizen, NEIPA etc.) the cloudiness will be intentional. In homebrewing, it can result from brewing errors. Cloudy beer is caused by low-flocculating yeast, chill haze, or other compounds that haven’t dropped out of suspension.
So, take a sip and relax.
Not that you know that you can drink the beer with little to no repercussions. You may be wondering, why your beer is cloudy or hazy? Or what beers are naturally cloudy and why?
I have covered the main reasons why and how this happens below. So, read on to learn more.
Will cloudy beer make you sick?
Now, if we assume that you aren’t drinking one of the many styles that should have a little bit of cloudiness, this is a fair question.
Unlike with other homebrewing or home distilling methods, making beer is generally risk free when it comes to really hurting yourself.
I won’t go into all the reasons here, but feel free to check out the following articles to really set you mind at ease:
The only instance in which cloudy beer might make you feel a little unwell is if you have some sort of gastric complaint. Sediment suspended within cloudy beer can keep you pretty regular, if you know what I mean.
So it is safe to drink cloudy beer, though it is probable to give those that ingest cloudy beer some gastric distress if you are prone it.
The types of distress could range from gas release from both ends, upset stomach, or frequent trips to the bathroom. But it won’t kill you, and if you drink it enough your body could even acclimate to it.
So, it’s by no means life-threatening nor will it affect everyone in this way. So drink up!
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Why is your homebrew beer cloudy?
To be very technical, all beers were traditionally cloudy until the use of glass became more popular. Once beer drinkers could see what they were drinking, the trends changed.
However, some styles remained cloudy and opaque while other styles, namely your light European lagers, were developed to show case their clarity.
There are a lot of reasons that it could be cloudy but for the most part, it is from the natural ingredients that you are using to brew it.
The proteins, polyphenols, and yeast will be the things that give you the most issues with clarity.
Here is a quick synopsis of each of the three.
- Proteins- If the cloudiness is permanent it is usually caused by proteins and you will not be able to get rid of it. Something during the brewing process happens, check your notes to see if anything changed. You will find the proteins in corn, rice, and refined sugar.
- Polyphenols- These can be the culprit if you add too much of certain malts or hops. Even though these are added for a nice taste and aroma. The other way they can affect is if they oxidate the beer too much.
- Yeast- Yeast is our best friend as long as it does what it is supposed to. But it tends not to and is the leading case of cloudiness. There are certain types of yeast that will routinely produce cloudy beer.
I have a full article on the issues surrounding cloudy beer, what to look for, and how to fix it.
Do you know how to spot a bacterial infection or how to choose the right yeast? If not, read it here and get 7 tips on all the different issues with cloudy beer.
Do you really need a clear beer?
Although it’s not hard for a homebrewer to produce extremely clear beer, it’s not something I suggest you worry about for your first few batches.
Once you’ve decided that you do want to carry on brewing beer, then you can start investing in the equipment that you’ll need to produce less and less cloudy beer.
If you want to learn a little bit more about temperature control, which can help produce a less cloudy beer, then please check out the following articles I also wrote:
- What Size Chest Freezer Do You Need? (Keezer vs Kegerator)
- Do You Really Need A Fermentation Chamber?
Clear beer is a fairly recent invention as for most of our history we have had beer dark and cloudy.
If you were drinking beer in Ancient Egypt, you’d be drinking it through a Nile reed as the beer was totally unfiltered. (Check out this great book, Ancient Brews for more details on ancient brewing. It’s even available on Amazon in Kindle format)
Think about it, clear glassware is fragile and used to be expensive to produce. So the average person and bar would not have access to it and the rich would want to show off their wealth with decorative cups.
This started to change when clear glass became affordable and widespread. When people could actually see what they were drinking they started to want a clearer beer.
For us as homebrewers, it’s possible to use fining products and other methods to produce a clearer beer, but it’s not always called for.
If you just want to enjoy a few pints of your homebrew at, well, home, then I wouldn’t sweat a little bit of cloudiness.
What are the different types of haze?
Haze is just cloudiness in the beer. There are three different types of haze. These include permanent haze, yeast haze, and chill haze.
Permanent haze is, as you can tell from the name is a haze that does not go away. This is means that somewhere along the way there was an issue with the brewing process.
When created it, cannot be eliminated. Biological contamination or too much starch in the wort are the two most common culprits of this.
Yeast haze will affect all beer unless you do something to counteract it. After the fermentation process, the yeast can remain suspended indefinitely.
If you use low flocculant yeast (common in cloudy beers) then store it cold (or cold crash the beer), the amount of yeast haze should be minimal.
Chill haze is a haze that is formed from temperature changes when the beer is cooled and disappears when then warms up.
When you repeat this process of heating and cooling this can turn permanent. The protein in the beer stops bonding correctly with the polyphenols. The longer this goes on the more the haze will increase.
There are three ways to minimize or reduce this. You have to reduce the amount of haze-forming proteins, polyphenols, and remove the protein-polyphenol complexes after they have formed.
This basically means altering the recipe to use less protein-heavy malt grains or adjuncts and to use fining and cold crashing to force compounds to drop out of suspension in your beer.
What type of beers are supposed to be cloudy/hazy?
The popularity of these types of beer has risen recently for a few reasons.
In terms of the commercial market (buy beer from local breweries), which does seem to have a knock-on effect on the homebrewing trends, it’s just the styles that craft breweries are making right now.
So, a homebrewer may make a cloudy beer and want to share it with their friends (perhaps that’s why you found this article).
Another reason why cloudy beers are popular with homebrewers is that they help hide a few basic mistakes that we are all (or were) guilty of in the beginning.
Here is a list of some beers that should be cloudy/ hazy, so you can know what to look for and expect.
- German wheat beers– Usually the hefeweizens is what you will see most commonly. These wheat beers use low flocculating ale yeast, which ferments on the top. This yeast and their proteins aren’t filtered out at the end and this is why it gives that cloudy appearance.
- IPAs– When you hear or drink and IPA you mainly think of bright and bitter beer. This type of IPA uses American yeast. The ‘newer’ IPAs (though British IPA is much older) use a British type of yeast which reacts differently and leads to a hazy appearance.
- New England IPA (NEIPA)– Another popular beer that is cloudy as well. In commercial versions, it is cloudy due to being an unfiltered ale. But it’s really down to the grist and yeast.
- Mead- Ok, not technically a beer, but let’s include it here. Some variations usually stay cloudy due to suspended particles from chemical reactions still transpiring. In laymen’s terms, it is still fermenting.
What type of yeast is used to make cloudy beer?
The types of yeast that are usually used for these types of beers are low-flocculation.
There are 3 categories of flocculation levels high, medium, and low.
The low one used for cloudy beer usually does not start to start to flocculate before 15 days. Most wild yeasts you find fall into this category. The one issue with them is that they are hard to filter.
Here are 3 popular yeast strains popular in the US for NEIPA, hazy IPAs, and Pale Ales.
- Imperial Yeast A38 – Is said to be a reliable strain that usually will finish quickly. It is a liquid yeast from Oregon.
- Omega Yeast OYL-052– Has a high alcohol tolerance an attenuation. If you are using making a lower ABV it may be drier than thought. It is also a liquid strain.
- Fermentis Safale S-04– This one has been touted by homebrewers and is said to give all-around good results. This one is a dry yeast.
However, there are many more strains which you can find out there which will give you a lovely cloudy finish.
Should you drink the sediment at the bottom of a glass/bottle?
In some beers it’s OK, such as wheat beers or even Belgian ales, but some manufacturers advise that you leave that sentiment in the bottle when you pour it.
So the jury may be out on whether it adds or subtracts from the drinking experience.
If the beer has been bottled conditioned, that sediment is more than likely the dormant yeast. It won’t really harm you but it will give you an unpleasant taste in your mouth for the most part.
Is beer supposed to have stuff floating in it?
For some styles of beer having suspended yeast & proteins is normal and ok. In other beers it is not meant to be there.
If you have what are affectionately called ‘floaties’ in your finished beer, it’s not an ideal situation.
This happens when hops or grain particles are siphoned from fermenter to bottling bucket/ keg by accident. You can read more about how to move your beer from the fermenter to the bottling bucket in my article here.
It also occurs with a bad grain bed and sparging process from the mash turn to the brew kettle pre-boil in all-grain brewing. To avoid this from happening altogether, consider switching to BIAB brewing (see my article here)
Also, from movement, sometimes if the beer has settled in the bottle and then gets shaken around cloudiness can appear.
This will happen if you are pouring it into a glass from the bottle. It can also happen if you move it a lot, like in the fridge door, so store it somewhere it won’t get disturbed as much
Take notes on your beer
Since you have happened upon this page about drinking your homebrew, I assume that you have a passion for brewing.
It is a great hobby and you want to get better at it so you and everyone can enjoy your beer. The only way to do this is to know what you did wrong or where you can improve is to take notes.
Take notes from the start to when you are drinking your beer, so you can research ways to improve it.
This is especially true if you make the same beer several times, which is advisable to hone your skills. If it turns out differently each time, you can use your brewing notes to figure out the cause.