photo by Markus Spiske.
Pasteurized vs. Unpasteurized Beer – A quick guide to understanding the difference pasteurization makes to the beer you’re drinking!
In the world of craft beer, there are many words that come up regularly in the conversations between brewers or hopheads that you may not always understand. “Coarse-filtering”, “bottom-fermenting”, “dry-hopping”… the list goes on. But there is one phrase you should understand and look out for – unpasteurized beer.
What is unpasteurized beer?
You’ve probably heard of unpasteurized milk before, but maybe you don’t really know what that is either. As such, let’s go with Bryce Edding’s simple definition of beer pasteurization to start things off:
“Pasteurization is the process of heating beer to a temperature that will kill any living microbes. It is used by some brewers to sterilize and stabilize their product without changing the chemistry.”1
Some brewers, but not all. Many commercially brewed beers are pasteurized in the same way many other products are pasteurized, but there has been resistance to this method in the craft beer world, so let’s take a look at why…
There are benefits to pasteurizing your beer: shelf life improves dramatically, it can help with standardization of taste, and the beer can also be kept at room temperature without fear of spoilage. But there are also some drawbacks, which is why many craft breweries are increasingly deciding to skip that step.
That rapid heating and chilling is not good for the flavour of the beer – aromas tend to be lost, and the flavour of the beer is ‘flattened’ by the process. The argument for unpasteurization is a simple one: it makes for a fresher, tastier brew.
However, to keep the untreated beers fresh, they need to be continuously chilled. That’s why breweries like us have to invest in ensuring beer is ‘cold-chain’ supplied. In short, this means beer must be kept at 3ºC from when it’s bottled or kegged to when it’s in your hand; fresh, cold and ready to drink. And frankly, what’s better than that?
Bonus: A beer with benefits
There are also some unexpected benefits to drinking unpasteurized beer. You’re left with live yeast and enzymes which are good for your gut, while the alcohol content kills any harmful bacteria. As Harry, one of our founders, is fond of saying of our beer, “it’s like drinking a probiotic, but WAY more fun.” With pasteurization, some good compounds in the barley and hops remain, but most of the b-vitamin and probiotic benefits are lost.2
But let’s be honest… It’s not primarily for health reasons that you choose to drink beer. It’s because when done right— and for a lot of you, “right” may come to mean unpasteurized— it tastes like Aphrodite in a pint glass.
Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and passion, as seen in a pint glass
Additional fun fact:
All beers were unpasteurized before the 1870s, until the father of pasteurization, Louis Pasteur, invented the process in an attempt to improve French beer. Well-versed in the ways of wine, he was grappling with how quickly beer spoiled (remember, no fridges back then). As the Edinburgh Review published at the time, he “taught the brewers to…expose the bottles for a short time to [extremely high] temperatures.”
Louis Pasteur was actually known better for his remarkable discoveries in the causes and prevention of diseases, but we are thankful he had some time to dabble in beer as well. Without him, beer may never have become as widespread and popular as it is today… and then what sort of world would we live in?
Thanks for reading! Visit our shop if you’re feeling thirsty for Lion Brewery Co beer.