Many aficionados of British ales are slightly suspicious of bottled beer; they feel it’s a bit of cheat if not imbibed in the local pub, sitting by a real log fire. But bottled beer provides true authenticity of flavour and character – and history. To the Indian Civil Service and the Military based in India and its surrounds, the arrival of a consignment of IPA – India Pale Ale- was a godsend, a taste of home, safe and gentle liquor in a sometimes harsh environment. Bottled beer was here to stay from the early 19th century onwards.
There are different ways to produce good bottled beer. Pasteurisation was one and ensures longevity, but it strips some flavour from the beer; it worked with some ales but not with others. In the 1960’s and 70’s the process did great damage to the British beer heritage. Lagers could take this handling; fine ales demanded more skill to retain their complex blend of flavours.
Bottled conditioned beers and carefully filtered beers retain the depth of flavour and provide keeping qualities. In the early 20th century, bottled beers were largely filtered or bottle conditioned. A bottled conditioned beer is a live beer: it is still fermenting and sits on a bed of the yeast that gently continues the process. These beers should be allowed to settle and then poured in one serve into a glass or jug so as not to disturb the sediment. Prospect and Noel are fine examples of this style of beer.
Hepworths also endorse meticulous filtration of their beers to avoid the taste-damaging effects of heat. A filtered bottle can be transported and poured immediately – although no shaking! – and so you can enjoy a bottle of real ale at home at any time.