August 23, 2010
Ways to Extreme-ify Your Brewing
In honor of this year's shark week: I bring you the first (and probably the last) in ways to extreme-ify your brewing®: Isinglass. That's right, isinglass is made from the swim bladders of fish. What's a swim bladder? Well according to friggin' Wikipedia it's:
"AN INTERNAL GAS-FILLED ORGAN THAT CONTRIBUTES TO THE ABILITY OF A FISH TO CONTROL ITS BUOYANCY, AND THUS TO STAY AT THE CURRENT WATER DEPTH WITHOUT HAVING TO WASTE ENERGY IN SWIMMING"!!!!
I don't know that isinglass is made from shark-parts... but more importantly, I don't know that it isn'tmade from shark-parts. Therefore, isinglass is probably made from shark-parts.
Not only that, but isinglass is one of the most effective fining agents available to homebrewers. It clears stubborn yeast better than any other fining, in my experience.
In times before Amazon.com, portable vessels to transport liquids were hard to come by. Animal bladders and stomachs were used as a convenient, pre-made growler of sorts. Isinglass was probably discovered, much like cheese, accidentally. Like a cow stomach used to carry milk will turn it into cheese, a swim bladder used to carry cloudy wine or beer will cause it to clear. And thus isinglass added to beer will give it a nice clear appearance (and can make yeasty beer less so).
The exact history is unclear, but its usage is simple. It works best at cool temperatures, and it needs to be mixed into solution well to be effective. So try some isinglass. Keep it refrigerated until you use it, add it to chilled beer, and be prepared for extreme clarification!