Colour Concerns?

We occasionally have customers who get concerned with the colour of a wine or a beer in a carboy. Maybe they think it should look lighter in colour or maybe they bought 2 at the same time and are concerned that they look different in the carboy. I wanted to put everyone’s mind at ease on this subject, hopefully once and for all.
The reality is this: Carboys are thick and light doesn’t travel through one very easily. Minute differences in colour can look dramatic when amplified in a carboy.
Also, yeast in suspension makes a wine or beer look lighter in colour. When I recently made 2 batches of Festa Brew ESB, I decided to take some photos and write a quick blog.
I put on 2 batches of our delicious Festa Brew Dry hopped ESB at the exact same time and for unknown mystical reasons, (Ahhhh…. those mischievous brew gods) the beer on the left started working about an hour before the beer on the right. (and no, I wasn’t even remotely concerned ;) The first photo shown was taken shortly thereafter. The beer on the left looks dramatically lighter in colour because it has started fermenting a tiny bit sooner and the billions of yeast cells reflect light causing it to look lighter. Combine this with the depth of the carboy and the effect is dramatic.
After 72 hours though, in the second photo, the beer on the right is fermenting at its peak while the beer on the left has already started to settle causing it to look much darker…. same beer, same colour, but dramatically different looking again.
The final result? Both of these finished beer now taste identical, look identical, and are ridiculously delicious.
The moral of the story? You can’t judge a book by it’s cover, and don’t judge a “bock” by it’s “colour” either! (Same goes for wine too).
Steven Haynes
Noble Grape.

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One Response to Colour Concerns?

  1. Tim says:

    Excellent post, Steve–and great-looking beer.

    Fermentations all look different, and while it’s a good idea to pay attention to the brew, your only real source of information about what’s happening in the carboy are your hydrometer and your thermometer. Visual signs really don’t carry the day.

    Something interesting about why actively fermenting batches look lighter than ones that are clearing or clear: it’s the Rayleigh scattering effect, named after Lord Rayleigh. When light passes through a media that has a lot of tiny particles in it (be it a carboy full of yeast cells or a room with a lot of dust motes in the air) the photons hit the particles and are scattered, lightening the appearance of that medium.

    This is why filtered red wines are actually _darker_ than unfiltered ones, as counter-intuitive as that may seem.

    Enjoy your beer!

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