A Good Beer Blog


Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


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Craig -

I have a buddy who brews sorghum beer commercially. He told me sorghum brews aren't considered 'beer" in the U.S. so they are regulated not by the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) but rather the FDA. The TTB does not require nutritional info on their packaging, but the FDA, does.

Alan -

This is the Canadian regulation for determining what is beer. I would love to have labels tell me which beer had "polyvinylpyrrolidone" whatever the hell that is.

Anna Marie -

Polyvinylpyrrolidone is not an additive it's a filter aid. It adds nothing to the beer and is no more an additive than is stainless steel.

Alan -

So, you are anonymously confirming that it is not in craft beer? Why then does the Federal Government of Canada set out in law that it may be added to allowed in beer if it is not in the beer?

And Erik Lars Myers, certified Cicerone and also brewer at Mystery Brewing Co., identified as an artisanal brewery in Hillsborough, NC. has stated on twitter today that "PVPP is a clarifying agent. Agreed that I don't want it in beer. It's fairly common, I think."

So, is it in the beer or not?

foo man -

The problem is the additional cost. Micro breweries do not need additional cost added. Where as this may be easy for macro breweries, smaller micro breweries will no have even more cost.

Bailey -

The argument we've heard is that PVPP is put in the beer, does its thing, and is then removed along with the haze-creating particles, so it's not an ingredient so much as a process.

Anna Marie -

Mr. Myers is correct in saying it is a clarifying agent, but then again so is diatomaceous earth. Polyvinylpyrrolidone adsorbs tannin material from the malt which when combined with certain proteins will cause a beer haze or sediment over time. It is in fact added to unfiltered beer with a contact time of only a few minutes, but is then immediately filtered out (along with the tannins). It adds nothing, it removes something and is in no way detectable in the final beer. Any macro or micro brewer concerned about colloidal stability due to extended shelf time is probably using polyvinylpyrrolidone or perhaps even silica gel. Silica gels do the same thing only they adsorb protein. SGs can be very selective in the proteins they remove, and don't adsorb the mid-molecular weight proteins that contribute to foam stability.

Referring to these 2 products as additives is most certainly misleading. Polyvinylpyrrolidone is so inert that it is not even a WHMIS controlled product.

Alan -

Referring to the products as additives is the law of Canada, anonymous Anna. Any reason you are not disclosing who you are?

Alan -

BTW - more PVPP data porn here and here.

ethan -

As a consumer, I am all for it.

As a very small brewery owner, I feel the costs associated with assaying such things would potentially be prohibitive, but that certainly depends on how the laws are structured. If the TTB or FDA cares to provide free gas chromotography or mass spectrometry, then by all means, I'll pay for the postage.

Alan -

But it should not be prohibitive to establish calories and ml of alcohol within a reasonable range or error. Isn't your problem only a matter of precision?

Tad Dobbs -

While I can understand the presumed importance of putting calories on beer labels, the reality that most people that should be watching calories don't ever look at the label. Not to mention the lack of uniformity in serving size that can be found on nearly every consumable product purchased. Until there is uniformity in what a serving size is across the board for all beers and better education about diet, exercise and eating choices the public health minister should realize that labels don't mean anything to most consumers.

Alan -

Your use of "presumed" and " reality" is quite charming but, as is clear from the discourse, the "don't mean nuttin to nobody" argument is not a very compelling when we understand that the same information is already on every other consumed fluid.

ethan -

We could estimate it, as all (ok, most) breweries do with ABV or IBUs. If a reasonible estimate is sufficient, then sure, no big deal.

But when you ask for regulations, you invite more than you asked for ofttimes. So it strikes me as a good idea to offer but cautious support for the idea.

Anna Marie -

Alan, Is supplying my name not enough information to comment? Call me anonomous if you will, but I don't see how reporting further personal information would bring value to this discussion.

My only point was that while some ingredients are "added" to a beer others are simply "used" in its production. I doubt if our governement law makers know, or really care about the difference.

Alan, Princess of Saturn -

You offer little to support your firmness of position without the context. But I expect you have a decent reason that is job related so I am not giving you the gear.

I would not expect that at all of government. Protecting against adulteration of the food supply isn't a shits and giggles effort. People have died from bad booze for as long as booze has been made.

Craig -

Don't worry, Alan, some day your prince will come.

Anna Marie -

Nice talking to you Alan.

Alan -

Now that that roller coaster is done, any one care to review whether the good craft brewer, like Eric apparently, avoids PVPP in favour of the natural alternatives?

Jeff Alworth -

Alan, you seem to have taken a drastic position on this one, but I do feel like the gray area is pretty huge. You're taking the position that anything ever used in the production of beer ought to be named, whether it's in the bottle or not. How do you feel about lactic acid used to treat wort pH? If you think that ought to be on there, how would you adjudicate the reinheitsgebot-approved mash-treatment system, which is the incredibly baroque process of creating a sour mash, processing and harvesting the lactic acid, and then adding it? Since it was a part of the brewing process and not an additive, should it get mentioned?

What about minerals. If they occur naturally in the water, then they should be mentioned, or no? If you Burtonize your water--yes or no? Natural and unnatural are often, to a brewer, not obvious distinctions.

I'm not taking a side here. I'm big on consumer-information rights, but Anna Marie is right; if the pvpp isn't in you bottle of beer (assuming for the sake of this hypothetical that that's the case--I don't actually know how much does or doesn't remain), doesn't it actually confuse things to list it?

Alan -

Drastic? How is approving some consumer education drastic? How is it that putting information on a beer bottle that is required on a pack of gum drastic?

After that, you have run down a road without me. Calories and ml of pure alcohol. That's it. Oh, and anything with "polyvinyl-" in the name. I think it would be hilarious if organic beer brewers clarified with chemicals and not irish moss.

Jeff Alworth -

I believe you're dodging, but never mind. Instead I offer this anecdote. In Dusseldorf, we came to the filter at Uerige. My two tour guides said, knowingly, "kieselguhr." Kiesel what now, I asked. They pulled up the iPhone. The translation was unhelpful enough now that I can't recall. The Bavarian brewer (mocked by the Dusseldorfers for his accent) started to explain to me the process of mining, which seemed really far afield until I got it: "Diatomaceous earth!" I said to the mystified looks of the Germans and my wife.

But I was right.

Turns out DE--kieselguhr, properly--was actually first discovered in Germany. I should have known, but as so often, did not.

John C -

The organic craft brewer carbon filters the chlorinate and fluoridated municipal water. I’m going to stop drinking his beer as soon as he puts sodium hypochlorite and hexafluorosilicic acid on the label. Polyvinyl- is starting to sound rather appetizing.

Alan -

Diatomaceous earth is what I have poured on my potato plants to kill off potato beetles. Horrid stuff if you are an insect. Tiny little knives of stone. Slices them to bits. Wonder what property makes it good for both those things?

"Hexafluro-" sounds as bad as "polyvinyl-"! What would be really really funny is if they were to leave them there or use these things in techniques when they are heritage brewing recipe recreations.

Craig -

Diatomaceous earth = surface area. Good for millions of tiny, little, knife-like sharp edges and/or bumps and ridges for collecting microscopic proteins.

Simon Tucker -

A UK unit is a measure of alcohol, not of alcoholic strength. So in your example, your 500ml of 7% beer has 3.5 units. The recommended amount of alcohol per day and per week are somewhat arbitrary however, and vary wildly around the world.

Alan -

"The recommended amount of alcohol per day and per week are somewhat arbitrary however, and vary wildly around the world."

That is a problem of science and policy not of human biology. A Uruguayan liver absorbs no differently than a Ugandan one - though admittedly there are apparently some differences now that I recollect. Whatever it is, the variation is not arbitrary so much as wrong.

Plus, stating a UK unit is a measure of alcohol, not of alcoholic strength makes no sense. Alcohol comes in one strength. Beer comes in different strengths. I just want a direct statement of how much of a chemical in is the fluid as packaged. Everything else is, as noted above, arbitrary opinion.


A tangent, but in response to your comment..."A Uruguayan liver absorbs no differently than a Ugandan one..."

From "The genetics of alcohol metabolism: Role of alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase variants." Alcohol Research & Health 30(1):5–13, 2007.

Research shows that alcohol use and alcohol-related problems are influenced by individual variations in alcohol metabolism, or the way in which alcohol is broken down and eliminated by the body. Alcohol metabolism is controlled by genetic factors, such as variations in the enzymes that break down alcohol; and environmental factors, such as the amount of alcohol an individual consumes and his or her overall nutrition. Differences in alcohol metabolism may put some people at greater risk for alcohol problems, whereas others may be at least somewhat protected from alcohol’s harmful effects.

Alan -

Agreed but, still, a Uruguayan liver absorbs no differently than a Ugandan one. The variation is there (having done drunk driving defences cases it's clear) but the variation is not cultural nor does the law take it into account.

Simon tucker -

Alan, 35 ml of alc = 3.5 units. The unit is exactly what you're looking for

Alan -

Simon. 35 ml is 35 ml. That is what I am looking for. Please don't be thick.