What Is Unfiltered Beer?

We recently visited Pure Project in San Diego, a brewery known for its sustainable practices and excellent brews. During the visit, the bartender mentioned that all the beers on the menu are unfiltered by design.

Let me be the first to tell you that unfiltered beer is made so by design (unless your friend just took up homebrewing and is cutting corners). So, it’s perfectly good to drink, and in some instances is preferable to filtered variations.

This begs the question: what exactly makes a beer unfiltered, and why not filter it? If unfiltered is better, then why filter it at all?

The easiest way to go about this is by comparing filtered and unfiltered beer.

Unfiltered Beer vs Filtered Beer

During the brewing process, sediments — mostly particles of yeast and protein — are left floating in the brew. Many brewers choose to remove these sediments from the final product through a process known as filtering.

So, a filtered beer removes all sediments from the final brew.

Inversely, unfiltered beer is brewed just the same way…just the filtering part is skipped. This leaves the beer with a cloudier look and, in many cases, a much more potent flavor profile. 

There’s also a method in between filtering and unfiltering called rough filtering, because why not.

Health Benefits of Unfiltered Beer: No Hangover!

Did you know that unfiltered beer has some health benefits, making it a relatively healthy beer? Yes, by leaving the beer unfiltered, brewers leave in extra goodies like vitamin B and fiber.

While I can’t attest to the truth of the claim, some brewers assert that B vitamins reduce hangovers. So, unfiltered beer is less likely to give you a hangover. I haven’t experimented with this hypothesis, so try at your own risk.

What is Unfiltered Beer Like?

Unfiltered beer usually has a cloudy color due to the leftover sediment, but this isn’t always the case. There are varying levels of “things” left over during the brewing process depending on what you’re making. So, some unfiltered beers are cloudier than others.

The flavor in unfiltered beer can best be described as unfiltered. When brewers remove sediment, including the yummy proteins, it can soften the entire flavor profile. Unfiltered beer gives you the full-on hop, yeast, brew flavor profile.

As a result of not getting filtered, unfiltered beer can seem heavier or denser than a filtered beer. But the quality of an unfiltered beer over a filtered beer lies entirely in the brewer and your personal beer opinion.

Yes, it’s ok if you don’t like unfiltered beer.

Unfiltered Beer and Wheat Beer

Wheat beer and unfiltered beer look…pretty similar, to say the least. While the two share a cloudy look, the similarities end there. Unless the wheat beer is actually an unfiltered wheat beer.

Really, the only difference between a beer and a wheat beer is that wheat beers use wheat as the primary grain during brewing in lieu of barley. Yes, wheat beers still use barley, but the ratio of wheat to barley is relatively high.

So, to recap, while unfiltered beer and wheat beer look similar, they are not the same.

Unfiltered IPA vs Hazy IPA

As I’ve explored in the past, the factors that make a hazy IPA hazy are…debatable. Hell, what makes an IPA an IPA is debatable.

Basically, some brewers will choose not to filter an IPA and brand it as a hazy IPA. Others will choose not to filter an IPA and brand it as an unfiltered IPA.

Unfiltered hazy IPA? Lunacy.

So some hazy IPAs are unfiltered, and some unfiltered IPAs are hazy, but sometimes they’re neither or both, or one but not the other, but sometimes still both…

Ok I’m losing track here. How about an easy answer: the difference between an unfitlered IPA and a hazy IPA depends on what your brewer says.

Thomas Short
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