CAMRA’s rumoured isinglass ban troubles brewers

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Beer process: fish-based isinglass is used to clarify beers
Beer process: fish-based isinglass is used to clarify beers

Related tags Brewing Beer

Brewers have received calls from agitated consumers, asking them to stop using the beer fining agent isinglass, after the national press falsely reported a ban by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

Rumours of a ban started when the organisation’s Good Beer Guide​ editor Roger Protz called for UK brewers to cut down on the use of the fish-based clarifier.

However, CAMRA said: “We do not have any policy on the use of isinglass and neither the press release nor Roger’s article made any suggestion that CAMRA is calling for brewers to stop using isinglass.”

Alternatives sought

Protz, a vegetarian, told a local newspaper in Coventry ahead of the guide's launch: “A growing number of brewers are now looking at alternatives to isinglass as a clearing or ‘fining’ agent in their beers.

“This then makes them acceptable to vegetarians and vegans – of which there are an increasing number.”

Brewers such as Hogs Back Brewery, Tongham, Surrey, received calls from disgruntled consumers, asking them to stop the use of isinglass, shortly after the false media reports.

Managing director of the brewery Rupert Thompson said: “Like many other brewers, we have been contacted today by consumers asking if we will stop using isinglass, since ‘CAMRA has called for it to be banned’.

“We understand that CAMRA has now made it clear that a ban on isinglass is not their official position, but clearly there has been some regrettable confusion.”

No fixed position

Ironically, the brewery boss continued, the main beer he produced – Hogstar English Craft Lager – was usually made without it.

“It was banned by CAMRA from the Great British Beer Festival because it’s an English keg lager and clears itself due to the long maturation process,” Thompson continued.

“We are a traditional brewer and have no fixed position on isinglass. We use it in our cask beers because it seems to work.

“These beers need to be enjoyed as freshly as possible by customers, something we are sure CAMRA approves of, and we are very open to using alternatives to isinglass if they are shown to be as effective in clarifying beers.”

Traditional aid

Isinglass has been used as a traditional fining process aid for hundreds of years, explained Society of Independent Brewers managing director Mike Benner.

He added: "The beauty of British beer today is its innovation, diversity and wide appeal and some consumers enjoy unfined beers and we are seeing more of these in pubs and on shop shelves while many others enjoy the sparkling clarity of a pint.

"Finings effectively gather the yeast sediment into the bottom of the beer cask and it's part of the process in brewing many thousands of excellent beers.

"They are not typically consumed in the final pint from the bar and are odourless and flavourless."

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