Secondary Fermentation
BE Secondary Fermentation Bottles

Secondary fermentation is frequently used in a various number of Belgium beers. Germans and British have some beers that also enjoy this technique. And there are a growing number of beers around the world, especially in the North America, using this technique.

It preserves freshness and creates distinct flavors, that can be very complex, typically flowery, and sometimes more flower-like.

Each country refers to this technique with its own expression: the English-speaking world usually uses the term bottle-conditioned, the Belgians refer as ‘Heigst in the fles’ or ‘Refermentée en bouteille’, which means re-fermentation in the bottle.

There are few ways to create the secondary fermentation. The simplest technique is by bottling the brew unfiltered. But this sounds simple, but to find the exactly amount of yeast left in the bottle requires a great amount of skill.

If too much yeast remains in the bottle, fermentation could be too great and, in extreme cases, the bottle might explode. And if there are not enough sugars, the yeast would die and leave an unpleasantly gritty flavor.

Another way is to let the brew settle in a tank and decant it; so much of the yeast is left out. Others prefer to centrifuge the brew to remove the yeast.

A third option is to filter the brew, then add a measured quantity of fresh yeast. Some brewers use the same yeast for both fermentation stages, but others prefer different types. In general, brewers choose different yeast that will fit the different environment: an organism that can compact, to avoid cloudiness, can work well in a smaller space, with less oxygen and inhibited by alcohol.

In most commercial brewing companies, bottle-conditioning went out of style because it is expensive, more complex to replicate in a production line and very hard to control. So they prefer to filter and pasteurize their beers.

Because of that, consumers grew accustomed to a bright and clear liquid, almost like a beer. But Belgian brewers kept producing like in the old days, so consumers and bartenders know how to serve and drink these beers.

While Bottle fermented beers like Belgium Witbier (Blanche, in France and Switzerland) are usually poured with the yeast in suspension, lambics and other styles are served more gently, as though they were being decanted, so that the sediment is left behind.

So now you know!

Enjoy it!

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