Brewing with the Aurochs: Carbonation

Its time to celebrate and raise a glass to yourself because you deserve it. There is no better way to unwind than enjoying a great tasting brewski. Most gluten-free drinkers associate bubbly drinks with champagne, but it is time to celebrate the role that carbonation plays in a drink that has existed for over 10,000 years. Throughout the majority of human history, men and women have been making memories over a great tasting brew. Although beers have evolved throughout time, one thing’s for certain: a great gluten-free beer is something worth celebrating.

The beers today would not be the same without carbonation. Carbonation impacts the presentation, mouthfeel, taste, and aroma of beer. It is a major contributor to the foamy head on a delicious craft brew. It also helps lift hop and malt aroma out of the beer and tickle your tastebuds with that familiar zip.

Carbonation is primarily a byproduct of the yeast used in the brewing process, which create carbon dioxide (CO2) during fermentation. Yeast eats sugar and produces alcohol, carbon dioxide, heat, and flavor compounds. Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is “soluble” in water and beer. If you haven’t heard of solubility, lets relate solubility to other drinks that we’re familiar with. The solubility of CO2 is a parallel process to how sugar dissolves in coffee or lemonade and becomes part of the solution. If you want experience carbonation, you can try a sparkling water or soda (or for those from Pittsburgh, pop)–just make sure to check with the manufacturer to make sure it is gluten-free.

Brewers can trap this carbonation in beer through a variety of processes including spunding, krausening, and bottle conditioning. Many commercial beers supplement the carbonation of yeast with food grade CO2 to appease the modern palate and ensure a repeatable process. Different styles have different levels of carbonation, which is achieved by dissolving various amounts of CO2 in beer. For example, British beers tend to be less carbonated than American brews.

The carbonation level is dependent on temperature and pressure. CO2 stays in the beer better at lower temperatures and higher pressures. This is why beers lose carbonation in the glass as you drink it. When the beer is opened, the pressure reduces and it slowly warms up in your hand, causing CO2 to escape into the atmosphere.

The beer you started drinking at the beginning of this post is probably less carbonated now than when you started reading. Come to mention it, the glass that I started drinking when I started writing this post is empty and my thirst for another brew is starting to bubble over. It’s time to celebrate by enjoying another gluten-free beer.