The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #77153   Message #1373421
Posted By: Jim Dixon
06-Jan-05 - 08:07 PM
Thread Name: BS: Unpasteurized beer
Subject: RE: BS: Unpasteurized beer
I've done a bit of research. I was wrong; most, but not all, US beer is pasteurized. However, this leaves me a bit confused. If beer isn't pasteurized, then it contains live yeast, right? (Maybe not much, if it's been filtered, but there must be some traces.) If it contains live yeast, then fermentation can continue, right? If fermentation continues, then the alcohol content increases. But alcohol content is the basis for taxation in the US. It is also the basis for certain laws. For example, in Minnesota, you can buy beer in a supermarket or convenience store only if it has less than 3.2% alcohol. "Strong" beer can be sold only in licensed liquor stores. How do you collect tax fairly, or enforce laws fairly, if the alcohol content of beer is continually changing, or has the potential to change, after it leaves the brewery?

If brewers were allowed to sell unpasteurized beer, it seems to me they could avoid all tax by selling unfermented beer—that is, beer that would ferment in the bottle (or keg) after you buy it. Why don't they do that?

I've heard that, in Britain, beer actually does continue to ferment after it leaves the brewery, while it sits in the pub cellar. That's why the alcohol content is not used as a basis for taxation. (It also explains why British pubs smell like yeast, which is a bit like the smell of fresh-baked bread.) Instead, British tax is based on "original gravity," which is roughly a measure how much alcohol the beer can potentially develop, but the actual amount of alcohol depends on when you measure it!

Is my reasoning wrong somewhere?