By Marc Wisdom | Contributor
Ah, beer, that glorious liquid that has been a staple since the beginning of humanity, the reason for revelations and used to celebrate the most auspicious of occasions. Often considered a “working-man’s” refreshment, beer is now coming into its own as a complex and refined beverage worthy of appearing on the menus of the poshest of restaurants right alongside fine wine. But, even with its newfound acceptance, beer is often not served in the manner it deserves. There are many factors that go into properly serving a beer, but it all comes down to one thing: the pour.
Get Squeaky Clean
There is a saying by Sri Sathya Sai Baba, an Indian spiritual leader that says, “A person might be an expert in any field of knowledge or a master of many material skills and accomplishments. But without inner cleanliness his brain is a desert waste.” If this saying were adapted to fit the beer world it might say, “A beer might be made by the most skilled hands or from the finest ingredients. But, without inner cleanliness of a glass, the brew is swill.” Dirty glasses impart off-flavors to beer that can prevent your full enjoyment. And that is a crying shame.
A couple of tests you can administer to check if your glasses are “beer clean” are the salt test and the bubble test. In the first, you wet the inside of a glass with water and shake regular table salt onto the wet sides. The salt will not stick to areas of the glass that are not clean. In the other test, pour a beer into a glass and observe the bubbles. If they stick to the sides instead of rolling upward, the glass is not clean.
Fortunately, there is a simple way to make sure that your glasses are “beer clean” at home. Wash your beer glasses separately from your other dishes in a non-foaming detergent, rinse thoroughly and dry upside down on a wire rack.
Prepare to Pour
Many serious beer bars have installed a beer glass rinser near the beer taps. The rinser shoots a stream of water upward when an upside down glass is pressed against it to insure any dust, debris or sanitizer is rinsed away before beer is poured. But, for the casual beer drinker, installing a $200 rinser next to your kitchen sink is not necessary. Simply rinse your glass in a bucket of cold water before pouring.
The water left on the inside of the glass also helps the beer pour better. Friction caused by a dry glass can create too much foam and therefore too much head. A wet glass has much less friction and allows the head to develop more naturally and not over-develop.
Let ‘er Rip
Now that you have a properly cleaned and rinsed glass it is time to pour your beer.
Step 1: Hold the glass at a 45-degree angle and begin pouring. Aim for a spot about halfway between the top and the bottom of the glass. If you are pouring from a can, do not allow the beer to “chug” out, hold the can so that a steady stream pours out. If serving from a tap, do not allow the glass to rest on the tap, as this can introduce undesired impurities.
Step 2: As the glass becomes about half full, begin to tilt it upright until it is about three-fourths full.
Step 3: Stop pouring, set the beer on a flat surface and let it settle a bit. According to the official pouring guidelines issued for Guinness, the beer should rest 119.5 seconds. For the typical craft beer that is probably too long, just keep an eye on it and do not let the head settle completely out.
Step 4: Finish the pour by topping the beer off. The head should reach the top rim without overflowing and should be about an inch thick.
Following these simple guidelines will ensure the beer you serve is showcased at its finest and will likely impress your friends with your beer-pouring prowess. And, even if your friends are not so easily impressed, you will have the satisfaction of having achieved the proper pour and can enjoy your efforts with a well-deserved craft beer.