Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Lecture Series: The Art of the Pour

Think back to a time where someone has poured a beer for you and they did it terribly. Your glass probably had a little beer at the bottom, followed by a ton of foam billowing up to the top. Below is picture of a beer that I poured badly.

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There are a number of reasons why your beer foamed up more than usual and I will address them all throughout this post. Regardless of the reason behind why your beer is foaming up, it still remains the only socially acceptable reason to say to your brother, "Why did you give me so much head!?" (FYI, head is another term for foam.)

The first thing you should pay attention to is the cleanliness of the glass. Even a bit of dust can cause the beer to foam up, so make sure you rinse your glasses before you pour. The second thing to pay attention to is the temperature of the beer. The warmer the beer is, the more likely it is to foam over. Keep your beer cold and it will behave better.

Lindsey's hands will guide you through the pouring mechanics.

Another thing that you should pay attention to is the carbonation of the beer. This will mostly be an issue with home brews and sometimes with bottle conditioned beers. Most corked beers are bottle conditioned (finish fermenting in the bottle). A good way to gauge the carbonation level of corked beer is to just take the cork out. If there is a loud pop, it is very carbonated. If there is no pop, you may have gotten a bad bottle.

When pouring, always tilt the glass. This will allow you to pour most of the beer without much foam at all. If you don't believe me, pour one glass directly in, and pour the other while tilting the glass. It makes a world of difference. Keep the pouring speed not too fast. It isn't a race. The beer will still be there when you finish.

Notice how Lindsey doesn't pour one glass fully and then the other, she pours a little into each and goes back and forth until they are both full (obviously disregard if you are pouring one beer into one glass). There is an actual reason behind this. With bottle conditioned beer, the yeast is still floating around in the beer, but it gathers towards the bottom. If you pour one beer entirely, one person will get an entire yeast-beer, while the other person gets no yeast. That would be like you were drinking two different beers.

As I have mentioned before, the last inch or so of the bottle is heavy with yeast, which is perfectly fine to drink, but you need to make that decision yourself. I happen to like the yeasty flavor, so I pour mine every time.

The amount of head you leave on your beer really depends on the style, but a good general measure is two fingers (see above). This will slowly dissipate as you drink and the beer sits. Generally, beer should have good head retention (the head will not dissipate quickly). Usually what happens is the foam will disappear from patches and eventually you will be left with a kind of thin border of foam that sits on top of the beer and sticks to the side of the glass. This is actually called Belgian Lace. Now you know. Impress your friends. 

This is post is pretty much just talking about bottled and canned beer. If you are foaming up from a keg, it means that your pressure is too high. Don't pump 1000 times and expect the beer to just come out faster, unfoamed. You will get pitcher after pitcher of 100% foam. If thats what you want, go for it. If not, then just pump when it needs it. Don't go overboard. 

Hopefully now you have the tools necessary to correctly pour your beer. Although, the only way to get better is to practice. Why don't you crack open a few beers and try to pour them correctly? Once they are poured you may as well drink them too. Oh well. If you have to, you have to. 

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at You can send me cool photos too, if you like.


  1. As far as pouring beers at a bar, have you seen many places with the 'new' TurboTap? I saw a short video on the inventors, and a bar down the street from me just installed them.

    1. I haven't actually seen this in action yet. I have heard of it. There is also a tap system that pours from the bottom up.

      It's cool that you can fill a beer 2x faster and definitely helpful for bars.