Whether you’re a brewer, a bartender, or just a lover of beer, it’s critical to know the ins and outs of the perfect pour. But before you can get to sipping, there’s a whole science that goes into ensuring quality and freshness in every glass. From the minute the beer leaves the brewery, it is vulnerable to changes and spoilage. Let’s take a look into what makes a brew great, so we know how to keep it that way.
Quality, Freshness, Stability
Beer quality is determined by many factors, comprised of nearly every sense. It’s a matter of how it looks, smells, tastes, and feels. Before any drinking occurs, judgments can be made solely on appearance. Color, clarity, carbonation, and foam all differ depending on the type of beer. Flavor comes from aroma and taste, both equally important. Texture and mouthfeel (carbonation, thickness, temperature) are also indicators of quality.
The trademark head/foam atop every beer is not just for looks; it plays a role in all sensory experiences. While every type of beer has its own head, it should generally be thick, compact, and long-lasting. Foam helps to aerate the aroma, filling your nose before the first sip. It also affects the mouthfeel.
All of those factors must be in balance to achieve the ideal beer. Brewing it to perfection is one thing; however, the minute the beer leaves the brewery, its quality and freshness begin to wane. All parties in the supply chain need to coordinate to ensure consistent optimal conditions to preserve the beer until it meets its mug. This requires low oxygen levels, low temperatures, and quick turnaround.
Another important aspect is the stability of the beer. Stability is categorized in three groups—physical, microbiological, and flavor. Physical stability affects the beer’s clarity; microbiological stability is affected by spoilage and contamination. These first two are mainly controlled by the brewer, whereas flavor stability becomes a concern during transportation, distribution, and service.
In maintaining the quality of beer, kegs are a great option that allow for consistency across large quantities. They also have a number of other benefits, which you can read about here. It’s critical that the kegs are stored at the same temperature from start to end. Once tapped, the CO2 content (or other gas content) should not be altered. The beer should also be served relatively quickly; hope you’re thirsty!
Part of ensuring the best beer comes down to the glass its poured into. Using the right glass absolutely matters. There are some general guidelines to keep in mind: light beer should be served in bigger glasses than strong beers. Lagers and pilsners are best in tall, narrow glasses, while porters and stouts need wide mouths. For a more thorough breakdown with photos and specifics, check out our guide. And no matter what beer you’re working with, resist the temptation to chill the glass.
One of the most critical factors in serving the perfect beer is ensuring that the glass is “beer clean.” Dirty glasses impact the head and flavor, neither of which should be compromised. The Brewers Association Draught Beer Quality Manual (DBQM) defines a beer clean glass as one that “forms a proper foam head, allows lacing during consumption, and never shows patches of bubbles stuck to the side of the glass in the liquid beer.”
What goes into ensuring a beer clean glass? All glasses should either be manually washed in a three-tub sink or washed with a dedicated automatic glass cleaner. For manual cleaning, start with hot water (130°-140° F) and detergent (not fat- or oil-based). Then scrub the entire glass with a cleaning brush, followed by rinsing in cold water. Lastly, sanitize the glass with hot water and sanitizer, and let air dry completely. Now you can be confident that your glass is ready for optimal service!
At this point, we know what factors qualify a freshly-brewed beer and how to keep it that way. Our glasses are “beer clean,” so we are ready for the pour. All the labor and attention that has led up to this point rests on your ability to master the pour.
- Hold the glass at a 45° angle
- Begin pouring, aiming for halfway down the slope of the glass
- Once half full, slowly begin to straighten the glass
- The ideal head is about 1” to 1.5” of foam, 2” at most
Everything about the pour technique is designed to create the perfect head. You can also gradually add distance between the glass and wherever you’re pouring from to further encourage a thick head.
Voilà! The perfect glass of the perfect brew, ready for enjoyment.
LOOKING TO IMPROVE YOUR BEER SERVICE?
Here at Sestra Systems, we’ve taken all of this beer science into consideration to engineer our one-of-a-kind Smart Dispensing system, TapWise. TapWise pours a specified amount of beer at the push of a button. It’s unmatched technology. Better yet, every detail of every pour is recorded in the Portal, providing you with valuable analytics and control. Like the sound of that? Get in touch today, and we can help you optimize your beer program!