Drink Magazine

The Beer Guy Beer School; Lesson 1 — Pop That Top! Serving Beer Properly

By Marc Wisdom @JaxBeerGuy

beerschoolBecause we know that not everyone who reads this blog is a beer expert, we are starting a new four-week series to help you hone your beer-tasting skills. It is our goal to help you learn how to swill your brew with authority. So, we present to you The Beer Guy’s Beer School!

Because understanding how to properly serve your beer in integral to getting full enjoyment from it the first lesson in the series will these important topics. Other lessons in this series will cover topics such as how to assess the quality of your chosen beers through with multiple senses including sight, smell and taste. In these lessons, you will find information on what you should be looking for in a beer, how it should smell and how it tastes.

The first topic, as mentioned above is how to properly serve your beer.

Lesson 1 – Pop That Top! Serving Beer Properly

So, you want to drink beer? Who doesn’t? But, if you want to truly enjoy your beer-drinking experience and not merely pound some swill, keep the first golden rule of serving beer in mind:

Golden Rule of Beer Serving #1

NEVER taste your beer directly from the bottle or can it came in.

To truly savor your brew it is vital to sample your beer from the proper glass. Because of the many characteristics of the huge variety of beers there is an equally astounding number of glasses that have been created to drink it from. For most establishments, the common shaker pint glass is the preferred vessel for beer consumption. But, research – and tradition – may indicate otherwise.

In Belgium, using the proper glassware to serve a beer is practically a religion. No self-respecting bartender in that beer-loving country would ever serve a Flanders Red ale in a shaker glass. No, these tart ales from the northern – Flanders – region of Belgium require a glass that will concentrate and intensify the aromas of the beer so the drinker can enjoy the brew fully.

Proper glassware can be tricky, though. With so many glass styles to choose from, it can be daunting knowing which beer should be served in a given glass style. Never fear,  Beer School has a handy reference for you right here. Instead of purchasing dozens of glassware styles, concentrate on just a few that can be used to great success for several beer styles.

pintglass
Pint Glass, Shaker Glass, Nonic Glass, Tumbler Glass

In America, the pint glass is the most commonly used glass to serve beer. While it is not the best suited glass for all beers, it is inexpensive and holds approximately 16-ounces of beer.  The American shaker has straight sides rather than the pictured Nonic, or British-style glass.

Styles this glass is most appropriate for include: British-Style Bitter, Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Double/Imperial IPA, Amber/Red Ale, Brown Ale, Altbier, Porter, Milk Stout, Oatmeal Stout, Marzen/Oktoberfest, Pumpkin Ale, Rye Beer, Saison, Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy, Smoked Beer.

pilsnrglass
Pilsner Glass

The German Pilsner Glass was developed as a tall thin glass to showcase the beautiful golden color of the beer style. The tall shape also highlights the bubbles running up the inside and concentrates the fluffy, aromatic head.

Styles this glass is most appropriate for include: Blonde Ale, Hefeweizen, Pilsner, California Common/Steam Beer, Japanese Rice Lager, Witbier.

snifter
Snifter

Snifters have a large bowl area with a narrower mouth. The bowl provides plenty of room for swirling the beer to bring aromas out while the narrower mouth serves to concentrate those aromas.

Styles this glass is most appropriate for include: Old or Strong Ale, Barleywine, Double/Imperial IPA, Double/Imperial Stout, Belgian Dark Ale, Belgian Pale Ale, Quad, Tripel.

goblet
Goblet

Sturdy, yet elegant, the goblet is generally composed of a large, wide-mouthed bowl on a sturdy stem. Often these glasses are very ornate and may include gold or silver leaf designs. The goblet’s main purpose is to create a large surface area for copious amounts of aromatic head.

Styles this glass is most appropriate for include: Belgian IPA, Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Berliner Weissbier, Dubbel, Tripel, Quad.

These four beer glasses will accommodate the majority of beer style adequately. But, if you are a purest and want to serve beer in only the most appropriate glassware, prepare to invest in hundreds of styles.

Now that you have the proper glassware, it is important to know how to pour your beer into it. But before we get to that, here is another golden rule:

Golden Rule of Beer Serving #2

NEVER pour beer into a chilled glass.

A chilled glass will cause the beer to foam too much when poured resulting in a short pour. Another problem with a frosted mug is that it may chill the beer too much, which you will learn later is a real problem for beer enjoyment. So, keep your beer glasses at room temperature for best results.

When you have opened your beer and are ready to pour it into a glass, hold the bottle (or can) in one hand and the glass is the other. Pour your beer in such a way as to create a decent head of foam. To do this, follow these simple steps:

  1. Hold the glass at 45 degrees.
  2. Pour the beer at the midpoint of the glass.
  3. Tilt the glass upright as you reach the midpoint of the glass.
  4. Finish your pour to create a one to one and one half inch head.

If you end up with more than the optimal amount of head, you have poured too fast. Allow the head to settle a bit and try again on the next beer. Pouring beer is an art form and like all artistic endeavors, practice makes perfect.

Now that you have mastered choosing the correct glass for your beer and how to pour it into that glass, it is time to learn how to evaluate how your beer appears. We will cover this important topic next Friday in Lesson #2 of The Beer Guy’s Beer School. Until then, hone those pouring skills and impress your friend with your new-found proficiency.

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