How to Drink Beer: Part #2

Pouring Beer & Serving Glasses
Welcome to the second installment of drinking beer.  In this post we are going to discuss both pouring beer and serving glasses. Pouring beer is simple right? You just take a bottle, pop the top, and pour it into your glass right? Wrong.  There several very important things to remember when pouring beer especially if it’s live craft beer.

Warm the beer to the right temperature
As discussed before in How to Drink Beer Part #1 – you need to be sure to drink your beer at the correct style temperature according.  Not all beers are created equal and temperature will affect how the CO2 in your beer stays or explodes out of solution.  Opening a beer that is too warm could result in a geyser of CO2 where as opening a beer to cold may result in the retention of too much carbonation.  Do your research on the style, it’ll make your tasting experience more memorable and enjoyable.

Decant that Shit –
Many Craft Beers and Belgian Beers are live and unfiltered.  This means there will be a layer of yeast sludge on the bottom of the bottle.  Certain styles, such as Bavarian Hefeweizens treasure the yeast and actually make a spectacle out of serving it.  Randy Mosher talks about his experiences watching the Germans rolling the bottle along the bar sideways followed by sprinkling the dregs on the top of the beer’s head.  Crazy, yet awesome.  There are also some Belgian beers, such as wit, that also encourage drinkers to include the yeast when pouring, but most, as a rule of thumb, do not.  If you are dealing with an unfiltered beer that has yeast on the bottom and you are trying to split the bottle between multiple people it’s probably best that you decant it into a cooled GLASS pitcher of some sort first.  I say glass as plastic tends to cause over-foaming, but in all honesty, a little foam is okay.  Getting ride of excess carbonation will actually allow you to taste to beer better.  This yet another tactic that macro-breweries use to trick their drinkers.  Having a high concentration of carbonic acid (CO2) tingles your tongue and distracts it from the drinks real flavors.  While this may be okay for soda and some macrobeer it doesn’t add anything to well crafted beers.  *Note – Sometimes the opposite can be true.  Varying levels of carbonation can bring out certain flavors in a well crafted beer that would be difficult to detect otherwise. Decanting into a pitcher also allows you to avoid the yeast dregs.  If, for example, you were pouring unfiltered brew into multiple glasses directly from the bottle you may disturb the yeast sediment every time you tip the bottle back and fourth between pourings. The last guy/gal to get a glass would be doomed to the muddy aftermath.  So always decant unless have the steadiness of Ninja…or you truly hate someone.

Do or Don’t pour the yeast
Just make sure you know before you pour. Although, when in doubt… Dont’!

Pour it down the center of the glass
It may seem like a good idea to pour down the side of a titled glass to reduce the amount of head, but in actuality it prevents the beer from releasing excess CO2 that would otherwise hinder your taste buds.  This will also lead to head retention problems in the glass.  Bartenders have their beer under pressure, but this is usually much less than the type of pressure you find in a bottle.  They are able to manage and maintain the proper carbonation level at all time – if they know what they are doing.  Still, most bartenders will pour a beer down the side of a glass to give you the most complete pour.  While you do, in fact, get more beer, you lose out on the presentation and all the pluses that come with an amazing foam head.  I’m reminded of my time in Japan a few years back.  Despite the lack of beer variety, the bartenders really knew how to pour a mean Sapporo/Asahi/Kirin Ichiban.  No matter where I went or ordered, the taps were clean, and the beers all had the correct level of head. You could hold your beer up to any Japanese beer ad in the area and it would look exactly like the picture.

So how do you do it?
Pour the beer down the center of the glass and be patient.  When the head dies down continue pouring.  You’ll find that if you do this at a medium pace down the center of the glass you get the perfect pour and the perfect head.  A little patience really pays off.  John also notes that the rate at which you pour is beer dependant.  Some will be very slow, otherwise you’ll end up with 80% head; others you might have to pour quickly and from 2 feet above the glass to get right level of foam.  The end result should be a head that takes up the top ~20% of the glass.

What serving glass do you use? The Schooner, the Tumbler, the Wine Glass, the Goblet, the Pub Glass, the Flute, the Pislner Glass, the Tulip? The best glass to drink out of is, hands down, the tulip glass.  There is no other glass that will support the head, concentrate the aromas, and make you look fancier.  No matter what the beer style, a tulip glass will bring out its best qualities.  The adverse glass to this is the tumbler  or pint glass.  The standard pint glass you get at the bar is the worst glass for drinking beer if you are trying to appreciate it, but then again sometimes that’s the only option and its okay.  If you can find a pub glass (it has a little bulge about ½ inch from the rim of the glass) you’ll be slightly better off.  That being said, most breweries have their own unique glass that they advertise as the best way to consume & enjoy their beer.  We suggest trying it different ways. Drink out of a wine glass, a pub glass, a tulip, and the breweries suggested glass.  See if you notice anything differences – you may have to train yourself a little to pick them out, but they are there.  I always notice that I can smell and pick out specific ingredients better when I drink out of a wine or tulip glass.

Experimenting with different types of glassware, pouring speeds, temperatures, CO2 levels, and yeast in the beer can be a rewarding and fun experience.  It’ll help you appreciate new beers and maybe even bring some of those old favorites back to life.

Have fun and open your mind like Quatto!

– Kip

P.S. Don’t forget we have a contest going on! Get your drink and review on and post it to our facebook page.

About Kristofor Barnes

Kip is the founder of Bierkast and co-founder of Los Angeles Ale Works. Picking up home brewing after college, he has since become an accomplished award winning home brewer, LA Beer Blogger, and author of the Beer Lover's Guide to Southern California. Kip is a graduate of the University of Southern California's School of Cinema Television. He lives in Inglewood, CA with his sciency wife Katie. Follow him @bierkast or #FollowTheLAAW @laaleworks

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