How to Perfectly Pour & Serve a Craft Beer
If you think serving beer is as simple as pouring liquid in a cup, think again. How you pour and serve a beer can greatly affect its smell, color, taste and mouth-feel. That means a “pour” technique (get it?) can dramatically affect your customers’ enjoyment of their beer. Read on to learn how to pour beer from a tap and serve it properly to ensure your customers are getting the best experience possible.
Serving Beer at the Right Temperature
The style of the beer dictates the temperature. Serving beer that is icy cold is usually the wrong move, as the taste of most beers is greatly diminished by such frigid temps. Brewers take temperature very seriously, and some will even go as far as to list the temp right on the label. Here are some examples of styles, and their suggested temperatures:
- Very Cold: 32-39°F – pale lager, golden ale, and American cider
- Cold: 39-45°F – Hefeweizen, Pilsner, American dark lager
- Cool: 45-54°F – American Pale Ale, amber ale, Irish ale, Altbeir
- Cellar: 54-57°F – India and English Pale Ale, brown ale, bitter, Bock
- Warm: 57-61°F – barley wine, Imperial Stout, Double IPA, mead
- Hot: 158°F – spiced winter ale, Quelque Chose
Craft beer is meant to be enjoyed out of a glass. While it’s not true that cans give off a metallic flavor (the aluminum cans used to package craft beer have a water-based polymer lining that protects the brew from any contamination), sipping beer directly from the can can affect its taste.
Zach Mack, certified cicerone and cofounder of Alphabet City Beer Co. in New York’s East Village, had this to say: “I personally think that you’re not getting the full experience when you don’t pour it out. You’re not releasing a lot of the carbonation. You won’t get all the aromas out of the skinny neck of a bottle or a can.”
It’s for that reason that your bartenders should always pre-pour beer for patrons, rather than handing them a can or glass. Never serve your customers canned or bottled beer without pouring it first.
How to Pour Beer from a Tap
First and foremost, always make sure the glass is clean. The best way to pour most craft beers is to hold your glass at a 45° angle, while trickling the beer down the side. Never let the tap or bottle touch the edge of the glass where a customer would put their mouth, as this can contaminate the beer.
When pouring from a draft, it is best to allow the first ounce to flow from the tap before placing the glass. This is to clear the line of any old beer that may be the wrong temperature. A craft beer poured at the wrong temperature will not be presented in the way its brewers intended.
Anyone who loves craft beer knows that a foamy head can be a good thing, depending on the style. Most heads are poured by tilting the glass at the half-way point of the pour, to a 90° angle. Continue the pour in the middle of the glass. You can even move it away as you pour to encourage a bigger head. The ideal head of a beer is generally 1- 1 .5 inches. The head carries all of the flavor profiles, proteins and body of the beer. How long it takes to dissipate, known as ‘retention,’ and the residue it leaves, called ‘lacing,’ are both indictors of a beer’s quality and style.
How to Pour these Special Styles
Most craft beers are poured in the manner described above. However, there are a few special types of beer that require a slightly different pour.
Wheat Beer – These craft beers are rich in protein, so they tend to have a larger head on them. They also contain yeast, which should be evenly distributed throughout the beer. You can do this by gently rolling the bottle/can back and forth before opening to pour.
Bottle-Conditioned Beers – These craft beers are called “bottle-conditioned” because they have natural CO2 built up from adding extra yeast. The opposite of wheat beer, these craft beers should be stored upright. The yeast settled at the bottom, should be kept out of the pour as much as possible. Stop pouring at the neck, and etiquette says to leave the remains with the customer, as some enjoy the taste, just aside from that of their beer.
Nitrogen Beers – Just like their name, these craft beers are forced with carbonation containing nitrogen, rather than carbon-dioxide. Take everything you know about pours and throw it out the window with this one. A true show-stopper, pour these beers hard, and as upright as possible. Once the head of the beer is done cascading, it is ready to drink.
Properly Storing Beer
Keep all beer in the dark. Ultraviolet light can react with the compounds in the beer and produce a skunky flavor. The term “skunked” is derived from a process in which a beer becomes “light-struck.” When beer is exposed to light, it breaks down the hop molecules called isohumlones, This process emits a chemical that is related to the same kind a skunk sprays on its victims.
You should also store all of your beer in a cool place. This is because warm temperatures speed up the aging process, which can lead to stale beer.
Make sure you are keeping on top of how to pour any new craft beers, and informing your staff. Evergreen’s menu tool allows you to enter any new beverages, food or even merchandise in one main dashboard. You can notify followers on the TapHunter app, or search a database of 300,000+ beverages, to help you keep track of the necessary finishes for each beer.