September 16, 2009

The Perfect Beer Head.

Last week I talked about the importance of glassware. Tonight, Iím going to step it up a notch and explain why a good head on a beer is important and how to pour beer to get a proper head.

Iíve had multiple conversations with people that involve around how much head should a beer have? A beer being poured into a glass should have about a 1 to 1.5 inch head. Of course what usually follows is, ďwhy?Ē There is a twofold reason as to why you want the beer to have a head. One is that it directly impacts the scent and flavor, the second is just aesthetics.

Head forms on a beer when air and turbulence is introduced into the body as it is being poured. It releases the Carbon Dioxide, or in the cases of beers such as Guinness Nitrogen, causing the beer to foam up. The head releases the natural aromatics of the beer, helping you to smell them better. These scents then, in turn have an effect on the taste. Also the head washing across the tongue has a direct impact on the mouthfeel of the beer. Is it creamy, effervescent, does it bite the tongue? These all have a direct impact on how much you, the drinker, enjoy the beer.

The secondary impact of the head is the aesthetics. Think about all the beer commercials you see on TV, they show the beer being poured into a glass, with just a touch running down the side of the glass. It looks cool, crisp and refreshing. Most people do not want to see a beer that has no head on it, it looks flat and unappealing. If it has too much head it looks like it is over carbonated or that you are going to be drinking foam before you get to the beer. Marketing companies have spent a lot of time researching to figure out what looks most appealingÖ just think on it.

So how do you get ďthe perfect headĒ? First you have to start with your glassware. See, I told you it was important. Try to get the best glass for the type of beer youíre drinking. Make sure it is clean. You donít want any residue of anything inside the glass that can alter the flavor. This includes detergent, oils, food particles, dust, residue of previous beers, ETC. Whether you are pouring from a tapper or a bottle the rest remains true:

1) Hold the glass at a 45 degree angle.
2) Pour the beer aiming for the middle of the glass.
3) When the beer gets to about the halfway point, return the glass to the upright position, continuing to pour in the center of the glass.

4) Keep an eye on the head. If you are getting too much, decrease the rate of the pouring. If you are getting too little, donít be afraid to be more aggressive and pour harder. Some beers, like lambics and English bitters have difficulty forming head and need to be poured more aggressively. On the other hand, your standard American Pilsners (Miller, Budweiser, Busch, Coors, Etc) can create too much head of agitated, so you may need to pour slowly.

As a word of warning, if you are drinking a beer that is known for its yeast, you may want to pay attention to your pour so that you donít accidently pour the active yeast into the glass. Unless you like it that way, and there is nothing wrong with it.

Viola! Itís as easy as that.

Hereís to a perfectly chilled beer in your future!

Posted by Contagion in Alcohol at September 16, 2009 05:12 PM | TrackBack

Even after all these years since I stopped drinking I am still in favor of good head.

Posted by: Peter at September 16, 2009 06:08 PM

woo, first time to come here, but i like it very much

Posted by: buy jordan shoes at September 17, 2009 10:02 PM

Not that I'm a beer expert, but Guiness is the only beer I've had that I actually LIKED the taste of the foam.

Posted by: Harvey at September 25, 2009 08:20 PM