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The Complex and Beautiful Art of Serving Beer

How proper serving methods improve what is already a delicious beverage.

Beer is, in and of itself, an exquisite experience. From the second a tap opens and out gushes a cold and refreshing beverage to the moment a hiccup leaves the mouth of a satisfied patron, beer delights anyone. It is a work of art.

However, the key to a successful beer experience is in the serving of the beverage.

One of the main indicators of a poorly served beer is when the bartender rids the glass of foam by overflowing it. On the other hand, a correct serving happens when the glass is placed vertically so that the tap touches the bottom of it. Then, when the drink flows forwards, it releases the excess CO2, which allows the foam to settle in the glass.

Foam: neither frugal nor excessive

No one wants to drink a glass full of foam. Although some people tend to avoid foam, others enjoy the fizzling sensation it produces. However, if necessary, a bartender can easily remove any excess foam with a beer scraper or comb. The Germans, who have some of the best brewmasters in the world, wait between five and six minutes to deliver a glass of beer to their customers. First, they open the tap to expel all remaining CO2, and then they wait for the foam to compress.

“The secret is to avoid the foam. That is why when people get served badly (with a lot of foam), they tend to feel bloated. Commonly, people ask me to serve their drinks ‘without foam, so I can have more beer.’ However, that is also a mistake. That way, the beer will be unable to breathe,” said Fabrizio Alvarez, a Mexican bartender.

The foam prevents the beer from entering in contact with air, which causes the beer to oxide, changing its color and smell. When that occurs, the drink tastes like metal, the hops go rancid, and it may cause stomachaches.

Ideally, the beer must be at a low temperature. You then take the glass that matches the beer and place it at a 45-degree angle, so that beer can breathe. Although, it will get to a point where the foam will inevitably form,” said Fabrizio Alvarez.

Patrons should also check that the glasses are clean when they arrive at an establishment. However, it is not only a matter of hygiene. A poorly cleaned glass could lead to a possible bad chemical reaction, both in the beer and in the patron’s stomach. If the soap’s alkaloids react with the beer, the foam will not appear, which will help detect a lousy serving and avoid bloating and physical discomfort.

A person could detect a perfectly served beer by seeing if it has left a “Belgian lace.” The name comes from Belgian beers, which have a more robust body, and the foam adheres to the glass more consistently. Beer should have, at most, “two fingers” of foam.

Finally, the bartenders must clean the tap’s pipes after changing every single barrel. Otherwise, foam accumulates inside them and produces yeast.

(Translated and edited by Mario Vazquez. Edited by Carlin Becker.)

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