Pouring a beer into a glass is almost the same whether you’re doing it from a bottle, a can or a tap in a bar. But to make sure you are able to experience all the flavors that brewers have worked hard to craft, it is important to practice your beer pouring technique.
One of the most important parts of a perfect pour is to aim for the perfect ‘head’ – the foam on top. Poured hastily or incorrectly, a beer will foam up too much, sometimes spilling over. On the other hand, beer poured without a decent-sized head will affect appearance. A proper head will vary between beers; a traditional classic lager or ale should be between one to two fingers in depth, and for wheat beers, much deeper.
Also, keep in mind that pouring will vary depending on the style and carbonation of the beer. For instance, Belgian styles are a bit foamier than stouts or porters, while American pale lagers are best poured slowly down the side of a tilted glass, to control the amount of head.
Here are eight step-by-step tips for becoming a brilliant beer barista.
1. Make sure you have a clean glass. It’s important to select a clean glass, rinsed clear of oils, detergents, fingerprints and dirt, which may affect the taste of your beer. Remember, there are glasses for virtually every style of beer.
2. Note the sediment. Check if the beer is cask or bottle-conditioned. Bottle-conditioned beers generally have a small layer of yeast on the bottom, which you probably want to avoid pouring for taste and clarity. Raise bottles to the light to see any visible sediment, or check the can’s label.
3. Hold the glass at 45 degrees. Tilt the beer glass at a 45-degree angle, ideally resting the base of the glass on a flat surface. This will help balance the glass and give you a perfect target for your pour.
4. Get ready to pour. Position the beer container a few inches, or several centimeters, above the middle of the glass. Aim to pour the beer halfway up the glass – the best level for achieving that perfect head. Avoid touching the bottle to the glass to keep it as clean as possible.
5. Begin pouring. Pour in a steady stream, so the beer flows smoothly down the side without splashing back. Aim for the center of the glass and continue pouring: if you’re too slow, you’ll end up with no head.
6. Tilt the glass upright halfway through. Begin to level the base of the glass when it is about one-third to half full. As it fills, start setting the glass down. If too much head is forming, pour the beer so it doesn’t touch the side of the glass, keeping the foam down. If not enough is forming, continue pouring down the side of the glass, until you have a substantial head.
7. Finish pouring with a good head. Conclude your perfect pour with a clear half-inch to an inch-and-half of head. If there’s too much foam, you’ve poured too quickly, or not at a good angle. If there’s no head at all, you’ve poured too slowly or at too steep an angle, without tilting the glass upright.
8. Enjoy your beer! Briefly let the head settle, pick up your glass and take a deep sniff to get the best of the fruity, malty, citrus, grassy or spicy aromas. Then sit back, relax and enjoy your perfect pour.
A version of this story was first published on SABMiller.com on 25 February 2016