Seeking the Proper Pour

by: BeerAdvocate on 01-06-2005
As you can imagine, we spend a lot of time checking out various bars, and there's one thing that remains consistently inconsistent: a proper pour of beer. Whether the pours are being regulated by bar management, as part of an individual bartender's style, or maybe just by plain ignorance, the majority of pours we witness not only do beer a disservice but they do beer drinkers and bar owners one as well.

Here's what we've discovered.

The Over-Pour
You've probably seen this one quite a few times: A bartender hits the tap hard, tips that glass deep, and allows the beer to foam up and spill over until the desired level is reached. Oftentimes, up to a half-pint of beer is actually wasted just to create a single half-assed pint. If this kind of pour were consistent on a half-barrel of beer, roughly 40 (out of roughly 120) pints of beer would be wasted in each keg! Some say there's a special circle of Hell for people who do this.

The Under-Pour
Not to be confused with different-sized pours, under-pouring usually occurs when a bar owner is being cheap. They'll inform their staff to drop around 12 ounces in a 16oz glass and fill the remainder with foam-maybe even force some overflowing foam to create the perception of a full beer. If the drinker's lucky, they might get 14 ounces after the foam has settled. If this practice is put in place, bar owners can squeeze up to an extra 30-plus pints of beer out of a half-barrel.

The Stadium Pour
Referring to the "to the rim" pours of lackluster swill served at most sporting venues, this pour might seem appealing to the drinking impaired, but the lack of foam reduces the drinkers' overall experience with the beer. Because much of a beer's aroma and flavor comes from trapped volatiles contained within beer foam, the beer is simply not going to be anywhere near as enjoyable as it would be if properly poured. Foam is your friend. Embrace it.

The Under-Carbonated Pour
To avoid tap lines from foaming up, some bars will lower the carbonation levels that are pushed through their beers. While this might save them from wasting beer, it tends to create stadium pours and a much flatter, lackluster experience for the palate.

The "Bartender, There's a Belgian Ale in My Pint Glass!" Pour
We can't stress this enough. From unlocking nuances to eye candy, serving beer styles in their appropriate glassware makes an amazing difference. More here: Glassware for Beer

The Yeasty Pour
Some beers are bottle-conditioned and, as such, properly stored bottles will contain a layer of compact yeast sediment at the bottom of the bottle. In most cases, this shouldn't be disturbed or poured into the glass, and the beer should be properly decanted. Most bartenders ignore this-even when the directions in some cases are on the labels-and pour every last drop into the glass. Not good. To boot, many bottles are shaped specifically to aid in proper decanting, and the improper addition of yeast can have a major impact if put back into the mix. Unless the beer is a Hefeweizen, or a similar beer style where the yeast is part of the entire experience, bottle-conditioned beers should be poured gently and at an angle to allow the sediment to remain in the bottle. The bottle should then be presented to the drinker, so he or she can make the final decision, as opposed to being forced to drink what might not be all that tasty. This applies especially to Belgian-style beers, because the vast majority of them are bottle-conditioned.

There are always going to be exceptions-issues that make a proper pour impossible and ways to handle it all. Here are some thoughts on this:

* Combinations of different beer styles, brands and glassware will produce incredible foaming heads. Sometimes this is desired and shouldn't be confused with an improper pour. Example: Decanting a Duvel in its proper tulip-like glass will create a magnificent meringue-like foam head and will allow the nuances to come forth. This is a good thing for this beer.

* If you've been served an improper pour, for any reason, definitely send it back-but don't be a dick about it, because you'll come across like an ├╝ber beer snob. Be polite and constructive. Help the bar help you. More consumers need to speak up!

* When pouring into a standard pint glass, a healthy half-inch thick foam head generally makes for a perfect and appealing pint.

* Unless there's a keg or line issue, a proper pour doesn't spill a drop of beer. More bars need to check their systems frequently and educate their staff. There are far too many who haven't a clue-and there's far too much beer being wasted.

Finally, remember that the proper pouring and presentation of a beer will create a better beer-drinking experience for everyone.

Respect beer.
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