Sitting at the bier haus and my pint arrives promptly with a thick foamy, 2 inch head. I take a minute to admire the work of art in all of its glory. This is, in fact, the perfect pint. From Guinness to Stella, a Duvel brewed in Belgium to a local crafted beer, they should all be poured with a couple fingers worth of foam. This century old tradition however, is and has been, misunderstood in North American culture for ages. We tend to focus on economics here in Canada and look at the head on a beer as a short pour.
There are actually many reasons why your beer should be poured carefully and purposefully to build a generous layer of foam. Belgians and Germans traditionally started pouring with three thick fingers worth of foam in taverns and pubs. There must have been good reason, right? Well, there certainly was. Europeans have always had such passion for their brew and could not bare, under any circumstance, something affecting the quality of their beer.
Pubs historically, were infested with smoke. It wasn’t only common to smoke in the pub but recommended, and the social norm. Smoke would get into everything; clothing, food, hair and yes, your pint. A sparkling clean glass would hold the head on a pint of beer for the entire 10 – 15 minutes a patron would take to finish it. This foam would protect the integrity of the beer from the billowing smoke in the air. The head is meant to sit on the beer with the patron drinking through the foam. Anyone who has had a Guinness in Dublin knows to wait for the head to thicken, then proceed to enjoy your dark indulgence through the creaminess. Never, and we mean never, sip the foam. It is a part of your experience!
Another reason to pour your malty beverage with thick foam is to enhance the flavor and taste. Whether you are in your living room and pop a bottle, or a bartender pouring draught for a regular customer, head is a must. Beer is trapped in its storage vessel, and has life! The flavors are hidden in the gaseous liquid. The release of carbonation upon the pour is vital to open up aromas of the brew and flavors within. Bottled beers can hold a skunkiness due to the natural hops in the liquid. The pour will allow any overwhelming aromas or tastes to escape into the air and make the beer much more drinkable. And of course, a less carbonated beverage will go down with much more ease, allowing you to drink more without feeling bloated. So next time you are about to take a swig from that bottle think twice, a clean glass will enhance your experience and take your beer drinking to the next level.