Serving Beer

Learning the correct way to serve beer is probably the quickest and easiest thing a person can do to enhance their drinking experience. Ever remember being at a bar and getting handed an ordinary pint beer with absolutely no foam and the beer poured right up to the lip of the glass? If not, I don’t blame you, since I’m sure the experience was not memorable. On the other hand, can you remember being given a truly beautiful looking beer? Perhaps it was a wheat beer served in a tall, curving glass with a huge head of foam, and maybe a wedge of lemon placed on the rim? Or was it an ornate chalice filled with ruby red Belgian dubbel? Maybe it was a bright pilsner served into a tall, thin glass with a dollop of white foam on top. Chances are, those experience come more easily to mind. And while the beer itself may not have been different from the first scenario to the next few, the serving technique was, and it most likely had an impact on you whether you realized it at the time or not.

Temperature

Most beers have an ideal serving temperature. The temperature at which to serve a beer is correlated to the strength of the beer. As beers go up in alcohol, they are generally drunk at a warmer temperature. This is because stronger beers often are sipped slowly, and enjoyed for their complexity of flavor and aroma while weaker beers are often consumed for refreshment. For no style is this more apparent than American macro lagers, which are generally drunk so cold that you can’t taste them. There’s a reason those big brewers want people to drink their beers at tongue-numbing temperatures. As they warm up, they don’t taste very good.

Very Cold: 35-40 degrees

  • American Adjunct Lagers (“Macros”)
  • Malt Liquors
  • Light or low alcohol beers

Cold: 40-45 degrees

  • Pilsner
  • Light-bodied lagers
  • Kolsch
  • Belgian Wit
  • Hefeweizen
  • Berliner weisse
  • American Wheat

Cool: 45-50 degrees

  • American Pale Ales
  • Medium-bodied lagers
  • India Pale Ale (IPA)
  • Porters
  • Alt
  • Irish Stouts
  • Sweet Stout

Cellar Temp: 50-55 degrees

  • Sour Ales
  • Lambic/Gueuze
  • English Bitter
  • Strong Ales
  • Baltic Porters
  • Bocks
  • Scotch Ales
  • Belgian Ales
  • Trappist Ales

Warm: 55-60 degrees

  • Imperial Stouts
  • Belgian Quads
  • Belgian Strong Ales
  • Barley Wines
  • Old Ales
  • Dopplebock
  • Eisbock

Pouring Beer

Pouring beer is an art, and definitely part of the overall tasting experience. We always suggest that you drink a beer out of a glass!

The following demonstrates the most common pouring technique which can be applied to most beers and glassware types. You’ll also find that most bartenders pour draught beer as follows too.

Steps to a Perfect Pint

  • Use a clean glass. A dirty glass, containing oils, dirt or residuals from a previous beer, may inhibit head creation and flavours.
  • Hold your glass at a 45° angle. Pour the beer, targeting the middle of the slope of the glass. Don’t be afraid to pour hard or add some air between the bottle and glass.
  • At the half-way point bring the glass at a 90° angle and continue to pour in the middle of the glass. This will induce the perfect foam head. And remember, having a head on a beer is a good thing. It releases the beer’s aromatics and adds to the overall presentation. You may also want to gradually add distance between the bottle and glass as you pour, to also inspire a good head. An ideal head should be 1″ to 1-1/2″.

With bottled conditioned beers, that may have a considerable amount of yeast in the bottle, you may wish to watch closely as you pour … if you don’t like yeast in your poured beer. However, this is the highlight of some beers and actually wanted. Just note that the inclusion of yeast will alter the clearness and taste of your poured beer, and lively yeast is high in vitamins and nutrients!

Glassware

While most people (and brewers!) will tell you to use a glass appropriate to the style, here at RateBeer we instead advise you to befriend your favorite tasting glass and stick to it. Usually a bowl-shaped glass will offer the best beer aroma-holding abilities. Tulips and snifters are especially good for containing aroma. The American shaker pint glass offers little aroma containment and therefore is a bad beer tasting glass choice no matter what logo is sprayed on the side. Avoid them.

Tulip
Shape: Bulb that tapers in before flaring out at the top.
Purported Benefits: concentration of aroma, support of the foamy head at the top, and comfortable drinking afforded by flared rim.
20120523chalicesquare.jpg

Chalice
Shape: A round bowl on a stem.
Purported Benefits: Beautiful presentation, foam support, wide mouth for easy drinkin’ (in big sips.)
20120523pilsnersquare.jpg

Pilsner
Shape: Tall, footed, slender, tapered out from the bottom.
Purported Benefits: Displays the beer’s clarity, while tapered shape supports head.
20120523weizensquare.jpg

Weizen
Shape: Tall, large, slender at bottom, bowled out a bit at the top.
Purported Benefits: Large size accommodates a massive, frothy head associated with highly-carbonated German wheat beers. Slender bottom shows off these beers’ famous hazy color and protects its lively carbonation.
20120523nonicksquare.jpg

Nonick Imperial Pint
Shape: Large, slightly tapered out with bulge near top.
Purported benefits: Designed for the no-nonsense drinker. The bulge facilitates stacking and prevents rim chipping.
20120523shakersquare.jpg

Shaker Pint
Shape: Slight taper outward from bottom.
Purported benefits: Cheap and easily stackable. Sturdy ones can be used for stirring and shaking cocktails.
20120523sniftersquare.jpg

Snifter
Shape: Stemmed, wide-bowled, tapered in at top.
Purported benefits: Designed for maximum concentration of volatile organic compounds—that is, aroma.
20120523tumblersquare.jpg

Tumbler
Shape: Short and squat with thick glass and a slight outward taper.
Purported Benefits: Tradition generally drives the use of this glass, which is usually reserved for Belgian witbier and lambic.

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