Sunday, February 9, 2014

Put A Head On It!

Purty, purty beer!
How many times has this happened to you? You're at a bar or restaurant, having a good time with your pals; you're in a really good mood and you order a beer on tap. All is right with the world--la, la, la--then the waiter brings your beer to the table. The glass is filled all the way to rim with absolutely zero head. Zed, nada, zilch. Nothing but a few dots or flecks of foam at most. Noooo!

Any craft beer aficionado worth his/her salt, will tell you that an expertly poured beer, with an appropriate head, is an important part of the beer drinking experience. Indeed, unless you're a beer-bonging frat boy, the appearance of your beer is almost as important as how it tastes.

Many believe that a thick, foamy head preserves and enhances the aromatic properties of a quality beer. Beer should be served in appropriate, clean glassware and never out of the bottle or can, unless it's a cheap, adjunct lager. Ideally, a head should be anywhere from 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. Some folks describe the head in terms of  "finger thickness", as in the width of an average human finger.

As previously stated, appearance is important to people who truly appreciate good beer. Just look at the photo above. I don't know about you, but the creamy, thick, sudsy head on that Fort George Vortex IPA is making my mouth water. It's beautiful, ain't it? Now, think about that over-poured, sloppy mess I described in the first paragraph. Technically, you'd be getting more beer. Perhaps the bartender thinks he's doing you a favor. God, help him.

Of course, some beer styles don't come with a big, foamy head. You should understand the natural state of the beer you ordered before you start griping. We could get all into bottle carbonation, CO2, firkens, nitro taps, etc., but that's for another day, and I'm certainly no beer scientist. What we're talking about here is your run of the mill, standard, craft beer, poured from your run of the mill, standard tap.

The big question is this: what do you do when that headless wonder arrives at your table? Do you drink it anyway? Do you send it back? Do you throw the glass across the room and start screaming like Scarface? "Say hello to my little friend!"

Personally, I have no problem sending a beer back and asking the bartender to put a head on it. Perhaps the bartender is new and doesn't know how to pour a beer from a tap. It takes practice to do it right. That newbie might as well practice on my beer. Of course, it sometimes depends on where I am at the time. I'll be more forgiving if I'm at a restaurant, especially if it's a busy night. However, if I'm at a taproom or a bar that purports some degree of beer expertise, you better believe it's going back until it looks pretty.

I was a local taproom the other day and the brewtender actually told me he wasn't going to serve me the beer I ordered until he got a perfect pour. I'll be darned if it wasn't absolutely gorgeous when he brought it over. I'm thinking the keg was just tapped and the foam was a little out of control. Still, his professionalism was greatly appreciated--with a big tip.

What do you think? How important is a good-looking head on the beer you drink?

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