Aug 11, 2007

How not to pour draft beer

I had dinner at a Beijing duck restaurant the other night. I'll start off by mentioning that we drank bottled beer, not the beer on tap. Twenty feet or so away from where I sat, there was beer on tap, pictured in the photo here. In the picture, pay attention to the large serving bowl and soup ladle that sit directly underneath the beer tap. Observe the lukewarm, flat beer head sitting in it.



Throughout my meal, I watched as the waitresses occasionally wandered over to the keg to fill up half-liter sized mugs for customers. It wasn't the keg that stood out to me, but rather the technique that the waitresses used. I'll describe their pouring style as best I can:
  1. Hold an empty half-liter beer mug in the right hand.
  2. Raise the mug into the tap so that the tap head nearly touches the bottom of the glass.
  3. Use your left hand to open the tap and start filling the mug.
  4. Fill the mug until it's three-fourths filled with beer, and the head foams over into the bowl.
  5. Tilt the mug to 30 degrees and let any remaining head dribble down the side of the mug, over your hand, and into the bowl.
  6. Look dazed and confused for as few seconds.
  7. Move the mug to your left hand.
  8. With your right hand, pick up the soup ladle.
  9. Use the ladle to scoop out the foamed-over head and other beer remnants from the soup bowl, and gently layer it into the beer mug.
  10. Serve the concoction to unsuspecting customers.
Now you're ready to work as a waitress in Beijing.


If you haven't seen draft beer properly poured, I found this on probrewer.com:
Pouring the perfect pint

A perfect pint of beer starts with a just-rinsed, beer-clean glass held a half-inch to an inch below the faucet. Tilt the glass 45° and open the faucet all the way, pouring down the side of the glass. When the glass is half full, stand it straight up and continue pouring directly into the center of the glass. Quickly close the faucet, leaving a three-quarter-inch head at the top of the glass. This thick, creamy head should leave lacing on the glass as the beer is enjoyed.

Beer faucets are designed to be opened all the way every time. Opening a faucet only partway makes the flow turbulent, supplying nucleation sites and making the beer fizz up.

Achieving the ideal pour depends on starting with beer from a fresh, cold, properly carbonated keg. The beer must then be pushed by clean, appropriately pressurized carbon dioxide through a coupler with good seals that connects to a smooth, recently cleaned, temperature-stabilized, leak-free line through a clean faucet, and out into a beer-clean glass.

And this other one on barmedia.com:
The dispensing spigot should never come in contact with the beer in the glass. To prevent the foamy head from dissipating quickly, glasses must be absolutely free of any dirt, grease, oil, or soapy film.

Draft beer should be poured directly into a glass and never allowed to run first. Traditionally, draft beer is served with a head of approximately 3/4 to 1 inch. Tilting the glass and letting the flow of draft beer slope off the inside of the glass will inhibit the amount of head that develops. When the glass is half-full, the beer should be allowed to pour directly into the center of the glass. This technique will produce the appropriate amount of foamy head.

In neither of those articles did I read anything that says, "place a large soup bowl under the tap so you'll be able to recycle the foamed-over, lukewarm beer."

In China, you'll probably be fine at an establishment that has a properly stocked bar. However, order draft beer only if you can see who's pouring it and how. Be very, very cautious if the same person that is brining your food is also pouring draft beer. You never know what steps the restaurant owner has told the wait staff to take in order to save a few fen, like recycling stagnant beer.

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