When you visit a brewery, pub or bar you expect the server to present the beer in a clean glass at the proper temperature. I have few complaints most of the time, but if you are tasting beer to evaluate it or as part of an organized tasting or competition then how the beer is served is very important. If you are going to be doing a virtual beer tasting, this may not be the most important thing, but it certainly can enhance the beer tasting experience. If you have been reading our other blogs on conducting a virtual beer tasting, you have been thinking about organizing the beer flights and how to evaluate the beers. This blog will give you some tips on serving the beer.
|American Mainstream Lager
|Pale Lager, Pilsner
|Cream & Blond Ale
|Belgian Pale Ale
Most of us store our beer in the fridge and when we are ready for a brew, we grab it and drink. Beer should be stored at 38°F (3°C) and for all but a Pale Lager or a Pilsner that is too cold to drink. When a beer is too cold the aromas are not released, and the aromas are a big part of our tasting experience. But you do not want the beer to be too warm either, that just tastes bad.
The chart at the right gives a general range of the ideal serving temperatures. Stronger beers should be served warmer and lager beers usually are served colder than ales. You can use an instant read thermometer if you are really concerned but I would not obsess about the temperature. Generally, if you take the beer out of the refrigerator beforehand and let it warm up in the bottle, you should be fine. English ales and stronger beers should NOT be served at room temperature but should be served at “cellar temperatures,” about 52°F (11°C). You may need to take these beers out of the refrigerator about a half-hour to an hour beforehand to warm up. Remember, once the beer has been poured into the glass it will start to warm up, so do not let it get to warm before tasting.
Prepare your glasses
While it may be tempting to drink right out of the bottle, or, God forbid, the growler, to get the full experience of tasting the beer, it is best if it is poured into a glass. If you are lucky enough to be locked down with someone, this is a great way to share a beer. There is a complex science and cultural history behind beer glasses and most people will not have all the different styles, so don’t fret too much about this. If I may suggest something radical, you may want to use a wine glass or tulip shaped glass, and only fill it up about half-way. The bowl shape of the glass and the narrower opening tends to hold the beer’s aroma, making it easier to smell.
Make sure the glass is clean and does not smell of detergent. If you can smell detergent or other cleaners on the glass, rinse it thoroughly and let it dry. The glass should be “beer clean.” Any dirt or detergent will not only affect the taste and aroma of the beer, it can destroy the head. You may want to rinse it again with cold water before you pour the beer.
Pouring the Beer
Pour the beer directly down the center of the glass. Pay attention, you want some foam, but you don’t want to fill up the glass with just beer or just foam. For a full glass of beer, a foam head of between 1.5 fingers and 3 fingers, depending upon the style of beer, is common. For tasting purposes, you will only fill up the class about a third of the way so the glass can capture some of the aroma, so the head will be smaller. You should have a nice head. Can you smell the beer yet?
If you are serving an aged or unfiltered beer the bottle may contain sediment. It is important not to pour the sediment into the glass. It will not hurt you, but it may affect the flavor. Pour very slowly and leave the sediment in the bottle. However, some Belgian witbiers and German weissbiers are meant to be served cloudy. The best method is to gently pour the beer till there are about 2 cm left in the bottle. Then gently swirl the sediment, then pour directly and gently into the foamy head.
More Resources for your Virtual Beer Tasting
For more information about organizing your own virtual beer tasting, take a look at our blog on Conducting a Beer Tasting During the Coronavirus Lockdown and our tips on serving your beers and evaluating and judging the beers for your tasting. You can get all this information by downloading our Virtual Lockdown Beer Tasting Guide.
When you are all done let others know about your beer tasting and what you think of the beers. Post your tasting list, beer photos, the winners and other descriptive accounts to social media such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Be sure to tag the breweries and use #lockdownbeertasting and #virtualbeertasting. If you want to tag @seattlebrewerywalkingtours that would be groovy too.
Let me know how it went. I’m looking forward to hearing about your experience.
Feature photograph by David Horvitz