1/4-1/2” is a good head on most beer styles.

A lot of work goes into making the perfect beer before it hits your glass. So a lot of care should go into how it gets there. A lot of people think the best way to pour a beer is to tilt the glass and pour down the side until it gets to the very top. Most people do this to prevent the beer from having too much foam.

Unfortunately, there are two main issues with this method. Firstly, trapping all of that carbonation in the beer causes stomach bloating. Second, it robs the person drinking the beer from really getting the maximum level of aromatics or flavor from the beer.

Let’s talk about the first one – bloating and why it happens. When you pour down the side of the glass, it allows the beer to retain most of the carbon dioxide in suspension. In theory, this seems like what you would want. However, at some point that carbon dioxide is going to come out of the beer and that usually happens when it hits the bottom of your stomach. If you’ve ever gone to a bar or restaurant and after a couple beers you’re extremely full or even having stomach cramps, this is probably how they poured your beer. Pouring more into the center of the glass allows the carbon dioxide to essentially explode from the liquid making for a considerably more gentle experience in your digestive tract.

As for the second issue, when you prevent foam from generating in your beer, you are essentially trapping volatiles. By allowing the carbon dioxide to push out of suspension, it has the added bonus of pushing aromas out of the top of the glass. Since aroma plays such a large role in how our brains perceive taste, having a proper amount of head in the glass is essential to getting the full experience.

So how do we get the most out of our beer without ending up with 3″ of liquid and 4″ of foam? First, and most importantly, you need what is called a “beer-clean” glass. The term beer-clean generally means free of residue or fingerprints. Lipstick, soap, grease, or anything else that isn’t pure glass will wreak havoc on your pour. It can prevent lacing, destroy foam and cause inconsistencies in how carbonation releases. If you’ve ever looked at a glass filled with beer and have seen bubbles clinging to the side, that’s likely residue that wasn’t fully rinsed off. Now, don’t be totally grossed out, a non beer-clean glass doesn’t mean the glass is dirty, it just means it’s not perfect from imperfection and more often than not it’s just from hard water deposits or small traces of soap or detergent.

Once you are pretty confident you have a beer-clean glass, it becomes a matter of angles. Start by tilting your glass at a 45-degree angle. Try to land the liquid right around the middle of the side of the glass. Once your glass is about half full, tilt the glass back to straight 90-degree angle and pour directly into the center of the glass. Depending on the glass shape, you may need to adjust when you tilt the glass, but with some patience and practice you’ll be getting the most of every beer you pour!

Scroll to top