Category Archives: Features

Feature Article – Beer Clean Glassware

If you’ve listened to the show for a long time, or if you’ve spoken to me in person about beer, you probably know that I take my glassware pretty seriously.  Choosing the right kind of glass for your beer can enhance your appreciation of the beer in it a great deal.

Frosted glasses kill aroma and shaker pints are rarely good idea, but the worst sin you can commit, in my opinion, is to pour your delicious craft beer into a dirty glass.

Let me rephrase that: The cleanliness of your glass is far more important than the type of glass you are using.  Even if you’re drinking your beer out of a red solo cup, you should, at the very least, make sure that solo cup is as clean as possible.

We all appreciate the hard work brewers put into producing high quality beers for us to enjoy. The clarity and carbonation of the beer take a lot of planning, foresight, and execution by your brewer. There’s nothing like beads of condensation sliding down the side of a crystal clear beer with big champagne-like bubbles clinging to the side, struggling not to float to the top and become part of that everlasting foam. That carbonation clinging to the side of the glass and the lingering foam are signals to us that you are about to taste a very high quality beer.

So, don’t pour your beer into that glass unless you’re positive that your glass is clean. Not just clean, but “beer clean”.

Science Time!

A clean glass can make all the difference in the world when you pour and drink a beer, and just because it looks clean doesn’t mean that it is clean. Don’t believe me? Let’s do an experiment:

1. Take a nice glass and put some milk in it.

2. Drink your milk.

3. Rinse your glass and wash it with hot water, but no soap.

4. Pour a beer in the glass. (You like this experiment, right?)

5. Make a note of what the beer looks like. How long did the foam last? Are there bubbles clinging to the side?

6. Taste the beer and feel the bubbles on your tongue and make notes about the flavors.

7. Drink the rest of the beer. (Don’t waste it.)

8. Wash the glass again. This time, use baking soda.

9. Pour another beer.

10. Look at the beer and take notes.

11. Taste the beer and take notes.

Does it look different? Did the foam last longer? Was the carbonation or flavor different? It’s because your glass wasn’t completely clean the first time.

It’s an old salesman’s trick. If you’re selling glassware, make sure the competitor’s glass is dirty, but not visibly dirty. When you show them how well the beer retains its head and aroma in your glass, it looks like your glass is simply better made. In fact, it’s just clean.

Foam, by its nature, is relatively stable. If you pour your beer and your beer foam is not lingering very long, there’s something in your glass reacting with the foam and killing it, and that means you probably need to clean your glassware really well. Try the baking soda method if you only have a few to wash.

Here are a few tips to keep your glassware clean at home:

1. Clean all of your beer glassware with baking soda to get them clean.

2. Never use your beer glasses for anything except beer. Using them for anything else may leave a residue.

3. Don’t wash them with soap. Use a glassware detergent or baking soda.

4. Wash them carefully after every use with very hot water. Again, don’t use soap. It can leave a film.

5. Let your glassware air dry in a dish rack or on a hanging glass rack. If water droplets cling or spots show when your glass dries, it’s not clean.

6. Don’t wash them in the dishwasher, especially with other dishes. The food, oils, or residues from the other dishes will cling to your clean glasses.

At Home versus out and about:
It’s pretty easy to control the cleanliness of your glassware when drinking at home, but much harder to do when you’re out and about.  For this reason, it’s important for you to let your favorite watering hole know that this is important to you.  If you can, ask them how they clean their glassware.

If it’s a solid craft beer bar, they should be ready and willing to answer the question, but you have to know what to expect from establishments that don’t specialize in craft beer.  Many of them will likely say, “In the dishwasher.”  And that’s fine, but remember that the craft beer you drink there will never be at its best.

And if you order a beer and a water and they come in identical glassware, you can bet they also serve tea, soda, and maybe even cocktails in those glasses, as well.  If that’s the case, they will certainly never be “beer clean”.

For the Pros:
If you are a bar or restaurant owner and you’re serious about your beer, these tips apply to you, too, but you can also utilize your dishwasher by doing the following:

First, gather all the glasses you use for beer. Inspect them for wear and damage. Any older glasses with etches or scratches in the inside need to be tossed. Those harbor foam-killing substances and act as nucleation sites for flattening your beer faster.

Then, run your dishwasher with nothing but detergent in it (a normal cycle with no dishes). This will clean the inside of your dishwasher. Then, load it with only beer glassware. Run it, and then run it again.

Once you’ve done this, never ever wash your beer glasses with other dishes. Ever. Oh, and don’t use those beer glasses for anything except beer. Ever.

Want to go for extra points? Do what the Belgians do. Right before you pour a beer, submerge it in cold, running water.

It might seem a bit obsessive, but it can make a big difference to the right beer and beer drinker. Oh, and make sure you choose the right glass for the beer.


The Homebrewer’s Corner – Evaluating a Hop

I like hops.  I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

When I find a new hop, I love trying it out to find out what it can do.  There are a lot of really good ways to try hops out, but my favorite method is brewing the same pale ale recipe and using the hope throughout the entire brew.  Not only do I get five gallons of delicious brew out of it, I also get to see what the hop does throughout the brewing process.

For a primer on how hop additions work, let’s talk about timing.  There are a lot of times when a brewer can add hops to brew.  Typically, bittering hops go in at the beginning of the boil, flavor hop go somewhere in the middle, and aroma hops go in at the very end (or as dry hops in secondary fermentation).

When I get a new hop variety to try out, I brew a very simple pale ale that uses the hop at each of these stages, including dry-hopping.  This will let me evaluate the following:

Bittering addition: Is the bitterness of the hop harsh or mellow?  Most of the time, there’s not much difference in perception for hops added early, as all of the volatile aroma and flavor substances tend to be vaporized by long boiling, but I always include the hop at this stage so I can get a full picture of what the hop is like.

Flavor addition: Using a flavor addition in the middle of the boil allows you to get a better picture of what the hop tastes like.  Keep in mind that you’ll also pick up some aroma and bitterness in this addition, so be sure to include it in your calculations.

Aroma addition (flameout): Just as you’re killing the heat to your kettle, you stir this one in.  This is the aroma addition in the boil.  It is very similar to making a hop tea, as you’re essentially steeping the hops without boiling off the volatile compounds.

Aroma addition (dry-hopping): This is more like cold-brewing your coffee than making a hop tea.  This preserves more of the delicate hop aromas, which provide that “fresh” hop character you can pick up in locally-brewed IPAs (shipping and storage tend to oxidize these compounds somewhat).

Using a hop at each one of these stages in a brew is a very good way to getting a full picture as to how you’d like to use that hop in the future.  I recommend finding a pale ale recipe that you really like and can brew consistently.  It will allow you to compare the hop varieties against each other without other changes in recipe affecting your perception.

Because this is a written article and no longer on the radio, here is a recipe that I use to brew my Single Hop experiments.

Evaluation Experimentation Ale

Grain Bill
8.5 lbs 2-row pale malt
1.5 lbs Crystal 20L
.5 lb CaraPils

7.5 AAU Hop* for 60 minutes
.5 oz Hop for 15 minutes (flavor addition – some people prefer 30 minutes)
.5 oz Hop at flameout
1 oz Hop in secondary (5-7 days)

Other Ingredients
Irish Moss (1 tsp at 15 minutes until end of boil)

Fermentis Safale US-05, Wyeast 1056, or White Labs WLP001

Mash at 152 degrees until all of the starches are converted, mash out at 170 degrees.  Bring it to a boil and add the first addition.  After 45 minutes, add the second hop addition and the Irish Moss.  As the hour runs out, turn off the heat and add the last hops.  Whirlpool, chill, and ferment.  Rack to secondary after fermentation stops and add the 1 oz of dry hops.  After 5-7 days, bottle or keg and sample.  Best served fresh.

Extract Version:

Replace the 2-row base malt with 5.1 lbs of Light Dry Malt Extract.  Steep the other grains in a cheesecloth sack at 152 degrees for 20 minutes, then remove them, allowing them to drip back into your kettle.  Add your malt extract and bring to a boil. Proceed from the first hop addition as above.