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”.
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.