Next in the series of Cicerone Certified Beer Server posts, we have Serving Bottled Beer. Everyone knows that a beer in a bottle or can is meant to be lured into the proper glass. Just like pouring from a draught system, serving from a bottle is a skill that takes practice.
1. Examine The Bottle
When you first get the bottle, take a look at it to see what type of beer it is, if there is yeast present in the bottle, as is the case with many Belgians, and what type of bottle it is, corked, capped, etc. Once you determine the specifics of that bottle of beer, the next step is to decide how to pour this specific beer. If there is yeast in the bottom, should it be poured out or retained in the bottle? If there is a large amount of yeast in the bottle, it should probably not be served, but retained in the bottle.
If there is a small amount of yeast present, as in a hefeweizen, the yeast can be roused to mix with the beer and be served. Always ask the customer what he or she prefers.
If the beer you are serving does not have yeast in it, you must still inspect it for issues. You should check for white flakes floating in the beer, as this can be a sign of an out of date, unstable beer. If this is the case, you should definitely not serve this beer. Another sure sign of a beer with an issue is a thin ring of gunk at the liquid level in the neck of the bottle. If you see this, the beer is most likely bad and should not be served.
2. Opening The Bottle
Once the bottle has been inspected and you feel there are no issues visibly present, it is time to open the bottle. A few common types of bottle closures are:
- Twist Off
- Lift Off
Let’s take a look at each.
Twist-off caps are one of the easiest to open, but due to their inability to properly seal a bottle against long term oxygen exposure, they are rarely used in craft beer. You will still come across these when serving beer, however. To open this type, just simply twist the cap off using your hand or a towel to aid in grip and to protect your hand.
The lift-off cap is one of the most common types of bottle closures when dealing with beer. To open this type of cap, use a bottle opener that has a lift area that is at least 1/4 inch wide. This will prevent you from breaking the bottle during opening. Once you open the bottle inspect the top to make sure it was not chipped or broken during opening. If it was, discard the bottle and contents. When opening, lift in one clean, steady motion.
Bottles with a mushroom cork are most easily spotted by the cage that is twisted around the cork and the top of the bottle that keeps the cork in place. To open these, first remove the cage by un-twisting the wire and taking off the top of the bottle. Next, remove the cork by hand, aiming away from yourself and other people. Be gentle in the opening as to not disturb any sediment that may be in the bottle which could make the beer volatile.
In these beers, the cap is taken off as you would a standard lift-off, but after removed, a corkscrew must be used to remove the cork.
When dealing with any beer that has a cork, present the cork to the customer after opening. This is done to show the customer that the bottle was fresh and just opened, and that it was sealed properly and has no cork damage. (Smelling the cork, as many people do, is completely not useful and totally not necessary.)
As stated above, ALWAYS inspect the bottle lip before serving to make sure it has not been chipped or damaged during opening. If this were to happen, the bottle and contents must be disposed of and not served. Not only is the bottle now sharp, but the broken glass may be inside the liquid, making it dangerous to consume.
(Thx to beeriety.com for the image)
Once you have the beer open, it must be poured into the glass. To pour a bottle into a glass, do these simple steps.
- Hold the glass at a 45* angle.
- Pour down the side of the glass until it is half full.
- Without stopping the pour, gently tilt the glass upright and pour down the middle to create a 1 inch foam head. Note that with weizen beers will have a 2-3 inch head.
Note the yeast that may be present in the bottle. In most cases, the yeast should stay in the bottle and not be poured. Make sure this is retained in the bottle by stopping the pour when you see the yeast moving toward the top of the bottle. If there is a doubt about yeast, always ask the customer their preference. If they don’t know, retain it in the bottle by default.
That’s it! There you have the basics you need to know about pouring beer from a bottle for yourself or a customer.
Remember, this information is for you to enjoy beer more, not to be a beer snob and complain about a bartender not giving the perfect pour. Unless there is a grievous mistake, like a big ball of yeast poured into your glass when you didn’t want it, or a broken bottle, let it slide. This is a guide to doing a pour the best way possible. Remember, when all else fails, don’t be a dick.
Until next time,