Enjoying Craft Beer: Serving Craft Beer (Part 2 of 3)

18 November 2020
Bar Management
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A craft beer poured from tap

Last month, we talked about a few tips to keep in mind when storing your craft beer. Now that you’re up to speed on how to handle and store it appropriately, let’s get into the fun part: serving. 

Pick the Right Tap
The first thing to remember is that beer of this caliber isn’t just any old beer. Getting the perfect pour is a bit more delicate than if you’re just pulling pints at your corner bar and grill. Chances are these places are going to have your basic “pump and plunger” tap. You just pump the plunger attached to the tap a couple of times and the beer starts to flow—efficient, yes, but not very good for your craft beer. 

A pump and plunger works by infusing air into the beer, immediately causing oxidation. It doesn’t take long for this process to affect a delicate craft brew’s taste, making it bland right away and eventually tasteless.

Using a CO2 or CO2-Nitrogen tapping system for your kegs of craft beer is a vastly preferred method to guarantee a perfect, flavorful pour. CO2 systems force the beer out of the keg and into the glass, but unlike the pump and plunger that relies on oxygen, CO2 and nitrogen are inert when they come in contact with the beer.

This step is so important to pulling a quality pint that you should not skimp on quality and materials. In for a penny, in for a pound, right? Buy one from a quality vendor that has stainless steel pathways—they’ll work better and last longer, so even if they cost a bit more up front, they will prove more economical over the long hauls.

Find the Right Faucet
Different faucets produce different pours and are often product-specific. For example, some faucets are exclusively designed for Stout or Nitro beers. Factor in what beer you’ll be pouring when you are selecting faucets, but no matter what, be sure whatever design you choose is made with high-quality materials and stainless steel construction.  

Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Even when opening a garden variety can of beer, popping the top on a can that’s been jostled or shaken is going to erupt like Mount Saint Helens. This is because the proteins that develop during the brewing process attract carbon dioxide molecules and tend to gather at the top of the container, When too many of these molecules gather, the beer will explode. 

This concept needs to be accounted for when storing craft beer, but it has a bearing on how it is poured as well. Even if you’ve made every effort to store your craft beer with care, take the extra step of allowing them to settle for a while before tapping. Many craft brewmasters recommend letting your keg sit idle for about an hour or two before serving. Granted, it’s not nitroglycerin, but handling your craft kegs as gently as possible before serving will go a long way toward ensuring a foam-free and flavorful pour.

Perfect Your Pour
Like they say, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so make sure that first pour is a great introduction to the delicious brew to follow. Pouring from a craft beer keg is a virtual art form, and you’ll improve with practice. In the meantime, keep in mind these tips:

Keep the glass an inch below the faucet and don’t let it touch. 

Angle the glass about 45 degrees. There are as many opinions on the exact right angle as there are barkeeps, so experiment. 

Grip the handle and quickly pull it forward—all the way. Keeping the flow of beer at half speed will allow more foam to pour out. 

Hold the glass in place until it’s about half-full. At this point, slowly start to tilt the glass from your 45-degree angle to an upright position. Let the beer flow into the center of the glass creating a small layer of foam at the top.

Now push the handle all the way back to a closed position and let the beer settle for a moment. If you give it a minute, the foam will settle on its own—no need to shave it off the top.  

With your newfound storing and serving skills, you are well on your well to becoming a top-tier craft beer expert. Next month, we’ll talk about how to identify craft beers that will benefit from aging, and give you a few tips on how to pull that off.  


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