(Bartender Rich Kilcullen cleans beer faucets at The Thirsty Monk beer bar downtown. Regular cleaning of faucets and draft lines is important to maintain the flavors and aromas of fresh draft beer. Photo by Anne Fitten Glenn)
If you hang around breweries and beer bars (which you probably do if you read this column), you’ve probably heard the term “beer clean,” usually in reference to glassware. I teach local beer servers and bartenders regularly about the importance of being “beer clean.” Here’s your lesson.
Beer-lovers like their glassware. We don’t drink beer out of a bottle or can unless we have to, right? That’s no way to get the full flavors, aromas or carbonation from a beer.
Glassware that’s not scrupulously clean ruins foam — both the head (that inch or more of suds at the top of your newly poured beer that releases the liquid’s aroma via carbon dioxide bubbles) and the lacing (the patterns of foam that cling to the sides of the glass as you drink the brew). Proteins, soap residue or any kind of oils can stick to a glass that looks clean and can affect the taste of the beer you’re drinking (lipstick is a major offender).
If you’re drinking at home, you can scrub your glassware yourself. I suggest hand washing. I tell restaurants never to put their beer glasses in the same dishwasher as other dishes, as proteins from food can get sprayed onto and cling to glasses.
The same goes for home. The best practice is to hand-wash with a little soap or sanitizer (light organic dish-washing liquid works best) and a clean sponge (one that you only use for glassware, preferably). Then rinse and scrub again, just with hot water. If your next beer tastes soapy, you haven’t rinsed well enough. After washing, let glasses air dry. Check before using to make sure there are no soap spots. If possible, give the glass a quick cold water rinse before you fill it with beer.
Don’t use your beer glasses for drinking anything other than beer. While my kids drink juice and milk from pint glasses, they aren’t allowed to touch my collection of snifters and tulip glasses. I never drink beer in a regular pint glass at home. One, because removing milk residue from glassware can be challenging, and two, because I prefer how the more rounded glassware retains foam and delivers the beer’s aroma.
If you’re drinking beer at a bar or restaurant, and you notice a cluster of beer bubbles clings to a spot or spots on the inside of the glass — while the glass is full of beer — that indicates there are oils on the glass, and the glass is not completely clean. Ask for a new pour.
Also, depending on the beer style, if the foam completely dissipates in a matter of seconds, that glass may not be clean enough. Of course, the beer also can be flat and the type of glass influences head retention as well. (Tulip glasses are shaped that way to help retain head. The American Shaker pint glasses in which most bars serve beer don’t typically hold head for long).
Therein ends the beer lesson of the day.
No, that’s not a spelling error. New-to-Western North Carolina brewery, Oskar Blues, will throw an Osktoberfest celebration on Saturday, Oct. 27, on Brevard’s West Main Street from 6 to 9 p.m. The party is free, but you have to pay for your beer and bratwurst. OB’s Osktoberfest beer will be there, on draft. This beer will not otherwise be distributed in North Carolina, so this may be your only chance to try it. (I’ll be drinking it direct from the source at Oskar Blues Longmont, Co., brewery this week. Sorry. Just had to brag). The brats will be shipped to WNC from the brewery’s Colorado farm, Hops & Heifers. There will be family activities as well, such as corn hole and one of those jumpy thingees. Proceeds from beer and food sales will benefit the Transylvania County Back Pack Buddies program.
Speaking of Oskar Blues, two longtime local brewers are now working for the Brevard brewery. John Silver of French Broad Brewing and formerly of Pisgah Brewing, and DJ McCready of Craggie Brewing will spend a few weeks training out in Colorado, before coming back and helping North Carolina Oskar Blues head brewer Noah Tuttle do his thing in Brevard. Congrats to all. Sounds like a solid brew team.
Roundup and releases
Congrats to one of our fave beer bars, The Thirsty Monk, for winning CraftBeer.com’s top Great American Beer Bar in the Southeast category. Once again, Asheville beer folks rock the online polls.
Also congrats to Heinzelmannchen Brewery in Sylva, chosen as one of the top 10 brewery tours on Trip Advisor. “Since this is a customer driven ranking, it is very special to us. We feel very honored that our customers took the time to share their experience at our brewery and recommend it to others,” says Sheryl Rudd, Henzelmannchen president.
Green Man Brewing’s beers are now being distributed in Tennessee, west between the North Carolina/Tennessee line and Nashville. Pisgah Brewing recently has expanded distribution to the Charlotte area.
And yes, Highland Brewing’s Cold Mountain Ale is in the tanks, you crazy spiced seasonal lovers. I’ll update you on CM status as I can.