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You’re not doing that right

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If you think about it, just about any one of us could find something that we think we do correctly and most other people, if not all, do wrong. It could be how most folks pronounce a word. It may be a simple process that everyone does, such as packing a grocery bag.

We think to ourselves: “What are they doing? Don’t they know that’s wrong?”

As an experienced chef, that list of things I would perceive people do incorrectly is probably longer than the average person’s.

But there is one task—one very simple thing that is so benign that I bet very few people even believe there is a right or wrong way to do it—and the wrong way is so ingrained in our society that it has become a real challenge to convince people their method is incorrect. But again, as a chef, we have a saying: “There is a right and wrong way to do everything.”

Virtually no one knows how to do this: I’m talking about the correct way to pour a beer.

Think back to when beer commercials were prevalent on television. Miller High Life, Löwenbräu, Budweiser and countless others that dominated our prime time advertising. Almost every commercial ended with a close-up of a beautifully golden beer being poured into a glass. And in every one of those commercials the beer had a healthy head of foam.

Fast forward to the mid 1990s. Small breweries and brewpubs began emerging in areas like the West Coast, Midwest, and the Northeast. Congruently, and I can’t seem to find out why, Americans began pouring tap beers fuller than a diner glass of milk.

A freshly poured pale ale from Beehive Basin Brewery. PHOTO BY DOUG HARE

It has now become so indelible in our psyche that if we now receive a beer with a head, we believe we have been slighted or shorted by the bartender.

So just how do you pour a proper beer? Start by tipping the glass like usual, but then once the glass is about one-third full, begin tipping the glass vertical again, while continuing to pour down the side of the glass. When done properly, your beer should have between one-and-a-half and two fingers of head on it. That is a properly poured beer.

“I don’t drink beer. It’s just too filling.” I hear that all the time. My response:

That’s because they aren’t pouring it right. That’s about the time I get a puzzled condescending look.

Beer is a heavily carbonated beverage. Some of that carbonation is naturally created as the yeast consumes the sugars in the unfermented beer, or wort, and converts it to alcohol. Some of that CO2 dissipates while some is intentionally captured. Then even more CO2 is incorporated. This is predominantly what is filling you up.

The next time you are served a beer at a bar, ask for a napkin. Fold it up into a tube shape with as much surface area as you can create. Drink the top quarter inch of the top. Next, quickly dunk the napkin all the way in and quickly remove it.

What happens next will have your bartender rushing over with a bar towel asking what happened as it erupts like the Yellowstone supervolcano. All that CO2 getting released and causing a huge mess would otherwise be trapped in your stomach with nowhere to go. No wonder we say beer is filling.

So the solution is simple, since I highly doubt manufacturers will begin making larger glasses, simply charge an ever so slightly less price and pour the beer with a proper head on it. Then everyone wins. And I would argue that because beer drinkers would feel less full, as they should, it could easily mean the difference in purchasing one more. I personally have put that to the test.

Scott Mechura has spent a life in the hospitality industry. He is a former certified beer judge and currently the executive chef at Buck’s T-4 Lodge in Big Sky.

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