There’s a science to the presentation of the perfect beer. But you already know that, don’t you? You know that your pint of brewed deliciousness should be poured while the glass is held at 45º, and that once the pour has reached the halfway point, you should tilt the glass upright, then close the faucet quickly to avoid overflow. A one-inch collar of foam (the head) should top off the beer visually while enhancing aromas and protecting the carbonation of the beer.
But did you know that this delicate, planned process may not go as planned if you don’t pay attention to one key detail: the glassware. More specifically, the cleanliness of the glassware. Because when it comes to the perfect beer, clean enough isn’t good enough. What you really need is beer clean.
What Exactly Does Beer Clean Mean?
Beer clean is an industry term describing a glass that is free of any impurities that would give CO2 a place to cling to, ensuring the beer’s best look and taste. The Brewer’s Association Draught Beer Quality Manual (DBQM) defines a beer clean glass as one that:
“Forms a proper foam head, allows lacing during consumption, and never shows patches of bubbles stuck to the side of the glass in the liquid beer.”
Makes sense, right?
Why Is Beer Clean Glassware so Important?
The process that goes into making beer is long and painstaking. From harvesting the grain, to malting, to the act of brewing itself, all of these steps come together to create one product. At each step of the way, the parties involved are focused on ensuring the highest standards of quality and sanitation. So why would you forget all of that hard work when it’s time to reap the reward and put that sweet, sweet beer to your lips? Insisting on the cleanest possible glassware is the last hurdle you have to clear to guarantee that the beer you enjoy is the best it can possibly be. A dirty glass can compromise a carefully crafted beer’s taste, carbonation, and look, and quite frankly, no one should be OK with that.
How Does a Non-Beer Clean Glass Affect Your Beer?
As noted above, if a glass is anything less than beer clean, it harbors minor (or major) impurities that give CO2 a place to cling. This rogue CO2 is meant to be rapidly released upon the pour, shooting upwards, creating a cascading effervescence that’s integral to the overall aesthetic experience of enjoying your beer. When CO2 stays in the glass it may lessen the amount of foamy head, wreak havoc on the mouthfeel and flavors, and generally leave you with a subpar drinking experience.
What Are Some Signs of Non-Beer Clean Glassware?
Visible residue, like fingerprints or lipstick, is not the only form dirt and grime can take on glassware. Fat or grease-based residues like milk or dish soap can all leave a clear film on glass. This film causes the speedy release of carbonation, causing your beer to go flat, and changing the taste. Odors absorbed from stale air, smoke, or drying towels, may also give beer an off-taste.
Find out if your glass is really beer clean by looking for carbonation bubbles on the inside of the glass. On a beer clean glass there will be no irregularities or impurities for bubbles to form on. If you see bubbles clinging to the sides of a glass, it’s a surefire sign that the glass has some residual impurities from soap, food, or something else.
You can also beer clean “test” your glassware. The three most common techniques are the sheeting test, the salt test, and the lacing test.
The sheeting test involves dipping a glass in water. If the glass is clean, the water will evenly coat it. If there is an invisible film, the water will break up into droplets on the inside surface.
For the salt test, sprinkle salt on the inside of a wet glass – it will not adhere to the parts that still contain a greasy film.
The lacing test happens after a glass has been filled with beer (so we recommend not wasting your finest pours with this particular test). As a beer is consumed, the foam should adhere to the inside of the glass in uniform, parallel rings forming a lace pattern. If there is film, there may be a random pattern from the foam or no pattern at all.
What Are Some Best Practices for Getting Beer Clean Glassware?
An easy way to keep your glasses beer clean without any special processes is to make sure that your beer glassware is used for just that- no milk, soda, or juice.
Beer clean glasses are cleaned in a very specific way with certain techniques and special cleansers. According to the DBQM, there are two acceptable, effective ways to clean your glassware for guaranteed beer clean results: manually washing in a three-tub sink or using a dedicated automatic glass washer.
For manual cleaning, it is important to clean sinks and work area prior to cleaning the glassware. First, clean the glass in hot water with a detergent that is not fat or oil-based. Make sure not to empty any water from the glass into the cleaning water so cleaning solutions are not diluted. Second, scrub the entire glass (interior, exterior surfaces, and the bottom of glass) with a cleaning brush to remove film and residue. Using motorized cleaning brushes will allow for a more thorough washing. Then, make sure to rinse in cold water. Finally, sanitize the glass in the third sink filled with hot water and an appropriate sanitizer.
If using a glass washing machine, it’s imperative that you dedicate this machine to bar and beer glassware only. Wash glasses at a hot temperature (between 130º and 140º) and use the correct detergent, sanitizing, and/or rinsing agents. Check concentrations daily and regularly service the machine to keep its performance where.
Is There Anything Else I Should Know?
Great question! And the answer is yes!
Storing your beer glassware after you’ve got it clean is nearly as important as the cleaning itself. Air drying is best as drying towels can leave behind odors or lint. If you do use towels, make sure to use lint-free towels (like these) and let them thoroughly dry between uses to prevent mildew growth. Store your beer clean glassware in a stainless-steel wire basket for maximum air circulation. Glassware should be stored in an area free of odors, smoke, grease, or dust. If storing glasses for frosting, make sure the freezer is clean and odor-free.
And that’s basically everything you need to know about beer clean glassware. Without it, your carefully crafted beer’s carbonation, aroma, and tastes will all be compromised in some way or another. Being able to identify dirty glassware and knowing the proper way to make glassware beer clean will allow you to drink beer the way a brewery intended you to. Cheers!