Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Clean your F'n glass!

Let's talk glassware again, not about my obsessive need to collect 'em all, but about keeping them clean. This is not simply about making sure all your glasses are pretty, this is about making sure your beer tastes its best. 

See that glass with all those bubbles? That's bad. What we have here is a dirty glass. First let us back up for a minute so I can drop some science on ya'll. As we all know, beer is carbonated to varying degrees, because as yeast munch on sugars (from malt) they produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. During fermentation the carbon dioxide escapes freely, but during bottling the yeast are fed more sugar (priming) and this time the carbon dioxide can't escape the sealed vessel, so it dissolves into the beer (this is the process of naturally carbonating beer; there's also forced carbonation methods, but that's a tale for a different post). When you open that beer or when your bartender pours from the tap, the pressure is reduced and the carbon dioxide is released out of the liquid as small bubbles, churning up your beer and creating the foamy head. BUT when your glass is dirty (grease, food, soap, etc.), it creates a nucleation site that the bubbles get stuck on. This is bad for a few reasons: 

1. Obviously there's something else in your glass besides beer and who knows what it is, but it could be impacting the beer's taste (mmm notes of last night's meatloaf). If this is your own glass it might not be a big deal, but at a bar the culprit is more of a mystery (mmm notes of the last person's saliva). 

2. Those bubbles, when allowed to escape, help deliver all the wonderful hoppy, malty, yeasty aromas that someone worked so hard to craft for you. Keep in mind that the vast majority of what you taste is influenced by what you smell.

At a bar, if you think your glass is dirty ask for a new glass and a new beer. At home clean your glassware properly.

"Well Mr. Glassware snob, how do I do that?" Well first of all that's Dr. to you, but here are a few quick tips on how to clean your glassware at home.

  • Do not, I SAID DO NOT, wash your glasses in the dishwasher especially with other dishes. Flying food particles and soap will cling to your glasses like crazy and the process is bad for the lovely artwork on your favorite brewery glass ("oh no my hot pink Three Floyd's glass is ruined!!!")
  • Handwash all your glasses with a fragrance-free and preferably non-foaming detergent
  • Rinse thoroughly with water
  • Let air dry upside down on a rack (here you can use your empty dishwasher) or a glass drying mat
  • Test with the "water sheet" method- if water sheets off the inside of your glass, you're free and clean. If you get droplets clinging everywhere, try again
  • Another option is to pour a small amount of beer (half-ounce) into the glass, agitate the beer, swirl the foam around the glass a few times, and discard. All the bubbles will help scrub the glass

There are other, more labor intensive methods like the "3 sink method", but the above should get you started and will keep me from yelling at you on Instagram (@TheRussB… twitter too)

This also seems like a good time to bring up another serving pet peeve of mine- don't drink beer out of a frosted glass; slightly chilled is okay, but room temperature is best. Frosted glasses cause foaming issues that tend to drive off too much carbonation and aromas. Also, that coldness numbs your taste buds- ever wonder why the macros make such a big deal about really cold temps?  They don't want you to taste what they are serving you. Eventually your beer will come up to proper serving temp, but why waste that time? Finally, those wonderful ice crystals trap all the yummy smells and tastes that your freezer has been storing up and then releases them into your beer. 

I hope you've learned something today, now go forth and clean!

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