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Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Beer Foam

Beer Foam

Have you ever realized that beer is the only beverage on earth that naturally retains a foam head? Pouring the perfect pint requires careful attention to the head of your beer and every beer will retain its head differently.

What Is Beer Foam?

Head, foam, or whatever you’d like to call it is actually quite scientific. The key to beer’s ability to generate foam and retain carbonation lies in the ingredients. Barley, hops, wheat, and many other things naturally found in nature contain a certain type of protein that is highly hydrophobic. That means that it repels water (the #1 ingredient in beer). Instead, these proteins grab onto the C02 bubbles (or N2 in the case of a nitrogen beer) and form a coating around them. As the bubbles ride to the top they cling together generating a mass of foam on the top of your beer.

How Does Head Affect My Beer?

Your college days are over and so is rubbing your nose and sticking your finger in your beer. The foam of your beer will greatly affect its mouthfeel. That is, as the name suggests, how the beer feels as you drink it. Beers can range from highly effervescent in the case of many sours, or soft and creamy like a stout. The head of your beer also greatly helps to display a beer’s aroma and prevent all of the carbonation from escaping and becoming flat.

How to Pour The Perfect Pint

Every style of beer will generate a different head. You should always start with beer-clean glassware and try to use the right style of glass whenever possible. Generally, you should try to pour your beer to have a 0.5-1 inch head. A good rule of thumb is to hold your glass at 45° as you pour the first half, then hold it upright and pour the rest down the center. 

Different Styles, Different Heads

With styles like Pilsners, Hefeweizens, or Belgian Wits, a thick bone-white head is preferred. To achieve this, pour the majority of the beer very hard to create an initial head of about 2 inches and let it settle to become denser before topping off. With a beer like a Porter or a Stout, the goal is to always retain a head throughout the entire beer so try only pouring half of the beer at first, pouring the rest later to create new foam (this can also help you maintain a preferred temperature). With any nitrogen-carbed beer the goal is to ‘pour hard’ which helps to generate as much foam and aroma as possible.