How to pour a beer suggests one method in which beer should be poured, but not all beers are created equal; especially those on sale in a British pub. This writeup attempts to explain how your barperson should be pouring your pint for maximum satisfaction. This is based on my (admittedly not huge) experience in the pub trade. Your tastes may vary...
As all good britnoders know, the best beer to be had in a pub doesn't come out of a bottle, like some of those piss-weak American beers. Instead, most pubs have a variety of beers on tap, usually including both popular beers produced by small corporations as well as local specialities. A well poured pint of beer tastes nicer than one that's just been chucked in the glass, and so the technique of the barperson is paramount.
- Select your Glass
It is important to ensure the beer is served in a clean glass, without fingermarks, smudges or residual water from the washing process. It's especially important to remove grease (thanks Teiresias), as this destroys the head. Recently washed glasses are also undesirable because they are likely to be too warm. If possible, choose a glass with an appropriate logo on it - every little touch helps. After all, you'll probably get a funny look if a customer orders a Fosters and a Guinness, and gets a Fosters in a Guinness glass, and a Guinness in a Fosters glass. This is particularly important if the order contains two or more similar looking beers, such as Stella and San Miguel.
In general it is safe to assume that customers will be happy with a straight glass, but they may ask for a mug or jug, in which case you should give them their beer in a squat heavy glass with a handle. Certain regulars at some pubs defy all expectation, and you just have to learn what strange object they want their beer in. Although it is illegal to sell draught beer in measures other than 1 pint or 1/2 a pint you should only worry out this if there's a policeman actually in the pub.
- Approach the Pump
Here's where things get more complicated. For a stout, such as Guinness or Murphys you can just place the glass on the drip tray. With lager or bitter that's on tap you should hold the glass at about 40 degrees to the vertical just under the tap. Real Ale, or anything else that comes out of an actual pump follows a similar principle, but due to inherent foaminess you should probably make sure the pump nozzle is well inside the glass. It's quite a simple concept to understand: the further the beer falls before it strikes the glass, the more foam will be created. Since in most cases you want to minimise the head, you must also minimise this distance.
- The Pull/Pour
- Lager (e.g. Fosters)
For a pint with minimal head it is a simple matter of holding the glass at its angle, and opening the tap. It's important to fully open the tap, or it will splutter, and there'll be too much foam. As the glass begins to fill you can straighten it up to the vertical. Flip the pump back up just as the beer fills the glass. If a little head is desirable, there are two alternatives. Either you can be a bit more careless in the pouring, allowing foam to be produced, or with some taps you can flip the tap up when the beer is about half an inch from the top, and then press a button on top, which forces out beer mixed with air, creating a head.
According to 409 some pumps do this when pushed away from the user. pjd also notes that some lagers such as Carling require far more care than others.
- Real Ale, or pumped Bitter (e.g. Abbot Ale)
Rather different in technique, this is the only sort of pint that is actually "pulled" from a pump. Grasp the top of the pump, and pull down strongly and smoothly, whilst minimising the distance between glass and pump nozzle. After the first pull, ensure the nozzle is clear of the beer surface before returning the pump to an upright position. If you don't do this then you will suck up the beer you just pulled! Pull more beer using a similar technique until the pint is full. It should only take 3 or 4 pulls to fill the glass. Do not stop pumping until the glass overflows, as the inevitable head will cloud your view of the liquid level. After pulling your pint, ensure that the pump is returned to an upright position.
- Bitter on Tap (e.g. John Smiths)
This should be poured in a similar manner to lager, but the characteristics of the beer generally lead to head being formed more easily. Down in the south of England you should try to minimise the amount of head formed, whereas northerners generally prefer their beer to have a little head. Creating exactly the desired quantity takes some practice unfortunately.
- Stout (e.g Guinness)
Although Guinness.com suggests holding the glass at an angle, as with other pints, it is safe to simply leave the glass on the drip tray, and open the pump up. Since you can leave the glass on the drip tray with the pump on you can save some time by dealing with another drink. When the glass is about 2/3 full flip up the tap, and leave the pint to settle for a minute or so. During this time the liquid should lose its cloudy appearance, and become black, with a white foamy head. When this has happened you can carefully lift the glass up to the tap, and fill it to the brim. Due to the thick head you should even be able to slightly overfill the glass. Place on the bar, to settle to perfection.
A Full Pint?(thanks to ponder&wertperch)
Since most beer glasses hold exacly a pint of liquid when full it is important to ensure that they are full to the brim. Some people don't consider head part of the pint, wheras some will be annoyed if they don't get any. The most important thing is to respect your customer's wishes (which usually involve more head further north), and to not worry about pouring slightly too much beer in the glass, as a little bit of wastage to overflow is preferable to lost customers due to short measure. If a beer is left to stand on the bar, and as the head clears it is revealed that the customer has not been given a full pint you should offer a top-up, so long as the pint hasn't been at all consumed.
stupot adds that if the nozzle is still in the pint when you stop pouring then the liquid level will drop as you remove it, creating a short pint