What the Fizz? #BrewedAwakening

By / Wine + Drinks / January 12th, 2018 / 8

One of the things we beer judges and writers look for in a beer is a good head. It could be creamy, rocky, little islands of foam, tan, white, beige, but we generally want something. An exception is in southern England where cask ales traditionally have very little head – that doesn’t mean they have no carbonation. Go further north and expect a creamy head.

It’s not a deal breaker in terms of scoring a beer, but it’s important from a consumer appeal angle. A beer looks really nice with a nice creamy head. Some countries seem to take this more seriously than others. I remember when I lived in Holland on a work term and we’d go to our local bar and order a line of draft beer, on a wooden paddle, probably Oranjeboom, Grolsch or Heineken, and the bartender would pour them all in a line, wasting a lot of beer. Then, when the beers arrived, they’d all have a lot of frothy head but the actual beer level would vary by as much as an inch, in small ~ 10 ounce glasses! In Southern England that would cause a riot.

Last week I got flack on my Facebook site when I posted my Top 100 Good Drinks of the year, and included a picture of Petit Sault La Kedgwick, a terrific New Brunswick lager, poured in a small pils glass. There were vigorous bubbles all through the glass. A couple of my more observant (!) FB followers commented that I had used a dirty glass. Of course I didn’t. I’m a beer writer. So I answered to them that it must be something else, either an overcarbonated beer, or a glass that caused bubbles due to either pits/scratches or intentional etching. Yes, companies do that to beer glasses to enhance the foam.

One famous Belgian example is Duvel, whose huge glasses have a factory scratch at the bottom that helps create that legendary strong beer’s magnificent head. The glasses have to be huge to hold all that foam.

Another example is the glass I used for my photo shoot, a 200 ml Super Bock glass from Portugal. After the FB comments I checked the glass and, sure enough, it has tiny concentric circles etched inside the glass, at the very bottom. When you pour a fresh beer into the glass you can see the overexcited bubbles generated by these intentional nucleation sites. They work.

So, if you really like fizz, try to find one of these etched glasses. Or just use a dirty glass.


Craig Pinhey discovered good drink circa 1985 at Ginger’s Tavern/Granite Brewery in Halifax and has been writing about beer, wine and spirits for 25 years. A Certified Sommelier and BJCP judge, Craig lives in New Brunswick where he runs his own writing and consulting business and is the beverage columnist for Brunswick News. He is the only person to have judged all of the national wine, spirits and beer awards of Canada.

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