BOOZE • Jul 24, 2017
Beer has been produced for hundreds of thousands of years, yet it continues to be one of the world’s favorite alcoholic beverages. People from different cultures, walks of life, and socioeconomic backgrounds can generally agree that there’s nothing better than cracking open a cold one with friends at the end of a long day. However, what you will find people debating is how much head a beer should have and what is considered good pouring technique.
To answer these questions, you must first understand what beer head is. It’s the frothy foam at the top of your beer that’s produced by rising bubbles of carbon dioxide. Therefore, different kinds of beer will produce different sizes and quality of head. Other factors that affect it include the shape/cleanliness of the glass you’re using and the way in which the beer is poured. The aesthetics of an appetizing beer is one of the reasons why a thick layer of foam is commonly preferred, but on a more practical level, this layer also helps maintain carbonation and preserve aroma. So, how much head should your beer have? There’s really no right answer, especially since different countries have their own distinct beer cultures and preferences. But read below to learn about some of the beer cultures around the world and their thoughts on the subject!
Thanks to Oktoberfest, Germany is probably the country that’s most associated with beer. And because it’s one of the most important beer producing countries, it’s no surprise that there are a lot of rules when it comes to pouring. How you pour your beer should depend on the type of beer you’re drinking, but when it comes to head, Germans like a thick layer of foam – about 1.5 inches or three fingers.
Like Germany, Belgium is also recognized for its beer production – it has been revered as a place of superior beer-making among aficionados and a source of inspiration for brewers around the world. For Belgians, a pillowy head of thick foam with good retention is a sign of a high-quality beer.
While Czech beers may not be internationally renowned, this country has the highest beer consumption per capita in the world. What’s interesting about the beer culture in the Czech Republic is the different traditional styles of pouring beer, with varying amounts of head ranging from almost no head to mlíko, or a “milk” beer, which is a glass almost entirely full of foam.
Japan has a relatively young beer culture, but a very strong one. Despite the beautiful sake, shochu, and whisky made in Japan, beer is the nation’s preferred alcoholic drink. Very light, dry beers are the standard and there’s an obsession with thick, beautiful, creamy beer head.
Americans have always loved their beer, but big brands like Budweiser and Coors have given American beer a questionable rap outside of the country. However, this has changed in recent years due to the US’ rapidly growing craft beer movement. Regardless, Americans have typically not cared too much for beer head and aren’t known to have strong opinions about it.
The British are known for their love of beer and pub culture and they generally do not like beer head. In fact, the less head, the better. Receiving a beer with a thick layer of foam may even upset a customer, making them feel like the bartender is trying to rip them off. The one exception is, of course, Guinness. Because it is a creamy stout with much less carbonation, it’s especially important for drinkers to not slurp off the foam, as it acts as a nitrogen cap, protecting the flavors and the little carbonation the beverage has from escaping.
Therefore, the question of “how much head” depends on what type of beer you’re drinking and where you’re drinking it. At the end of the day, it’s a personal preference, but we should all learn to appreciate and respect the various beer cultures around the world.