This article originally appeared on VICE Italy.
A wooden counter, a few colourful taps and a freshly poured pint – it’s the simple things in life that bring me joy. What does not bring me joy is how you feel after drinking all those beautiful pints. Hungover, yes, but more immediately: all bloated and puffy and full.
While it pains me to agree with beer snobs, it turns out the way your beer is poured at the pub makes all the difference when it comes to bloating, as explains sommelier Gilberto Acciaio, one of Italy's top beer importers and a top-six finisher in the World Cup of Beer Sommeliers.
Gilberto Acciaio, beer sommelier.
For instance, have you ever seen an unlucky server accidentally drop a foam scraper in a pint, triggering an eruption that makes the glass overflow? If you have, maybe don’t go back to that pub. It’s a clear sign that they’re not pouring their beers right.
“Imagine that eruption happening inside your stomach. Horrible, huh?" says Acciaio. Bloating, discomfort, dizziness, stomach ache and even heartburn are just a few of the unpleasant consequences. “Pouring a draught beer correctly,” Acciaio explains, “means placing the glass vertically right underneath the tap and making sure the beer hits the bottom of the glass.” That way, the excess CO2 hits the bottom of the glass and is released, instead of ending up in your stomach. It also allows the foam – which should always be a couple of fingers high – to settle inside the glass.
Of course, no one wants to drink a flat beer, and often pourers try to get as little foam as possible – but that’s not necessarily a good thing either. In fact, too much foam is better than no foam at all. Worst case, the excess can be removed with a foam scraper. In breweries in some parts of Germany, for instance, waiters wait five or six minutes between pouring and serving the beer.
“They open the beer tap to expel the CO2 and wait for the foam to compact,” Acciaio says.
The wrong way to pour draft beer.
Two beers poured correctly. If the foam is overflowing, it can be removed with a scraper.
“The foam head protects the beer from coming into contact with the air, and therefore from oxidation,” he explains. Oxidation makes the beer change taste and colour. If the water oxidises, the drink gets a metallic taste; if the hop oxidises, it becomes rancid. Acciaio says oxidised beer is also bad for your stomach.
"The first thing to look out for in a pub is how clean the glasses are," he continues. It might be obvious, but often pubs don’t rinse their glasses properly after washing them, leading to potentially bad chemical reactions inside your pint (and your belly).
“We’re talking about an alkaloid [the dish soap] that reacts with the beer and leaves a film on the glass, which makes the foam slip away," Acciaio explains. Whether you’re sitting at the table or at the counter, the chances you’ll check the glasses before ordering a cold one are slim. But Acciaio insists it’s one of the most important things to do to avoid bloating.
Perfectly cleaned glasses.
One way you can figure out if your beer was poured into a perfectly clean glass is to check if it leaves behind the so-called “Brussels lace”, a trace of foam that resembles embroidery.
“It was given this name because Belgian beers, in general, are more full-bodied, and their foam sticks more easily to the glass,” says Acciaio.
It’s also crucial that the staff flush out the tubes with water every time they replace a keg, otherwise the foam will build up, full of bacteria produced by the yeast.
Brussels lace, indicating a glass has been cleaned correctly.
Spot the bad pour.
It might sound dramatic, but Acciao thinks lazy bartenders are “criminals” for not respecting rules of a perfect pour. “They know they are hurting customers,” he says, suggesting you find yourself a bar or pub that treats you and your beer right.