Serving bottled beer
The customer has chosen a beer that you carry in a bottle. Good beer service for bottled beer starts with storage and carries through to actually presenting the glass to the customer. In addition to storage and presentation, there are best practices for opening a bottle, and pouring the beer into a glass. All of it is important for excellent bottle service.
Peculiarly, the Cicerone® Certification Program’s list of free study resources doesn’t show anything pertaining to this section. I’ll followed mostly just the syllabus to learn about serving bottled beer.
For the part about storage temperatures, I read from Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher.
Prepare for service
Serving bottled beer starts before the customer even enters the bar. For excellent beer service, the bottles should be stored properly.
Bottle conditioned beer, should be stored upright. This lets the dead yeast and other particulates settle to the bottom of the bottle. Be gentle when you gab the bottle, you don’t want to stir it all up.
Remember from lesson 005, that beer is best consumed fresh. For professional beer service, we’re probably not talking about storing beer for super long periods of time. If you’re interested in Beer Advocate’s advice on storing beer for prolonged periods, you can read this article.
Also, from lesson 005, we know to refrigerate beer so it stays fresh longer. Now we must understand that different beer styles should be stored at different temperatures.
If possible, have different coolers set to different temperatures:
35° F – Domestic and specialty lagers
45° F – Specialty ales (slightly warmer for English-style ales)
50° F to 55° F – Real ale (cask ale)
Otherwise, just store all of your beer at 43° F or less.
Before you open the bottle, give it a visual inspection. Look through the glass.
If you see white-flakes (like snowflakes), the beer is old. Do not serve beer that has white flakes inside.
If you see a ring of gunk around the glass at the surface of the beer, the beer is old. Do not serve beer that has a ring of gunk around the inside of the bottleneck.
Look for yeast at the bottom of the bottle. Generally you want to pour the beer subtly, so that the yeast remains inside the bottle. Weissbier is an exception, when serving Weissbier you can pour the yeast out with the beer.
Sometimes the customer will request that the yeast be poured with the beer. If the customer requests that you pour the yeast, don’t get nuts. You don’t need to shake the bottle too much. Gently rouse the yeast by swirling, rolling, or inverting the bottle.
Opening bottle: twist off, pry off, cork, combo
When you’re ready to open the bottle of beer, there are different approaches based on the type of seal:
- Twist-off cap
- Pry-off cap
- Combo: cork and cap
If the bottle of beer has a twist-off cap, go ahead and twist off the cap by hand.
Be careful not to cut your hand on the sharp edges of the bottle cap.
You can use a napkin to help grip the cap and to protect your hand.
If the bottle of beer has a pry-off cap, it’s best to use a bottle opener that has a bar at least 1/4” wide. Using a bottle opener with a narrower bar risks breaking the bottle during opening.
Pry the cap off in one, smooth motion.
Bottles of beer that are sealed with a mushroom cork will also have a metal cage to prevent the cork from popping out from the pressure.
Handle the bottle gently to prevent the yeast and particulates from being roused off the bottom of the bottle. Rough handling can also make the beer volatile (pop when you open the bottle or cause excessive foam).
Untwist the cage by hand and remove it.
Now remove the cork by hand. Practice cork safety—point the cork away from people while opening.
Sometimes those little corks are slippery to the hand and sticky to the bottle. You can use a napkin to help grip the cap.
Combo: cork and cap
Occasionally, you will serve a bottle of beer that is sealed with both a cork and cap.
First remove the cap. Then use a corkscrew to remove the cork.
After opening the beer, there a few things to do before serving the beer to the customer.
First, don’t throw away the cork or the cap. You should always present the cork to the customer. You should present the cap to the customer when serving a rare, unusual, or new beer.
Next, check the lip of the bottle for broken or damaged glass. Do not serve beer from a bottle with broken or damaged glass.
Also check the lip for: rust from the cap, dried beer, or yeast. These things could affect the flavor of the beer.
Pouring bottled beer
Finally, we’re ready to pour the beer into a glass.
Hold the glass at a 45-degree angle. Pour the beer down the side of the glass until the glass is half full.
When the glass is half full, tilt the glass upright and continue pouring down the middle, directly onto the beer. This helps create the head of foam.
The perfect head is 1 inch of foam. Weizen and Belgian styles of ales should be poured with 2-4 inches of foam.
Some beers have yeast or sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Take care to not pour the yeast out with the beer. While pouring, watch the yeast as it moves closer to the top of the bottle. Stop pouring before the yeast falls out.
As described above, for some types of beer, it is customary to pour yeast. When in doubt, ask the customer whether she wants you to pour the yeast with the beer.
Cool! We know how to provide excellent beer service with bottled beer. Let’s talk about excellent beer service with draft beer. Then we’re all done with Part I of the Certified Beer Server syllabus.
Flashcards for this section
Based on the reading materials mentioned and my notes above, here are my flashcards for this section.
What is the proper angle for storing a bottle of beer?
Store bottled beer upright.
What is the proper temperature for storing bottled beer?
35° F for lagers
45° F for ales (slightly warmer for English ales)
50° F to 55° F for real ale (cask ale)
Otherwise, 43° F or less.
What are 2 visual signs of bad beer?
- White flakes
- A ring of gunk inside the bottleneck
For what style of beer should yeast be poured?
Weissbier is traditionally poured with the yeast.
All others, keep the yeast inside the bottle unless the customer asks for it.
How should yeast be poured with beer?
Gently rouse the yeast by swirling, rolling, or inverting the bottle.
What are the 4 basic types of bottle seals?
- Twist-off cap
- Pry-off cap
- Mushroom cork
- Combo: cork and cap
What size bottle opener should be used for pry-off caps?
The bar should be at least 1/4” wide to prevent breaking the bottle.
Describe 2 considerations when opening beer that is sealed with mushroom cork.
- Handle gently to not rouse the yeast or make the beer volatile.
- Point the cork away from people when opening.
How should you remove the cork from a bottle that is sealed with cap and cork?
Use a corkscrew.
What should you do with the cork or cap after opening a bottle of beer?
Always present the cork to the customer.
Present the cap to the customer when serving a rare, unusual, or new beer.
Name 4 things you should look for in the lip of the beer bottle.
- Broken or damaged glass
- Rust from the cap
- Dried beer
How should you hold the glass while pouring beer?
Hold the glass at a 45-degree angle until half-full, then hold it upright.
What is the proper thickness for the foam head?
1” of foam.
2-4” for Weizen or Belgian ales.
Why write the flashcards by hand?
Buy the full set here: