009. Serving draft beer

Serving draft beer

The place you work might have some beer in a bottle and others on tap. Serving beer on tap is easy and simple, but don’t make a very common and pretty gross mistake.


Primary reading material for this section was found in Pouring the Perfect Beer. (MicroMatic moved the article on their website. I contacted them and I’ll update this link when it’s fixed.) Other reading material was found in the Glastender operation manual, and Draught Beer Quality Manual.

Pouring a beer

It’s pretty easy to pour “the perfect beer.” Although it seems like a lot when it’s written out, I’m sure you’ll have it down after you do it a few times.

First, test the glassware to see if it’s “beer clean.” As you pour the beer you can also check for beer clean glass. If bubble stick to the inside of the glass, you know it’s not clean.

Second, hold the glass at a 45-degree angle, about one inch (2.5 cm) below the beer faucet. Do not touch the glass to the faucet. The faucet might have old dried beer, which would contaminate the beer clean glass.

With your hand near the base of the tap handle, open the faucet all the way, in one quick motion. If you open the faucet part way, the beer will foam too much. Positioning your hand near the base of the tap handle reduces the distance your hand much travel, so it allows you to open the faucet more quickly.

Let the beer fall down the side of the glass.

When the glass is half-full, tilt the glass upright so that the beer pours down the middle. This helps create the right amount of foam.

When the foam reaches the top of the glass, quickly close the faucet in one quick motion. Do not waste beer by letting foam or beer pour over the side. Do not let the faucet come in contact with the beer.

We learned in the previous lesson that the proper thickness for the foam head is 1 inch (2.5 cm) of foam, except Weizen or Belgian Ales, which should have 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) of foam.

Pouring a draft beer on nitro requires a slight variation in the process:

  1. Hold the glass at 45-degree angle
  2. Pull tap all the way open
  3. When the glass is three-fourths full, set the glass down and let it settle for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Pour down the middle of the glass to form the right amount of foam.

So that’s it! Nothing to pouring the perfect beer. I think the main thing is, just don’t be timid—open the tap all the way so you don’t get too much foam.

And never allow the faucet to come in contact with the beer. A common mistake I see is when the server holds the glass to close to—or touching—the faucet, then they fill the beer all the way up, with the faucet dipping into the foam. Now the faucet is wet with beer—it gets sticky, attracts flies and microorganisms. And is pretty gross.

Excellent beer service starts well before pouring. Storage temperature, clean glassware, and other details provide the customer with an outstanding experience culminating in the perfect pour. But our work doesn’t end there.

Changing a keg (same product)

When the keg is empty you might be the person to replace it with a new one. The following procedures describe how to change a keg with the same product. If you want to put a different kind of beer on the same tap, you’ll need to flush the lines.

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First, remember that the keg must be chilled prior to serving. There’s a lot of liquid in a keg, it takes a long time to cool. Put the keg into refrigeration 24 hours prior to serving.

Most kegs in the U.S. use the “Sankey” system. The Glastender operations manual has some illustrative photos describing these next steps.

First, grip the coupler handle and pull out. Next swing the handle up to disengage the coupler.

Turn the coupler counterclockwise 1/4 turn and lift it from the neck of the keg. (“Righty tighty, lefty loosy.”)

To install a new keg, just do it backwards. Put the coupler on the neck of the keg and turn it 1/4 turn clockwise to engage it. (“Righty tighty, lefty loosy.”) Grip the coupler handle and swing in down until it snaps into position.

If you’re using a long-draw system, there might also be a foam-on-beer (FOB) detector. This needs to be reset after each new keg is installed. Usually, the FOB is reset by venting it to release the foam and gas from the chamber.

So now we finally know how to serve a beer.

Next we’re going to get into Part II of the Certified Beer Server syllabus: Beer Styles.

I’m pretty excited.

I know some about the basic beer styles, but the syllabus seems a bit more extensive than my intermediate beer knowledge.

I guess it’s like what they say with wine: If you want to learn about beer, drink beer. If you want to learn more about beer, drink more beer.

Friend me on Untappd to see what I’m checking in.

Flashcards for this section

Based on the reading materials mentioned and my notes above, here are my flashcards for this section.

At what angle should you hold the glass under the tap faucet?

Hold the glass at a 45-degree angle until half-full, then hold it upright.

How do you pour a beer on nitro?

Hold the glass at a 45-degree angle until three-fourths full, then let it sit for 1-2 minutes.

Pour down the middle of the glass to form the right amount of foam.

How far from the tap faucet should you hold the glass?

Hold the glass about one inch (2.5 cm) below the faucet.

How far should you open the tap?

Open the tap all the way.

When should you let the faucet touch the glass?

Never let the faucet touch the glass.

When should you let the faucet become submerged in beer?

Never let the faucet become submerged in beer.

At what point should you shut off the tap?

Shut off the tap when the foam gets to the top of the glass.

Don’t let foam or beer pour over the side, it wastes beer.

Which direction does the coupler handle move to disengage from the keg?

The coupler handle moves out and up to disengage.

Which direction does the coupler turn to remove it from the keg?

Turn the coupler 1/4-turn counterclockwise to disengage it from the keg.

How is a keg coupler engaged?

Place the coupler on the neck of the keg.

Turn it 1/4-turn clockwise.

Swing the handle down until it snaps into place.

Why write the flashcards by hand?

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    I'm Nathan Pierce. I drink beer, I quit my job, and I'm planning to start a brewery. I also host a podcast about how to start a brewery. So I’m studying for Cicerone® Certification Program, Certified Beer Server exam.

    Study along with me!

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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