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Don't Put Good Beer in a Dirty Glass

If you spot carbonation clinging to the inside of a glass of freshly poured beer, that's a sure sign of grit. A few simple steps will have you drinking clean each time.

John Holl Jul 14, 2018 - 5 min read

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The excitement is real. You've stood in line for a beer, traded from across the country, or are simply enjoying an old favorite. The desire to share with social media circles is powerful and so you pour into your preferred glass take a picture, and post.

Maybe you're at a bar and order a pint of a newly tapped beer. Or at a bottle share where glasses are being passed around at a healthy clip. Being at the source, a brewery, offers a chance to not only try experimental recipes, but established one as well, toasting with friends between flights.

The biggest thing that can ruin these moments is the beer being served in a dirty glass.

"I think there is still a fair amount of the both drinking public and people working in the [beer] industry that still don't know that bubble clinging to the side of a glass means its dirty," says Pat Fahey, the Content Director for the Cicerone Certification Program.

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Dirty doesn't necessarily mean lipstick on the rim, there are several factors that can contribute to a vessel being served in a sullied condition. There are relatively easy fixes that you can do, whether you're drinking at home, or serving beer in a pub, to make sure a clean glass is used every time.

At a bar, brewery, or restaurant there are two common says glasses are cleaned. Usually located underneath a bar is the three-sink method. After taking out any solid substances (like that lemon wedge from a hefeweizen, or a rind from a watermelon wheat, you're ready to wash. The first is filled with water that is used to rinse and scrub the glass. The second is filled with hot (a minimum of 120 degrees F) water for a deeper clean, and the third is filled with sanitizer dosed water.

"You want to let the glass drip dry after this process," says Loucretia A. Woosley who works in the dispense division for Micro Matic. "One thing that I've seen is that after people sanitize they'll put the glass into a freezer and the sanitizer freezes onto the glass. Then the beer sticks to the sanitizer."

Plus, there's no reason to use a frozen glass.

The second most common way to clean a glass is with a dedicated glasswasher. Larger ones will employ a rack system while smaller ones can be individually hand loaded. These will use steam heat to make sure that the glasses are clean and ready once they are removed. It's an efficient system, but there are pitfalls to avoid, says Fahey. If a bar also serves mixed drinks, like White Russians, the milk fat contained in the dominant ingredient can actually leave residue on other glasses, causing that dreaded schmutz. So, Fahey warns it's best to wash those glasses separately.

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In both cases (and certainly at home) it's important to rinse out the glass before serving.

At home where a dedicated dishwasher or three sink equipped wet bar aren't feasible, there are few things we, the dedicated beer drinkers can do to make sure we use a beer clean glass each time.

  • Use a bottle brush. Buy a soft bristle brush that will only be used for glassware. If you double up on soup bowls, dinner plates, and other items that touch food you can transfer bits to your glass.

  • Pay attention to the seams and crevices. For classes like the standard shaker pint, there's not a lot of places where debris can hide. But, for nonic pints, Teku glasses and other designs that have additional form to add to their function, make sure the brush gets into every nook.

  • Use a non-petroleum-based dish washing liquid. That bottle on the kitchen sink might smell like summer flowers and get your dishes squeaky clean, but they'll leave a residue behind.

  • Try using a substance like Beer Clean glass cleaner, which is odorless and leaves your glasses spotless.

  • Allow your glasses to drip dry and rinse with clean water before pouring in your next beer.

When beer is presented in a sparkling clean glass, where you can see the rise - and not stick - of carbonation to a suitable head, it's a moment to savor.

"It's a little extra effort," says Fahey, "but makes a huge difference."

John Holl is the author of Drink Beer, Think Beer: Getting to the Bottom of Every Pint, and has worked for both Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine® and All About Beer Magazine.

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