Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Crying over spilt beer

Pete Brown (yes, him again) has recently been complaining in the Morning Advertiser about the poor aesthetic presentation of beer as compared with other drinks. Although this is nothing that hasn’t been going on for decades, he does have something of a point. His core concern is spilt beer, either cascading down the sides of the glass or swilling around on tables.

There can be little doubt that this puts across a poor image. But there’s a very simple remedy in the general introduction of oversized instead of brim-measure glasses for draught beer, which would largely eliminate the problem. They used to be commonplace, but have now pretty much entirely disappeared. However, with oversize glasses inevitably comes the pressure for metered dispense, which would be compelling in busy, high-turnover pubs to avoid routine overmeasure. So be careful what you wish for.

From time to time you read articles about how the presentation of beer in pubs is offputting to women – there’s one in the latest issue of the CAMRA newspaper What’s Brewing. Often they’re vague as to what exactly they expect to change, but surely one factor in it is brim-measure glasses, which arguably look inelegant compared with wine glasses and are very much prone to spillage.

The issue of beer on tables could of course be easily solved by bringing back beermats, which seem to have been largely absndoned by the more fashionable end of the market on the grounds that they’re old-fashioned.

He also makes a rather odd point about the pump nozzle never touching the beer. Clearly this is impossible with the swan-neck dispense that is now fairly general for cask beer, and I doubt whether it’s completely avoided with any dispense system for keg beers either. To achieve that would require a complete revolution in the way beer is served, which may end up alienating many drinkers.

Of course, in recent years there has been a major improvement in the presentation of beer in pubs with the widespread introduction of specific branded glasses. However, by definition, these are only applicable to major beer brands that are permanent fixtures on the bar, and exclude the constantly rotating guests that are the stock-in-trade of many specialist pubs. But pubs can go some way towards remedying that by producing their own branded glasses with the pub name. Hopefully oversized.

27 comments:

  1. After reading the article it seems to me that he's simply pointing out that some bar staff aren't properly trained and their management aren't doing their job. Most of the pubs I go to have staff that can pour a pint properly, with a decent head, and not have it spilling all over the place. His comment about the nozzle never touching the beer only refers to lager, and that's certainly possible with a little skill, assuming the gas, turnover and cooling are all good.

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  2. I see his point, though food detritus much more off-putting to me. Sticky glasses a different issue.

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  3. Yes, to some extent it's Pete Brown going off on one, although he does have a point. Here's a video showing how to pour lager properly, although that's certainly not the only style of keg tap and nozzle.

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  4. The Stafford Mudgie29 May 2019 at 21:45

    Short measure nowadays eliminates spilt beer.
    It's not like when I were a lad and there were duck boards behind the bar and then after closing time tables were mopped up with a tea towel that was then wrung out for return to the cask.
    Why the "major improvement in the presentation of beer in pubs with the widespread introduction of specific branded glasses" when beer's for drinking not looking at ?

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    1. It was initially to 'add value' to (mostly) mass-market products that are all about marketing and branding rather than taste. With more niche, dare I say artisan, beers and lagers, it's become more to do with competing with the mass-market brands.

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    2. The Belgians have long been keen on it, of course.

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  5. Sticky wet scratched glass with fading logo of a beer not in the glass. It's what makes beer worth a fiver a pop in beard micro pubs.

    You want a dry new glass? That's the 1.99 stuff flogged in spoons.

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  6. In Germany they put a pretty paper collar on the stem of a stemmed glass to catch the overflow; or at least, they did in 1990. Due to the absence of duty on beer, it was much more expensive in pubs than from a beer shop. I'm guessing this meant more money, both available to spend on service, and necessary. It seems that the price of pub beer in the UK is causing people to think the same way. You're not going to pay five or six pounds for a messy experience, when you can buy the beer for £1.67 at Morrisons.

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  7. Oversized glasses are more trouble than they're worth these days, as not enough people understand how they work anymore. You can find yourself having the same argument about a top up, three or four times per night on a busy evening with people who think the beer should go all the way to the top of the glass regardless
    The best way to deal with spilt beer is simply staff training. If your pumps are set up correctly, there's no reason for staff to pour more beer than will fit in the glass. Also, there should be a glass collector wiping tables and generally keeping the pub tidy; something that seems to be skimped on these days

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    1. The Stafford Mudgie30 May 2019 at 15:29

      Bucko,
      But "staff training" costs money and "a glass collector wiping tables" costs money and there's no money spare if you're paying £50,000 a year for the lease and over £100 for each firkin.

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    2. Having additional staff on hand to wipe tables on a whim will cost extra money, which is probably why pubs allow glasses and plates to pile up these days. I suppose the customer retention from having a presentable pub would not be enough to off set it?
      Staff training doesn't need to cost money though. You just need to spend time with the new staff and go through the processes as they're working their shift. It may get a bit tedious with the high staff turnover in pubs, but a good manager will make the effort

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    3. The Stafford Mudgie30 May 2019 at 18:20

      Bucko,
      Yes, allowing glasses and plates to pile is to be expected in many a high street 'barn'
      And spending time with the new staff often just doesn't happen as it's too busy even for 'on the job training'.

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    4. I would believe it was too busy if I saw the manager getting stuck in. All too often, they're nowhere to be seen

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  8. "They used to be commonplace, but have now pretty much entirely disappeared."

    That's really not the case round these parts, at least not in the pubs where I drink.

    I know I'm not exactly representative of the 'normals', but I'd hazard that at least 50% of the pints I've drunk in the past year were served in oversized glasses and the only places in which I consume any significant amount of beer that *don't* use oversize glasses these days are Spoons. (And even they did briefly entertain them, to considerable fanfare, some years ago).

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    1. Where is this mystical land of oversized glasses?! I can't remember the last time I was served a beer in one, or even saw one being used, and you only have to see the ber pics on blogs like Retired Martin to see that they're really not commonplace.

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    2. I think it's basically crafty bars in that London, not the pubs that normies use. I don't recall going in a single pub using oversize pint glasses in the past year.

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    3. Ahhh! Now you mention it, I have seen oversized glasses recently, quite a few actually, but they were all lined 2/3 of a pint glasses.

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    4. the Dove Street Inn in Ipswich has used oversized glasses since they opened in 2003. its been GBG listed every edition since, so Im sure the GBG tickers have paid a visit :) plus I know only one pub that doesnt use beer mats round here, even the local Wetherspoons uses beermats now,maybe its less an only metropolis thing,but a reason to go outside of the metropolis sometimes.

      and fwiw I dont like it when bar staff push the glass right on to the end of the swan neck, Ive always been told not to do that when pouring beer, I reckon its a technique caught from using sparklers as the extra width of the sparkler means you arent touching the side of the glass with the beer dispense bit and introducing potential bacterial infections, I just got around to watching the Carling beer factory programme and cringed when the presenter did exactly that swan neck push into glass pour and said thats how you poured the perfect pint.

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    5. You can't pull a sparkled pint without putting the Swan neck in the beer as the only place to start the pull is with it as far into the glass as it'll go.

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    6. I agree as far in the glass, but the technique that people seem to have adopted, I believe simply just by copying what they see others do, is to bring the glass up at 45 degrees to the swan neck and put the nozzle directly into contact with the side of the glass.

      which seems like a weird kind of hybrid of trying to pour a german style lager and trying not to over froth them,the 45 degree bit pour the beer down the side of the glass, but also forcing some nucleation through beers that arent naturally frothy via the nozzle pressing contact with the glass.

      With a sparkler of course you are trying to avoid the over frothness to pour but the nozzle wouldnt be in direct contact with the glass, at most the side rim with the thread of it would be as its the widest bit, and at least they get removed and cleaned every day, Ive never seen a pub clean a swan neck nozzle, even when changing a beer.

      but anything that was in the glass, and it neednt be a clean glass,is now directly on the nozzle, and the nozzle directly touches the beer, thats one of the ways a beer line can get an infection.

      and dont get me started on when bar staff hand you the glass by directly holding the rim of it.

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    7. I think the best advice for anyone is 'don't get you started on anything' to be fair...

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    8. I will continue to heed my late father's advice: "If you value your health never drink beer from a wet glass"

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  9. As I say it may well be a regional divide. Over the last couple of days I drank in my local micropub in Surrey, a newish brewery taproom and a multi time CAMRA London POTY (the Hope). Oversized lined pint (and indeed half) glasses in all three. One was an oversized jug glass which was unexpected.

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    1. Probably more a micropub/mainstream divide. I've been in 18 pubs on our two recent trips to Rugby and uttoxeter, including micropubs and craft bars, and precisely none had oversize glasses.

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  10. Bring back beermats ���� I'm backing that plan Mudgie
    Britain Beermat

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  11. I don't normally look out for such things, but yeaterday I watched a barmaid pouring lager from a tall font, and she was definitely dipping the spout in the beer. Plus, in the early stage of the pour, she stood the glass on the drip tray. I suspect this is pretty common.

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  12. With swan necks, because they will touch the beer, then a new glass should be used each time to avoid cross contamination...this is therefore very problematic at beer fests. A bigger problem though is bar keeps holding the glass by the rim which seems to be becoming a bigger problem.

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