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Pikes Pub: 'Foam'enting a brewing unrest

March 8, 2018 Updated: March 8, 2018 at 10:34 am
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There's an episode of "The Brady Bunch" wherein youngest brother Bobby sets out to do laundry by himself, dumps in way too much detergent, and the washing machine starts belching suds that - because of sitcom science - soon engulf the room.

Sometimes when I pour a beer, I feel like Bobby Brady.

I usually can tell within the first inch or so of liquid-in-glass which way things are going to break, but sometimes there's a window - a few milliseconds, maybe - during which tragedy might yet be averted by a quick correction of tilt or speed. Mostly, though, by the time I recognize what's going on it's too late. All I can do is hope no one is watching (and judging) and pray that the molecular frenzy I just unleashed in my glass loses steam before I have to go asking for napkins.

It's a cruel quirk of nature that only the foam that touches table seems to turn back into beer. Just saying.

I had time to ponder the greater meaning and implications of beer bubbles on Saturday night, as I sat at the city's new pour-your-own spot, Trails End Taproom, watching my friend sip his (deftly poured) bock and waiting for the 2 inches of meringue between me and my 5-ounce double IPA to settle so I could sneak a slurp without looking like a foam-stachioed Wilford Brimley.

Nobody likes a glass full of fizz - which we'll get to in a moment - but apparently the opposite is just as much a party foul, at least gastrologically.

I'd always been taught a fussy pour was best, drizzling the beer - gentle, shhhhhhh - down the side of an angled glass so as to awaken as few carbon dioxide bubbles as possible. But according to New York-based Master Cicerone Max Bakker, that kind of meticulous dead pour undermines presentation and, worse yet, is a sure fire recipe for belly bloat.

In a beer-splaining video for Business Insider last year, Bakker opens by performing a traditional fast-casual flat pour, leaving only a floss-line of head.

"There's about 2½ bottles of CO2 in this beer that weren't released in the glass. That's 100 percent what's going on in my stomach," said Bakker, going on to demonstrate his recommended technique for a pour that releases a gut-and-grog happy amount of carbon dioxide, i.e. about an inch of foam.

Minding the fluff isn't just a digestion question. Properly delivered, the froth atop beer is a multi-sensory introduction to what you're about to imbibe, Bakker said.

"Beer has a sound to it just like a taste ... (and) in this foam is where we're going to taste the sweetness of the malt and the bitterness of the hops, but really it's going to protect the integrity of the aroma that's underneath the foam through each sip," he said. "Without that collar of foam, it's not really a beer."

But too much collar can be a very bad thing. Just ask the '80s ... or Left Hand Brewing Co. In September 2016, the Longmont-based brewer had to recall about $2 million worth of its Milk Stout Nitro, Extrovert IPA and Warrior Fresh Hop IPA due to accidental "foreign brewing yeast" contamination that caused something of a Hulk reaction in carbonation levels. Last fall, Left Hand filed suit against the California-based fermentation lab it blames for the contamination.

Whether I ever encountered one of those bad bottles, which when poured as recommended - with an aggressive upending of the bottle - responded like a science fair baking soda volcano, I don't know.

I'd be more inclined to blame user error.

I reached out to Trails End Taproom owner Kevin Weese, who emailed back a list of guidelines for pouring with finesse, directly from the tap:

- Always start with a clean glass and if it's pre-used, rinse it before pouring.

- Keep your glass at a 45-degree angle, letting the beer run down the side of the glass, not into the center.

- Pull the handle all the way down - don't feather it.

- Remember: The proper amount of foam depends on the type of beer.

- Before finishing the pour, straighten the glass and allow for a bit of a foamy head.

By my third try at bat Saturday - and with advice from a Trails End employee and a fellow patron, who suggested that time-honed trick of garnishing the foam with a swipe of facial oil - I could pour a beer that was, more or less, immediately drinkable.

And next time I don't, I'm totally going to blame it on head integrity.

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