Beer head is a term many people are familiar with. Beers should have the head when poured, be it porters, stouts, pale ales, etc. It is a common practice to train bartenders to reduce the amount of head, and some people may even send their drinks back because of it. However, it is actually a good thing. And who doesn’t like good head?
What Is Beer Head?
Beer head refers to the layer of foam that sits on top of the beverage, usually after pouring it into a beer glass. It is a result of the disturbance of the carbon dioxide present in the beer, creating a layer of bubbles to make the foam, which is then held together by surface tension. Fermentation automatically creates the carbon dioxide needed to create this phenomenon, but some brewers may even add carbon dioxide to spice it up.
Beer head is also just called foam, the collar, or even krausen, a German term.
Can You Avoid the Head?
Sure! Many bartenders are trained in methods to reduce the foam, though in a moment you will see why I would not recommend. Below are a couple of ways to reduce foam in your beer.
- Oils from your skin can quickly reduce foam. If you have a foamy beer and your hand is clean, run your finger over it to quickly reduce the foam.
- Another simple method of reducing that head during pouring is to tilt the glass while pouring. The angle makes it less likely for the carbon dioxide to release, thereby creating less foam. Pouring slowly also reduces this chance, since it is less likely to “disturb” the CO2.
Why Is Beer Foam Good?
That foamy layer on the top varies depending on the type of beer, the way it is poured, and the glass itself. However, the foam typically contains aromas you would not normally find by just smelling the beer itself. It can provide insight to the malt, aromas, and overall flavor of the beer. The thickness and body of the head will vary depending on the type of beer.
When you pour to avoid the foam on top, you are actually creating a slight problem. An incorrectly poured beer, or one that is intentionally poured to avoid the foam, can often result in bloating. When the head forms, it is due to the release of carbon dioxide, which then creates the bubbles. However, if you drink it without this foam, that carbon dioxide has nowhere to go and cannot be released.
If you drink a beverage with unreleased carbon dioxide, that compound will release once it is in your stomach, particularly once you add food to the mix. This can lead to some discomfort and bloating. The best way to avoid this is to indulge in that head.
The head also contains quite a bit of flavor, and will eventually settle into the drink, anyway. So enjoy the beer head, and savor that taste.