How To Serve Beer

If your idea of how to serve beer involves popping a can open and chugging, it’s time to refine your technique. With craft beers from microbreweries popping up all over the country, beer is getting more respect than ever before, and you should know how to serve it properly. It only takes a little preparation, and not only will it look better than chugging out of a can, but your beer will taste better, too.

To serve beer, you’ll need:

  • Beer, chilled to between 38º and 40º F
  • A "beer clean" glass
  1. If you’re planning to serve beer, make sure it’s fresh. The fresher your beer is when served, the better it will taste. To keep beer fresh for as long as possible, store bottles in a clean, dry and dark location. While cans are not affected by light, bottled beer can take on a “skunky” smell and a foul taste after just a few minutes of direct sunlight exposure.
  2. To serve beer at any time, store it in the refrigerator or in another cool location. While some people claim to love “ice cold beer,” most people tend to prefer beer between 38º and 40º, which is also the ideal temperature at which to store packaged beer. Beer may taste sour or turn cloudy if it gets warmer than 45º, and beer colder than 38º F may have less flavor, aroma or foam. Never allow beer to freeze, since it may form flakes that won’t dissolve after the beer is thawed. It should be noted that draught beer is not pasteurized, so keep kegs between 36º and 38º F at all times.
  3. To maximize the flavor, always serve beer in a glass. While a standard pint glass or mixing glass is fine, you’ll get better results if you choose a glass specifically designed for the kind of beer you’re serving. Different styles of glassware affect the production of the beer’s head, which in turn affects the flavor. Never chill your beer glasses, since that can dilute your beer by creating condensation when it’s poured.
  4. Make sure your glass is “beer clean” before you use it to serve beer. According to the Brewers Association’s Draught Quality Manual, a beer clean glass helps to form a proper head and creates residual lacing as you drink. Wash your glasses in a sink filled with warm water and dishwasher soap, scrubbing them thoroughly inside and out. Rinse the glasses in a sink filled with fresh, clean flowing water, placing the glass into the water bottom-first to prevent air pockets. When the glass is completely rinsed, remove it bottom-first and set it upside-down on a stainless steel wire rack or another place that allows air to flow around the glass until it has dried completely.  
  5. When you’re ready to serve beer, handle it gently. Obviously, shaking a beer will cause it to explode when you open it, but rough handling can also cause beer to gush over. Hold the bottle at the shoulder, not the bottom, when using a mounted-wall opener, and remove the cap easily to avoid damage to the neck. To pour beer, hold your beer clean glass at a 45º angle, and pour the beer down the center until the glass is half full. Right the glass to a 90º angle and finish pouring the beer, allowing a dense-textured head to form. Then, raise your glass and toast your new ability to serve beer like an adult!


Brewers Association

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