Your beer glass was keeping a secret, and doing a pretty good job of it until you decided to pour a beer into it, now it’s revealed its dirty little secret, it’s not beer clean.
Clean glassware is an important part of service and presentation of a beer, it improves flavor, aroma and appearance all important factors in the optimal beer drinking experience. The signs are telltale if you know what you are looking for. It’s all about the bubbles, they should be on the top of the beer and should not disappear, dirty glassware will kill head retention. They should definitely not be stuck to the side of the glass, carbonation breaking out of solution should slide right up and become part of the head, if they are stuck on the glass something is holding them there. Lacing, as you drink your beer the head will leave rings on the glass, if it’s clean.
I went to Nocturnem Draft Haus in Bangor to talk with Gene Beck, the owner of Nocturnem to have him teach me how they clean glassware. They use a 3 sink method; sink 1 is a dump sink for anything left in the glass. Sink 2 has a three bristle glass cleaning brush and is filled with water and bar glass detergent, the glass is scrubbed up, down, side to side and twisted to ensure the bristles scrub the entire glass, an employee then visually inspects it to make sure it doesn’t need another scrub before moving on. Sink 3 is filled with hot water and bar glass sanitizer, the glass is dipped into the solution with the bottom of the glass down then turned upside down and lifted out to prevent any air pockets that might keep the sanitizer from touching the glass, the glass is then set on a metal sideboard that has ridges that allow the glass to air dry without holding in any moisture. Cleaned glassware are then stored upside down on plastic mesh mats that allow air flow in the event a glass is not completely dry it will not retain flavors or odors. Prior to serving the cleaned glassware is visually inspected, rinsed with cold water and then filled with beer. All glassware at Nocturnem is cleaned and stored at the bar and never gets cleaned with kitchenware, plates or utensils.
I highly doubt that the average person has 3 dedicated sinks in their kitchen for cleaning glassware; I know I don’t, so I asked Gene what steps he takes at home to keep his personal glassware clean.
- Always clean by hand, dishwashers don’t always do a thorough job and could leave debris and odors.
- Use Dawn dish soap, some will tell you that you should not use soap, Gene find that Dawn does a good job and rinses clean and in the event someone put something other than beer in your glass it’ll do better than just water to clean it out.
- Good hot rinse, make sure no soap residue is left behind, also pay attention to the water as you rinse, if you pull the glass from the water and it sheets off evenly it’s a sign of clean glassware.
- Only put beer in your beer glasses, this is a common rule and a good one but if it happens just make sure to do a good job of scrubbing the glass out.
- Always wash your glassware first, if you fill the sink up with greasy pots and pans and then expect to get clean glassware you’re wasting your time.
- Never towel dry, you spent the time to hand scrub your glassware in clean water and mild detergent, you’ve rinsed it in clean hot water and now you’re going to trust that your kitchen towel is as clean as your glass? Even if it comes straight from the laundry there could still be laundry soap or lint on the towel or scents from a dryer sheet. Air Dry your glasses.
- Store them upside down to prevent dust or debris from getting in them and if possible on a plastic mat that allows for airflow.
- Just like at the bar, give it a rinse with cold water before you pour.
All of these are reasonable steps for the home, there is nothing too complicated in there and if you are a homebrewer and want to step it up, you could easily keep a spray bottle of sanitizer in the kitchen and give your glasses a spray and let them air dry.
Clean glassware should be important to the drinker; would you want to pay for a beer that showed up with bits of food debris in the glass or someone’s lipstick on the rim? I don’t think so; I think if you are spending your hard earned money on a beer (in a bar or at home) at the very least it should be in a clean glass. If you are out at the bar and you get a dirty glass don’t be afraid to send it back, I asked Gene if he would be offended if I sent back a beer because of the state of the glass and his answer was what I expected, no, the people who work behind the bar are human and they do what they can to properly clean the glassware but if one slipped through and wasn’t properly cleaned he’d expect it to be sent back. Consider this, the brewer who made that beer cleaned and sanitized their equipment, cleaned and sanitized the kegs and bottles to make sure you got the perfect beer and then you or someone at the bar poured it into a dirty glass, I’m sure that’s not what they intended when they started brewing.