What is “Beer Clean”?
A “beer clean” glass is a glass that is clean enough not to diminish the beer drinking experience. It doesn’t take much residue to cause head retention and aroma problems in a beer. Even a small amount of sanitizer, detergent, or oil can significantly affect the perception of the poured beer.
The main issue with a glass that is not beer-clean is the presence of residue inside it. Residual oils and sugars, such as those from milk or soda, can lead to head retention problems. Similarly, residual detergents or dust can create unwanted nucleation sites and also cause head retention problems. This is a common problem in bars. You can determine if a bar takes their beer seriously by observing how they handle their glassware. A good beer bar will always ensure that the beer glasses are clean by following these guidelines:
Use Dedicated Glasses for Beer
Dedicate the beer glasses specifically for beer and avoid using them to make other beverages like a White Russian or serve a soda. Oils and sugars from previous drinks can remain on the glass even after it appears clean.
Use a Quality Glassware Detergent
At home, you can use baking soda or salt if you have an ample supply. Commercially, oxalic acid cleaners are commonly used. They are abrasive but do not damage glass and are very effective. They also clean stainless steel well.
Rinse the glass very thoroughly to ensure complete removal of any remaining detergent. In a commercial setting, bartenders should frequently change their rinse water, especially if it is not continuously flowing.
Choose the Right Sanitizer
In many states and cities, commercial establishments are required to sanitize dishes either with heat or a chemical sanitizer. If given the option, a great beer bar will always choose heat. If heat is not an option or not practical, a good bar will experiment with different sanitizers until they find one that leaves no residue and does not affect the beer’s aroma or flavor.
Handle Sanitizers Properly
Most regulations regarding sanitizers require a no-rinse approach, meaning a small amount of sanitizer will always remain on the glassware. Additionally, bars should always use the correct amount of sanitizer during the sanitizing process. Too little will not effectively sanitize, while using too much is equally ineffective and leaves unwanted residue.
Rinse Before Pouring
Whenever possible, a good beer bar should rinse the glass with clean, cold water immediately before pouring. This helps remove any residual detergent and eliminates any dust that may have settled in the glass since its last wash. Rinsing after sanitizing may not be allowed in certain jurisdictions due to health codes, but it is recommended for home use.
How can I determine if my glass is truly “beer clean”?
A glass that is not beer clean will show a sudden loss of head after pouring and will not exhibit proper lacing down the side. Lacing refers to the residual bubbles clinging to the inside of the glass as you drink the beer, creating a lace-like pattern.
To distinguish between a beer clean glass and one with residue, let’s conduct the following experiment:
Take two identical glasses from your cabinet. Pour a small amount of milk into one glass and rub it on the inside, then rinse it out. In the other glass, add a small amount of water and some salt or baking soda. Use your hand to “scrub” the inside of the glass with baking soda or salt, then rinse it thoroughly.
Now, pour the same beer into both glasses using the same technique. The scrubbed and thoroughly rinsed glass should produce a much better head that leaves lacing on the side as it dissipates.
In addition, there should be no visible bubbles sticking to the side of the glass below the surface of the beer. In the milked and rinsed glass, you may encounter some head retention issues and possibly bubbles clinging to the sides or nucleation sites where bubbles are forming along the sidewalls of the glass.
If you then smell the beer’s aroma, you will notice that the beer clean glass carries more of the aroma to your nose. Aroma plays a vital role as a significant part of taste is perceived through our sense of smell.
This experiment deliberately demonstrates how oils and residues can negatively affect the pouring and drinking experience of your beer. Even a small amount of residue can have this effect, which is why rinsing the milk glass still shows these results.
To determine if your glassware is truly beer clean in your dishwasher or sink at home, conduct another experiment using identical glasses. This time, skip adding the milk. Take the glasses directly from the cabinet and wash one with baking soda or salt while only rinsing the other.
Pour beer into both glasses. If your dishwasher or cleaning methods do not achieve a beer clean result, you will still observe a noticeable difference.