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Culture: How Clean Is Your Beer Glass? Probably Not Clean Enough

Culture: How Clean Is Your Beer Glass? Probably Not Clean Enough

A friend stopped by for some afternoon beers. Before their arrival, I swept off the deck, picked out an assortment of seasonally appropriate beers for the cooler, grabbed some glasses and gave them a quick rinse before setting them out.

Imagine my horror and embarrassment when, upon pouring the first lager, carbonation stuck to the side of the glass: the dreaded visual cue that the glass was not beer-clean.

Bubbles are pretty to look at and all of us have come across situations where beer or soda, seltzer and Champagne have been served in glasses where the carbonation clings to the glass, forming a curtain.

This is a bad thing—akin to being at a restaurant and getting a fork with bits of food on the tines. Several factors can contribute to that carbonation-cling, and it’s not necessarily chunks of food. Grease and oil inside a dishwater can cling to the side of the glass, as well as soap residue from many of the commercially available, and commonly used, products.

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There are social media accounts dedicated to shaming drinkers, breweries and restaurants for serving beer in dirty glasses. An enthusiast sharing their latest find or delight is bound to get roasted if the glass is not clear. While I’m not quite that pushy online, I have quietly pointed it out to brewery owners in the past in the hopes they would take their beer and beer service more seriously. Art directors and editors at this magazine have also gotten an earful from me when photos with dirty glass have been used to illustrate articles.

I won’t apologize for the interactions or attitude. Carbonation is critically important to the beer experience. While rising bubbles are fun to look at, they are also delivering aromas to the olfactory senses and helping to form a head. Some beer glasses have small etchings on the inside bottom of the glass that help concentrate carbonation (similar to many Champagne flutes), lifting it upward as the carbon dioxide is released. Carbonation stuck to the side of a glass mutes those aromas and appearance.

A few easy steps help to keep beer glassware clean. First, make sure it’s free from any physical dirt or schmutz. Use a clean, dedicated, soft-bristled brush under fresh water to clean off the sides. Use an oil-free detergent on the glassware and allow to air-dry. A spritz of fresh water before pouring your beer, or other carbonated beverage, from a glass rinser (or just the tap) clears out any fresh particles that might have landed.

The Cicerone Certification Program has made clean glassware a central part of its teachings to bars, restaurants and breweries. It has designated the fourth Saturday of April as Beer Clean Glass Day. But don’t wait until spring to get your glass in order. Starting today, resolve to keep carbonation where it belongs lest you be shamed like I was.

This article originally appeared in the December 2023 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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