What Most Bars Don't Want You To Know

We recently partnered with Steve from BetterBeer.com who provided us with some important knowledge about the quality of draught beer delivered to you at restaurants and bars.

Steve Riley is the Founder and President of BetterBeer.com® and one of less than a thousand Certified Cicerones™ (Beer equivalent of a Sommelier) in the world; one of only 15 in Canada.  Steve is also a Recognized Beer Judge who helps judge home brewing and commercial brewing competitions including the Canadian Brewing Awards.

Riley founded BetterBeer.com in early 2010.  BetterBeer.com works with breweries, bar owners & bartenders to improve their draught beer quality and profitability through customized training and certification. Each month, they audit and certify bars and restaurants that properly pour fresh, cold beer, through clean lines and taps into clean branded beer glasses. Those who pass are listed on the website and have the BetterBeer.com seal posted on their door. Always looking for new bars to certify, head to their website to suggest an establishment.

He has also hosted public sessions answering questions such as….

  • Have you ever had a pint that just didn’t taste right?
  • Was it from a dirty draught line?
  • What about a warm, flat pint?
  • Have you ever wondered how the beer gets into your glass? How the whole system works?

We recently partnered with Steve and BetterBeer for an education session but for those of you who were not able to make it, Steve provided us with tips to pass on to you.

“It’s not a secret that beer is on fire right now! Everyone is discovering new beers, learning about beer, pairing food with beer. What is a secret is that most people who enjoy beer don’t know is that there is a huge gap between those establishments who pour great quality beer and those who don’t. I’m not talking about how flavourful the beer is or how much or how many types of hops it’s brewed with when I use the word quality; I’m referring to the quality of the draught system through which the beer is poured. Enter BetterBeer.com – Canada’s Draught Beer Quality Certification Program.

The Big Three

The three biggest draught problems we find in bars are:

1. Dirty beer glasses – coated with a film of oil and grease, dirty beer glasses will not retain the head of the beer causing it to taste off-flavour and making it go flat quickly. You can tell if a glass is dirty by lack of head retention, no foam lines (lacing), and if you see bubbles stuck to the inside of the glass.

The four big causes of dirty glasses are:

  • Fingers inside glasses (oil from fingerprints)
  • Sugar resin from pop or sweet drinks
  • Fats from dairy based drinks
  • Napkins, coasters, cutlery placed into beer glasses

Only beer should go into beer glasses. A regular routine of beer glasses degreasing will ensure clean beer glasses.

2. Line Cleaning – lines need to be cleaned on a regular basis.  Failing to do so will result in off flavours and cloudy beer.  If your beer smells and tastes like butter it is usually due to dirty lines.  It will also have a slick mouthfeel.

3. Improper pour – bartenders submerging the faucet into the glass is not sanitary.   Pouring the beer with no head results in you consuming excessive carbonation making you full and bloated and the pint becomes flat.

The Head

The head (collar of foam) on the beer should be at least the height of a dime. This means that some CO2 has been released so the beer will be properly balanced and ensures that you are not ingesting excessive amounts of CO2.

The head on the top of a pint acts like a cap which keeps the CO2 inside the glass all pint long so your pint stays properly carbonated to the last sip.

The Right Glass

Different styles of beer require different glasses to bring out all of the aromas and flavours.  Using the correct branded glass will ensure that your beer tastes as the brew master intended it to taste.

The System

A well maintained beer fridge will be well lit, clean and mould/growth free with clean equipment, and maintained at a temperature of 3C.  Special attention must be paid to rotation and keg shelf life.

At no time is it acceptable to push the beer through the system with an air compressor.  Air makes the beer become oxidized which gives it a papery/wet cardboard taste and makes it flat and cloudy.

Beer drinkers are becoming better educated and the days of $4 pints are gone.  As the price of beer continues to increase because of rising energy, water, grain, and transportation costs, quality will be even more important.  People are tired of spending good money on bad beer. As the category continues to grow, so will people’s thirst for quality beer.”

Posted on May 07 2013, By: Steam Whistle


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