The “Kegged beer” series explores draught system set-up and operation, plus how to pour from and change a keg. While it’s likely most helpful for people working in bars, restaurants, and bottle shops with kegged beers on offer, it’s interesting for all of us to learn more about beer’s journey from keg to glass! New to the series? Start here.
Now it’s time to learn how to pour kegged beer and we’ve got three techniques to touch on:
- pouring a standard draught beer,
- pouring a beer and cutting with a beer spatula, and
- pouring a nitro beer.
You’ll find a video of each technique below, plus a recap to highlight the main points.
(Want to learn how to pour bottled beer? Check out this article here.)
Pouring a standard draught beer
Check out this demo from Master Cicerone® Neil Witte on the perfect pour.
- Hold the glass at a 45-degree angle, 2.5 cm (1 inch) below the tap
- Grip the tap handle near the base and pull forward to the fully open position to start the flow of beer. (If the tap is only partially open, it’ll pour a load of foam.)
- Pour down the side of the glass until it’s half-way to two-thirds full
- Gently straighten the glass upright while pouring and pour down the centre to create an appropriate amount of foam for the style being served as the pour finishes
- Close the tap as the foam cap reaches the top of the glass to prevent beer waste
It’s important to note that the tap should never come into contact with the glass or become immersed in the beer or foam in the glass, as this can lead to a draught line infection and some very unpleasant off-flavours.
Pouring a beer and cutting with a beer spatula
Here’s a demo of the technique commonly used in Belgium and the Netherlands of cutting with a beer spatula. (Note: To jump right ahead to the “cutting” go to 1:33.)
How does this differ from the standard pour seen above? We’ve got a few adjustments both before and after the pour.
Before the pour:
- The tap is fully opened and a small amount of beer is poured down the drain (in the video they called this “the sacrifice”)
- Then, after a half-second of beer flow, the glass is moved into place (held at a 45-degree angle, 2.5 cm (1 inch) below the tap)
Similarly, we pour down the side of the glass until it’s half-way to two-thirds full, then gently straighten the glass upright and pour down the centre to create an appropriate head of foam on the beer (depending on style) as the pour finishes.
After the pour, we close the tap as the foam cap reaches the top of the glass, and set the beer on a drip tray away from the tap so that drips from the tap do not fall into the glass.
But we’re not done yet! In our standard pour, the beer was ready to serve… but not with this one. Here, we’ve got 3 extra steps.
After the pour:
- As the foam is rising out of the glass, we cut the foam using a wetted beer spatula held at a 45-degree angle
- Dunk the glass in a sink filled with clean rinse water to remove any beer or foam from the outside of the glass
- Place the beer on a coaster in front of the consumer with any branding facing the consumer
Now we’re done!
This serve is most commonly used in Belgium and the Netherlands. Compared to the standard pour, we’ve got that initial sacrifice, then the beheading (or cutting) and dunking.
Pouring a nitro beer
Finally, here’s how to pour a nitro beer, featuring the world’s best known nitro beer: Guinness. Head on over to YouTube to watch it.
Overall, this is very similar to the standard pour, with 2 adjustments.
Once we’ve got our glass at a 45-degree angle, 2.5 cm (1 inch) below the tap and we’ve pulled the tap handle fully open to start the flow of beer:
- Here we pour down the side of the glass until it’s three-quarters full (not half to two-thirds)
- Then, we allow the beer to settle for 1-2 minutes
Finally, we finish the pour by holding the glass upright below the tap and pouring down the centre to create an appropriate head of foam.
Again, with all of these pours, the glass is to be held 2.5 cm (1 inch) below the tap for the duration of the pour. It’s never OK to put the tap in contact with the glass, or allow it to become immersed in the beer or foam in the glass, as that can lead to draught line infection and the associated off-flavours.
Now that we’ve perfected our pour, it’s time to do learn what to do when that keg runs empty – changing a keg!
Bonus: Pouring cask beer
As all of these pours are specific to kegged beer, you may be left wondering “How is cask beer poured?“
This is not a topic that’s covered on the International English syllabus for the Cicerone® Certification Program’s Certified Beer Server exam, which is what this section of the Discovering Beer website helps to prepare readers for, but here are some bonus videos, if you’re curious!