Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

The Belgian Beer Pouring Ritual: How Belgian cafes serve beer

By William Brand
Tuesday, July 29th, 2008 at 2:02 pm in Uncategorized.

Ever wonder why, in an authentic Belgian beer cafe, the barkeep always washes the glasses first? Drew, a poster to the blog, asked:

Drew Says: William – Do you know why The Trappist (Oakland, CA.) rinses out each of their glasses prior to pouring the beer? I’ve always thought that pouring a beer into a glass that was just rinsed will have a negative effect on head retention and lacing.

The answer: It’s the Belgian method. Until recently, every good Belgian bar had a running water sink. Now each beer tower includes a sink that automatically sprays the glass and rinses it inside and outside with cold water. The idea is go get the tempoerature of the glass to about the same temperature as the beer.

That does not mean ice cold or frozen. Frozen glasses, while a great sales technique, much pushed by the manufacturers of tasteless light lager, impede the taste of the beer. The Belgian method is much better.

InBev, when it was InterBrew, long before all the current fuss, appropriated the age-old Belgian serving technique and created, the Stella Artois Draught Master Championship in 1996. It drew (and hopefully still does draw) bartenders from all over the world. They created a 9-step process for serving beer.

I got to watch the finals in Leuven, Belgium in 1998. It was wild, competitors had just seven minutes to pour and serve two glasses of Stella Artois on tap, one glass of Hoegaarden on tap, and one bottle of Leffe.

Here’s a link to the Belgian Beer Pouring Ritual and a video of the method. Frozen glasses? Humbug.

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  • Thomas

    Actually it’s not just Belgian, I have had similar experiences at bars in Germany. But it is also just one last precaution to rinse the glass clean so that there is no soap residue in the glass that would also ruin head retention.

  • William Brand

    True, so have I. In fact, the competition I mentioned, drew contestants from all over Europe. The winner that year was a woman from Italy. In 2004, a guy from the U.S. placed, but didn’t win Can’t find any more recent references on the Web. Maybe the contest got lost as InterBrew became InBev and got worldwide ambitions. Anyone know?

  • Garret Lievens

    There is actually a new contest going on in Phoenix, AZ on October 21st. It’s sponsered by inbev and includes the 9 step pouring ritual. I am going to compete and am trying to study up on the ritual. Wish me luck!

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  • beglium-awesome!!

    i had to point that out…sry